Vivaldi's six Concertos, Op. 11 were, along with six more (Op. 12), the composer's last published concertos during his lifetime. Both sets were issued in 1729. All but one of the six concertos of Op. 11 exist in alternative versions but, as Michael Talbot warns in his excellent booklet-note, one has to be careful in using publication dates as evidence of compositional chronology. Thus, the Sixth Concerto of the set, in which an oboe replaces the solo violin, is probably an earlier version of the Violin Concerto in G minor from Vivaldi's much better known set, La cetra, published in 1727 as Op. 9.
By far the most familiar work nowadays, from Vivaldi's Op. 11, is the Concerto in E minor, subtitled Il favorito. Indeed, it ranksRead more among the composer's finest achievements in the form. Vivaldi had already included it in a set of 12 concertos, also confusingly called La cetra, but nothing to do with Op. 9, which he presented to Charles VI in 1728. Talbot ventures the suggestion that the piece acquired its nickname through the Emperor having perhaps taken a particular liking to it. Who knows?
The solo violinist, Stanley Ritchie, has long been an agile and sympathetic exponent of Vivaldi's concertos. He is able to lightly articulate the passagework and to bring out the pleasing contours of Vivaldi's melodic writing. There is plenty of expressive variety in this music, ranging from the somewhat wistful violin melody of the slow movement of the First Concerto, with its limpid upper string pizzicato accompaniment, to the vigorous gestures which characterize many of the outer movements. Contrast is a feature, too, in the single Oboe Concerto (No. 6). Here the soloist is Frank de Bruine, who gives a fluent account of the outer movements and a lyrical one of the ostinato-based Largo cantabile.
Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music provide lively and sympathetic support, Hogwood effectively ringing the changes between harpsichord and chamber organ continuo, and also sensibly engaging the services of a theorbo player, Tom Finucane. In short, an enjoyable disc with a notably expressive performance of Il favorito, whose slow movement is endowed with lyricism and expressive fantasy, neither of which is lost on Ritchie. Good recorded sound.'
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