Notes and Editorial Reviews
Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione
Enrico Casazza (vn); dir; La Magnifica Comunità (period instruments)
BRILLIANT 93155 (2 CDs: 116:10)
La Magnifica Comunità consists of a dozen players and almost unlimited imagination. In Enrico Casazza’s reading of Vivaldi’s
, details that might have seemed almost exaggerated in performances like those of Il Giardino Armonico or the Venice Baroque Orchestra take a step further
and flamboyant tone-painting. Yet the effect remains genial: hardly ever awkward or strained. A great deal of the performances’ immediate appeal—and, perhaps of what I suspect will be their durability—comes from Casazza’s improvisational bent, which leads him to introduce embellishments, both short and extended, freely and naturally into much of the solo part. The effortless flow of these, offset by the orchestra’s strong dynamic contrasts and a strong pictorial sense, should breathe new life into the set’s first four concertos even for those who think they have grown all too familiar with them. And surprises abound, as when the pastoral dance at the end of “Spring” appears in the movement’s middle section with carefully calibrated dynamics or when the storm of “Summer” begins more quietly than usual rather than blowing full force at once (and it ends with an impudent grace that’s almost a sardonic comment). Of course, the dog barks strenuously in the slow movement of “Spring”—we’ve come to expect that. But the violinist indulges in rhythmic divisions in the first movement of “Autumn” and ornaments the slow section when it repeats, while the orchestra sharply articulates the accompaniment. Casazza’s first solo in “Winter” competes in interest with the movement’s opening, a passage that often dramatically dwarfs the violin’s entry.
“La tempesta di mare,” the set’s Fifth Concerto, represents a similar level of violinistic difficulty—and perhaps of musical interest as well. Casazza is as imaginative and virtuosic as ever, improvising fluently in the second movement and striking with lightning-like brilliance in the outer ones. The Sixth Concerto, “Il piacere,” most notable perhaps for its indolently languorous slow movement (which Casazza and the ensemble play with heart-rending affect), has frequently been included in anthologies; but the Seventh Concerto in D Minor (RV 242) and the Eighth in G Minor (RV 332), with its slow movement’s chromatically drooping bass line and its finale’s spectacular arpeggiations, deserve to be as well, especially in performances as revealing as these. The 10th Concerto, “La caccia,” may not present as graphic a hunt as that in the finale of “Autumn,” but it’s exciting in its own right, with the Orchestra indulging in sometimes startling dynamics. The ensemble also enhances the entries at the beginnings of the outer movements of the 11th Concerto (RV 210)—high-definition contrast that’s the orchestral equivalent of 1080p on big screen. It’s easy to see why Vivaldi’s contemporaries might have relished it.
The ensemble recorded these concertos in the Chiesa S. Alessandro in Vollongo during June 2006, and Gian Andrea Lodovici, who produced and supervised the sessions, and engineer Matteo Costa have captured these highly dramatic readings in equally dramatic and fully three-dimensional vibrancy, even without surround sound. Their performances join myriad others at the head, rather than at the tail, as my choice among the versions I’ve heard (penetrating notes by Emanuel Overbeeke and attractive and serviceable fold-out packaging enhance its attractiveness), especially among those of this strikingly dramatic stripe (though Fabio Biondi with Europa Galante—Virgin 45465, 25:3—exudes plenty of enthusiasm and indulges richly in fantasy). It would be a bargain at any price.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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