Concerto in G minor, RV416
Concerto in A minor, RV420
Concerto for two cellos in G minor, RV531
Concerto in C minor, RV401
Concerto in G minor, RV417
Cello Concerto in A minor, RV418*
Cello Concerto in G, RV415* [attributed Vivaldi]
Jonathan Cohen (cello and five-string cello*)
Sarah McMahon (cello)
The Kings Consort
Robert King (harpsichord)
Recorded 15-17 April 2005 at Cadogan Hall, London
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: September 2006
CD No: HYPERION CDA67553
Duration: 74 minutes
Vivaldi’s contribution to the cello concerto genre numbers approximately 28, and, as Michael Talbot’s informative booklet note tells us, Vivaldi was among the first to bring the cello forward from a ‘continuo’ instrument to a solo one.
Six original Vivaldi compositions are here along with an attribution, whose noticeably different style is thrown into contrast all the more by it being the only work here in a major key. This is more than a mere curiosity, since the darker hue of the minor key makes this selection not quite as varied as it might have been.
Mind you, given the standard of interpretation, this proves not to be much of a problem. Jonathan Cohen and Robert King make an excellent team, and the interplay with The King’s Consort is often incisive and exciting. The outer movements tend to be easily paced, with RV416 a case in point, the Allegro not particularly fast and with plenty of room to breathe. Such an approach suits Cohen’s rounded tone and clear phrasing, as well as the ensemble’s detailed accompaniment.
For the slow movements the chatter of the harpsichord is softened by Matthew Halls’s chamber organ, helping Cohen to project warmly lyrical (but never sentimental) melodic lines. Indeed his tone with the four-string cello, a 1712 Guarneri, is much fuller than that of Anner Bylsma’s recordings. Comparisons with Bylsma are instructive, as Cohen and King tend to be less obviously virtuoso.
For RV418 Cohen uses a reconstructed five-string cello, slightly narrower in tone but exploiting the higher register to extremely good effect. This applies to the attributed RV415 also, where sunnier climbs are evident in a gently lilting ‘Siciliana’, with a held pedal note towards the end of the ‘Alla Breve’ finishing off the programme most convincingly.
Cohen teams up with Sarah McMahon for a fine version of the Concerto for two cellos, with a spiky first Allegro and beautiful interweaving harmonies in the subsequent Largo, King once again securing a good balance between soloists and Consort.
Interpretative quirks are few and far between, although Cohen’s mannered ‘digging out’ of passagework in the third movement of RV416 will not be to all tastes. Some may also find the faster music could have been delivered at a sprightlier pace.
It’s a fine disc, however, with meticulously planned performances and excellent recorded sound from Philip Hobbs and Ben Turner in Cadogan Hall. A second volume of Vivaldi’s cello concertos would be most welcome.