Vivaldi: Violin Concertos / Sasso, Insieme Strumetale Di Roma

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VIVALDI Violin Concertos: in F, RV 287; in g, RV 321; in d, RV 240 . Double Violin Concertos: in C, RV 508; in g, RV 517. String Concertos: in C, RV 113; in D, RV 123 Giorgio Sasso (vn, cond); Paolo Perrone (vn); Insieme Strumentale di Roma (period instruments) STRADIVARIUS 33944 (68:09)

Stradivarius’s notes somewhat vaguely mention world premiere recordings; three of these works, RV 240, 508, 517, have appeared in collections reviewed, or to be reviewed, in Fanfare (RV 240 and RV 508 appear in the recording by Il Pomo d’Oro, Naïve 30550, while Gli Incogniti included RV 517 in their collection on Zig-Zag 310, 36:4). Giorgio Sasso’s recording with Insieme Strumentale di Roma took place in the Church of San Lorenzo in Panisperna in October 2011.

The program opens with the Violin Concerto in F Major, RV 287, beginning with bumptious resonant strokes that the ensemble surrounds with reverberant silence. The engineers have miked Giorgio Sasso, who already proves to be an aggressive violin soloist, up close, revealing both the starch in his articulation and the considerable beauty of his tone. Violinist and ensemble eschew lightening tempos, achieving their effects timbrally rather than temporally. They bring out the contrast between the brilliant upper registers and the booming bass parts (all with only six instruments—but including organ in the concertos, RV 240 and RV 113). In the slow movement, too, they combine the warmth of I Musici’s old recordings (or those of the Virtuosi di Roma) and the elegance of Arthur Grumiaux’s Baroque recreations with the chunkiness characteristic of many now mainstream period-instrument ensembles. When the textures support the balance, the engineers focus on the harpsichord part, as they do in RV 287’s Largo . Sasso interlaces the Finale with pointed rhythmic interjections.

The Concerto in C Major, RV 508, for Two Violins, begins with a sweeping tutti, but the soloists engage in virtuosic dialogue through much of the movement, and Sasso and Paolo Perrone carom off each other like so many weightless and frictionless billiard balls. In the slow movement, Sasso and Perrone stretch engaging ruminations over a framework of steady notes in the upper strings, while in the Finale they cavort vivaciously if not virtuosically.

The program’s other Double Violin Concerto, RV 517, in G Minor, follows. Its first movement begins fugally (and this fugal writing returns later toward the movement’s end), and the ensemble prises apart the contrapuntal lines with a clarity of cleanly etched glass. The violin soloists provide relief in arch homophonic interplay. They generally play together, too, burnishing affecting emotional highlights on the slow movement’s stately melodic material. The Finale also begins contrapuntal, but features more homophonic solo sections, recalling those in the first movement. Sasso and Perrone bring enough crisp gusto even to these less prepossessing solos to keep the music perpetually fresh.

The ensemble pieces the first movement of the String Concerto, RV 113 in C Major, out of insistent, infectious rhythmic motives, but provides a moment of respite by making the figuration of the slow movement flow gently before the brisk repartee of the Finale. The soloists and ensemble alternate portentous statements and playful figurations in the first movement of the Violin Concerto in G Minor, RV 321. After their lyricism in the slow movement, they return to stronger punctuation in the Finale. The Violin Concerto in D Minor, RV 240, joined by continuo organ in the ensemble’s recording, appears the longest of the works in their program. Pablo Queipo de Llano’s notes suggest that Vivaldi wrote it between 1710 and 1715; and while he notes the incisiveness of its melodic elements, listeners may fasten instead upon the flowing lyricism that Sasso brings to its first movement, the ensemble’s dramatic interjections in the slow movement surrounding the melting lyricism of the solo part, and the leaping figuration that Sasso negotiates with such violinistic agility in the Finale. The program concludes with another of the string concertos, RV 123 in D Major, shortest of the works on the program. The ensemble’s jubilant playing of the first movement, its steady figuration alternating in dynamic level, the at times hushed solemnity it brings to the brief slow movement, and the fugal splendor of the Finale’s opening (reminiscent of Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto), make the work a memorable conclusion to the program.

If Bach learned a great deal about Italian concertos by transcribing Vivaldi’s works in the genre, he missed one of the central pillars that support them: their soloistic drama. That’s in evidence in Stradivarius’s recording, one of the most balanced and exhilarating of Vivaldi’s concertos that’s come my way in the last several years. Urgently recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: STR33944

  • UPC: 8011570339447

  • Label: Stradivarius

  • Composer: Antonio Vivaldi

  • Conductor: Giorgio Sasso

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Insieme Strumentale di Roma

  • Performer: Giorgio Sasso