Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) is one of the 'giants' of Venetian musicians. Surprisingly, while he was recognized as an exceptionally talented violinist, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703! One of the high points of his career was his long (though intermittent), association with the Ospedale della Pieta, the orphanage for girls which had a tradition of fine musical training of the girls, which Vivaldi undertook most successfully, first as violin master, then in other capacities. He composed most of his music while working there.
Vivaldi composed over thirty concertos for bassoon, which shows an exceptional and unusual attention to the instrument, which is usually included in orchestral work as part of the bass line (such as bass continuo and cello), rarely having particular notes written out for it. It was Vivaldi who elevated it to the rank of a solo instrument. Listening to the 31 concertos recorded in this collection of 5 volumes, shows how a genius like Vivaldi could transform a musical instrument.
All concertos are written for the bassoon as soloist, string orchestra, and bass continuo. Unfortunately, the booklet does not give the dates in which the concertos were written. They are all in 3 movements - fast/slow/fast - except the RV 501, subtitled "La Notte". This concerto is also the only one with a 'program'. Each volume contains 6 concertos, except Volume 1, which contains 7. All concertos are performed by Hungarian musicians: Tamas Benkocs, Basson, and the Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia. All volumes were recorded in Budapest: volume 1 and 2 in 2003; volume 3 in 2004; volume 4 in 2005; and volume 5 in 2007. The performance and the quality of the sound are good.
The concertos explore fully the range and capacities of the bassoon in expression, mood, and sound, with Vivaldi's usual masterly play between slow and fast movements, and his familiar use of counterpoint, as well as the balance between solo and orchestra.
This is Volume 2 which contains the above mentioned RV501, "La Notte" (the night), which has 4 movements: Largo - Andante; I fantasmi (phantasms); Il sonno (sleep); Sorge l'aurora (break of Dawn). As in "The Four Seasons", Vivaldi gives us his wonderful musical interpretations on the subject, this time on a restless night, with phantasms and dreams up to dawn's break!