- Conductor: Amandine Beyer
- Composer: Vivaldi
- Audio CD (Oct. 21 2016)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: harmonia mundi
- ASIN: B01HSFG6K2
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #50,205 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Vivaldi: Concerti Per Due Violoni
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Italian historical-instrument ensemble Gli incogniti present an all-Vivaldi program featuring five of the composer's concertos for two violins alongside his Concerto for Strings RV127. Led by violinist Amandine Beyer, winner of the 2001 Vivaldi international competition, Gli incogniti are joined here by star violinist Giuliano Carmignola for a recording that sets a new standard for these delightful works.
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1. General background information to this large body of work.
It is estimated that Vivaldi wrote about 50 concertos for two violins. These were spread throughout his career and those who are familiar with his Opus 3 set will be aware that four of the 12 concertos (RV 519, 522, 565 & 578) feature two solo violinists. There are two more to be found in the Opus 9 sets (the distinctly different autograph and the published sets) catalogued as RV 520 and 530.
Other than those, collectors will need to search out three single discs focused on the double concertos specifically. They are the recent one by Carmignola as recorded here (RV 505, 507, 510, 513, 527 & 529), one by Minasi (RV 508, 509, 510, 515, 517 & 523) and one by Guglielmo (RV 506, 509, 513, 514, 516 & 523). A small amount of duplication will be required but at present there are no alternative options.
The double concertos showcase Vivaldi’s work at its arguable peak and were probably used to be showcases of both his compositional skill as well as the skills of the players. He used four basic compositional techniques to maximise interest. These are the use of parallel 3rds and 6ths; contrapuntal play between the two soloists including imitation; one soloist accompanied by the other using arpeggios patterns and competitive writing with one part being dominant. The performances were often laid out with the soloist facing each other either as partners or as protagonists.
The scores are written for three violin parts so the two soloists frequently become part of the general ensemble when not being soloists. The remaining parts are for viola cello, double bass and harpsichord bringing the ensemble up to 7 parts. This is standard Vivaldi scoring but larger ensembles can be used by doubling players per part as in a modern orchestra and as on this disc.
2. This disc in particular in the light of the above
All six of the concertos here are varied in these ways and represent compositions from the early 1710’s (RV507) to the 1730’s (RV 505). All are full of interest and are expertly dispatched by the renowned Giuliano Carmignola and Amadine Beyer, also a reputed artist in her own right. Collectors will have noticed that the RV numbers are not in chronological order.
The playing, as is usual with Carmignola, favours a generally brisk and no-nonsense approach to these works and this is completely convincing and appropriate to the period. However there is no suggestion of undue haste or 'driven' music making as can occur with some ‘period’ groups. Consequently there is plenty of opportunity for both players to respond to each other in any of the above ways without distraction of undue speed and full due is given to the opportunities afforded by Vivaldi’s constantly inventive and imaginative writing.
This recording was made in 2016. The engineering places the players fairly close to the listener but not so close as to lose a sense of space or ambience. It gives a realistic impression of the orchestral body of 12 recorded players and underlines the impact of the playing which at all times is immaculate. The supplied notes read easily and are fulsome in detail concerning the music and information about both soloists and the ensemble.
This is a disc full of invention and interest and well up to the standards expected of these players by keen collectors.
The past 2 decades have seen an enormous outpouring of releases that serve to emphasize the variety, color and drama inherent in many of Vivaldi’s concerti, many of which lay ignored (or, worse underplayed) for years. We continually move farther away from that primitive age when men with matted hair and bearskin wraps lived in torchlit caves and only played “the Four seasons.”
Along with Rachel Podger, Fabio Biondi, Federico Guglielmo and others (as well as their respective bands), Giuliano Carmignola has helped radically transform perceptions of Vivaldi. Its been a combination of astute musicological study and research, new ideas about playing baroque music, and (shocking in the current siege mentality of the music business) the willingness of some record companies to go out on a limb.
Carmignola has been at the forefront of the movement and one its most influential contributors, featured on both Sony and (more recently) DGG Archiv. I invariably pick up each new release of his. He’s also handsomely dashing. (“I didn’t know Antonio Banderas played the violin!” my wife exclaimed. “You can listen to the music, I’ll just look at the CD cover…”).
This latest release focuses on concerti for two violins and has all the hallmarks of Carmignola’s approach to Vivaldi: heightened sense of color, drama and tonal variation, as well as his trademark virtuosity. His dueling partner Amandine Beyer is fully up to the task, as is the band, Gli Incogniti. Beyer/Incogniti have a long and well-established reputation in Italian, French and German baroque repertoire; Beyer also was/(is?) part of the groundbreaking baroque ensemble Café Zimmerman.
If I am less than totally ecstatic about this release, it because I believe there are better recordings of Vivaldi concerti for two violins. While certainly emphasizing the dramatic interplay between soloists and the flair of Vivaldi’s writing, this recording lacks just that last degree of alchemy that make earlier CDs irresistible; there is a small lack of buoyancy and humour that characterizes many of Vivaldi’s concerti, even his late ones, and even those in minor keys. Instead, some of these renditions have a certain unsmiling relentlessness about them. They’re a bit driven.
In fact, Carmignola has done better himself, in his DG Archiv CD with Vittoria Mullova. The other recording I’d point to as the pinnacle of this art is that on the Naïve label featuring Dmitry Sinkovsky, Riccardo Minasi, and Il Pomo D’oro. (But grab it fast since the Naive label reportedly folded late last year.)
So If you want absolutely stunning renditions of Vivaldi’s concerti for two violins, I’d suggest starting with these others first. Vivaldi completists, on the other hand, may think I’m needlessly carping here. Perhaps so, and in any case, any new Vivaldi release featuring Carmignola should be welcomed.