Concerto in D, RV208 (Grosso Mogul)
Concerto in B minor for four violins and cello, RV580 [Op.3/10]
Concerto in C, RV187
Concerto in D, RV234 (L'Inquietudine)
Concerto in E minor, RV277 (Il Favorito)
Viktoria Mullova (violin)
Il Giardino Armonico [Soloists, with Mullova, in RV580: Stefano Barneschi, Marco Bianchi & Riccardo Masahide Minasi (violins) & Marco Testori (cello)]
Recorded between 6-9 June 2004 in Pieve di Palazzo Pignano, Cremona, Italy
CD No: ONYX CLASSICS
Duration: 53 minutes
Reviewed: August 2005
Do we really need another disc of Vivaldi concertos? The short answer is yes, when it is as exuberantly distinctive as this one from Viktoria Mullova playing on the 1723 Jules Falk Stradivarius with the period-instrument group Il Giardino Armonico. At just over 53 minutes the disc may be short measure, but when it comes to Vivaldi concertos perhaps there is a law of diminishing returns, no matter how well played.
In fact, the programme has been cunningly planned, opening with one of Vivaldi's most virtuoso creations, the so-called Grosso Mogul, cleverly juxtaposed with the Concerto for four violins (which Bach transcribed for four harpsichords) leading on to a well-contrasted group of three concertos for solo violin, each with a subtly different character.
Mullova exuberant? Well, yes. Performed as here with contagious enthusiasm this release deserves every possible success and will make an ideal gift for any music-loving friends. Listening to Mullova's first entry in the Mogul concerto, there is almost carefree freedom and improvisatory joy to her playing which reminded me very much of Appalachian fiddle music; and Mullovas evident sense of enjoyment finds its mirror-image in the stylish, sublime playing of Il Giardino Armonico.
Excellently recorded in a sympathetic acoustic, Mullova is then joined by musicians from Il Giardino for the multi-violin (and cello) concerto, a piece I first got to know from a 78 played on four pianos in Bach's transcription; again there is an infectious spring in the step and virtuosity which does not preclude real subtlety, as in the brief central Largo.
The remaining violin concertos include the rather Handelian one in C, the brief so-called L'Inquietudine (Restlessness) where the orchestra provides a turbulent backdrop for the soloist who in turn acts as a calming influence, and the disc concludes with the imposing Il Favorito, a larger-scale work whose final movement brings a premonition of the finale of Autumn from The Four Seasons.
I urge you to investigate this release. If quality alone (rather than marketing clout) were the key to success, then this issue will be high on the best-seller list.