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Vivaldi: Cello Concertos / King, Cohen, King's Consort


Release Date: 08/08/2006 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67553   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The number of cello concertos now recognized to have been written by the “Red Priest” has passed two dozen—a curious fact, we are reminded in Michael Talbot’s booklet note, because Vivaldi is not believed to have played the cello himself, although he certainly had more than a working familiarity with the instrument. At any rate, there is nothing that is unidiomatic about the solo-writing. On the whole, the sophistication of the writing probably increased as Vivaldi matured, but the interpretive and mechanical talents of the intended soloist(s) might have played an even greater role. Many of the concertos on this CD are likely to have been composed with one or more of the girls at the Ospedale della Pietà in mind, although a few seem Read more to have been intended for other soloists, or appear to have been composed during a different period in Vivaldi’s life. The curiosities here are RV 531, Vivaldi’s only “double” cello concerto—as far as we know!—and RV 415, which might not be the work of Vivaldi at all. (Compelling arguments can be made in either direction.) Also, RV 415 and RV 418 are played on a five-string cello—a “piccolo” cello—that “facilitates the performance of the ultra-high notes and of the broken-chord passages in the solo parts of these two concertos.” Even though all but one of the concertos is in a minor key, King and Cohen avoid monotony. Or perhaps that is giving them too much credit—if that is possible, for these are excellent readings—because ultimately it was Vivaldi who had the gift of being able to go to the well hundreds of times, yet still walk away with a different bucket of water every time.

Jonathan Cohen (not to be mistaken with cellist Robert Cohen, as I initially did) graduated from Clare College, Cambridge, in 2000, so I am guessing that he is in his twenties. He has worked both with modern and period instruments, and has studied with proponents of either, so it’s too early to pigeonhole him. (He also conducts.) I enjoyed his cantabile, unfussy playing on this CD. Rather than letting you know how hard he is working, he lets you know how much fun he is having instead. While he is imaginative, he keeps his ego out of the way. The same goes for King and his eponymous Consort, who are appropriately expressive in the middle movements, and animated in the outer ones, without exaggeration or violence. Rough-and-tumble Vivaldi still is in vogue. I don’t necessarily dislike it, but it was a great pleasure to hear these comparatively mellow and relaxed performances, so appropriate for the late evening hours when work is done and the brandy (or the Nescafé) almost goes untouched on the side table. There are lots of good alternatives out there—Ofra Harnoy’s enjoyable and dirt cheap “complete” set on RCA Red Seal omits RV 531 and RV 415, however—but Cohen and King will scratch your itch nicely if you’re looking for period performance without frenetic tempos and rough edges. I hope that there will be a second volume from this source. Nice sound. Recommended. Now please pass the Nescafé.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Cello in G minor, RV 416 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
2.
Concerto for Cello in A minor, RV 420 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
3.
Concerto for 2 Cellos in G minor, RV 531 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
4.
Concerto for Cello in C minor, RV 401 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
5.
Concerto for Cello in G minor, RV 417 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
6.
Concerto for Cello in A minor, RV 418 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
7.
Concerto for Cello in G major, RV 415 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Jonathan Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 

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