Vivaldi pioneered neither the three-movement form of the Concerto that became standard, nor the use of multiple instruments as soloists (as opposed to constituting a concertino group in contrast with the orchestra of the Concerto grosso genre). But he did exploit both practices to a wider degree than virtually all other composers of his era, and this attractive release features a number of these with various combinations of instruments.
The Two-Oboe Concerto in D-minor (RV535) is an unusual example in that it comprises four movements, in the older-fashioned slow-fast-slow-fast form. Both tempos elicit a seductive wailing timbre from Rachel Chaplin and Mark Baigent, which is also delicate and vulnerable but becomes liable to be submerged in the tutti textures elsewhere. However, the staccato attack on the hesitant pairs of crotchets in the opening Largo make a striking effect. Chaplin and Baigent’s performance is more vibrant in the other double Oboe Concerto here (RV536) , and the contribution by La Serenissima and Adrian Chandler chugs along with an invigorating pace that is characteristic of. That is underlined by the robust strumming of the Baroque guitars used by Lynda Sayce within the continuo section, which yields to the tender tones of the theorbo in the slow movement.
Those plucked sonorities offer a vivid point of contrast with the generally more sustained sounds of the soloists. There are two Concertos for a pair horns: RV539 calls for an even more startlingly high tessitura than Telemann’s better-known example, which Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot acquit superbly, and the pastoral lilt of its second movement offers a moment of repose; in RV538 the horns ripple away in the opening and sound warmly resonant in the Finale, having fallen silent in the slow movement where a cello is placed in the spotlight.
The cello features in duet with the violin in two Concertos, which Vladimir Waltham plays with a wan, wistful manner, seemingly taking his cue from the designation of RV546 for a cello all’Inglese i.e. a viol (as, at that time, English musical culture was noted for its widespread use of those more or less antiquated instruments). Above that Chandler tends to offer a sparkling account of the more flamboyant violin part, though sometimes the sequences of semiquavers are a touch dry. Compared with the generally mellow disposition of the cello, a bassoon offers more sturdy support in the bass register of RV545, variously acting within the continuo and as soloist.
In an imaginative touch, Chandler rounds off with one of Vivaldi’s Concertos per molti stromenti. RV574 (with its unexplained long titular acronym, per S.A.S.I.S.P.G.M.D.G.S.M.B) is a felicitous choice since it brings together all those instruments which have been put centre-stage in the foregoing selection. It stands as a suitable resumé of all the fine qualities of the release as a whole – ebullient rhythms; a spacious acoustic sensitively exploited to give depth to the musicians’ interaction; and an engaging execution of Vivaldi’s ever-inventive music. The only cavil is that the contrast between alternating groups of forte and piano quavers of the Adagio is not brought out more. Otherwise this release is a zestful feast for the ears.