Vivaldi: Concertos For Strings / Lamon, Bylsma, Tafelmusik
The return of these Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra releases, refugees from Sony Classical’s former “Vivarte” imprint, are very welcome reminders of the high level of musicianship and technical mastery period-instrument performers had achieved by around 1990. This was a group that celebrated the sound of its instruments and whose soloists played with relish and a virtuoso flair that never gave a hint that a Baroque cello or violin was any less worthy than their modern counterparts. Just listen to Anner Bylsma’s dynamic and commanding solos, and take note of the wonderful interplay between Bylsma and violinist Jeanne Lamon in the Allegro molto third movement of the B-flat major concerto. As for style, the allegros are as crisp and lively as can be, the violins pleasingly bright, the inner parts rich and vibrant. And notice the affecting use of vibrato in the Largo of the G major concerto for 2 violins and 2 cellos: it’s some of the loveliest Vivaldi playing you’ll ever hear. And the sound quality is equal to that of the performances. Highly recommended.
-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
This collection of concertos for various combinations of stringed instruments is drawn from recordings made by Tafelmusik in 1990, when it was collaborating with Baroque cellist extraordinaire Anner Bylsma. This rerelease is part of the new Tafelmusik label, which, as I noted in the last issue, is a trend that seems to have become more common as the major labels (all save for Naxos) are in a state of flux. As noted, this allows a more direct control over their legacy, as well as providing a marketing niche that both promotes the continued existence of the ensemble and keeps the recordings from going out of print. It is a good trend to see occurring, and hopefully it will come with continued success.
For this set, all of the works have been available on numerous other recordings, all the way from the Academy of Ancient Music to Ton Koopman to Itzhak Perlman; such a list would be exhausting to recall here. Tafelmusik’s renditions, however, have the same benefit as their other recordings of precision, fire, and musicality that bring the works to life. Cellist Bylsma uses blazing fingerwork and technical virtuosity in the tortuous solo lines that makes one sit up and take notice. There is no caution here, but rather the sort of brilliant display that brings these somewhat formulaic works to life. When joined in the B?-Major double concerto by leader Jeanne Lamon, the combination is electric, and even when two others are added to the quadruple concerto, the energy is still maintained. In the quadruple violin concerto, the four soloists are so well coordinated and blended that one is almost convinced that this was one person playing all parts and then having it spliced together. The phrasing complements the score perfectly, with fine and detailed nuances, whether the entire group is performing the ensemble concerti grossi, or supporting the various soloists.
In short, this is the way that Vivaldi ought to be played, in my opinion, and now more than two decades later, it has stood the test of time from when it was released by Sony. There may be other interpretations of these works out there that are equally fine, but for me this will remain one of the standards. If you haven’t yet added it to your collection of Vivaldi’s concertos, this is your opportunity to renew an acquaintance with the excellence that marks Tafelmusik as a premiere Baroque music ensemble.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Catalog Number: TMK1009CD
Label: Tafelmusik Media
Composer: Antonio Vivaldi
Conductor: Jeanne Lamon
Orchestra/Ensemble: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Performer: Anner Bylsma, Chantal Rémillard, Christina Mahler, Cynthia Roberts, Jeanne Lamon, Stephen Marvin