An unexpectedly interesting release - this is enjoyable music-making, thoughtfully prepared and executed with just the right degree of virtuosity.
With a huge number of versions of Vivaldi's hardy perennial currently available it seems extraordinary that record companies can still anticipate a lively market for a newcomer. Yet, like Lewis Carroll's oysters, thick and fast they came at last, and more, and more, and more. This new version with solo violinist Gottfried von der Goltz and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, of which he is Artistic Director, will certainly take its place in the upper reaches of a dauntingly congested league-table. Goltz is a novel approach to an old chestnut: Vivaldi's Four Seasons with anRead more exotic line-up of instruments and, as a bonus, a reading of the sonnets which inspired the composer Photo DHAI player of taste and refinement who is also sensitive to the many subtle expressive nuances of Vivaldi's score. The Adagio of Summer is played with exceptional delicacy, providing a splendidly effective contrast with the ferocity of the tempestuous Presto which follows. Goltz is not short of ideas concerning embellishment, always responding with imagination to the various programmatic indications in the score: and this is just the kind of music which suits the overtly demonstrative gestures of the Freiburg players par excellence.
Such virtues as these, however, can be found in varying measures and colours in many another recording of the Four Seasons so what, if anything, is of valid novelty here? The answer lies in the continuo department where a uniquely colourful colloquium of instruments has been assembled by Andrew Lawrence-King. His Harp Consort on this occasion consists of a lirone, baroque lute, cittern, archlute, guitar, theorbo, arch-cittern, harp and psaltry, together with harpsichord, organ and regal. When I saw this varied consortium I feared that the music had been hijacked and that the strings of Vivaldi's score had been relegated to backing status. Not so, since all is handled with discretion. proper concern for internal balance and due regard for the role of continuo in the baroque concerto. The experimental side of the performance is openly acknowledged by Goltz himself, in a short note, and is given justification by Lawrence-King in a commentary of greater substance. Their aim, in short, is to present the music "as a kind of 'instrumental cantata' inspired by Vivaldi's operatic world". So there you are.
In summary, this is enjoyable music-making, thoughtfully prepared and executed with just the right degree of virtuosity. Two further concertos from the same published opus, La tempesta di mare and II piacere, have been included in the programme for good measure. And, somewhat superfluously, someone recites in Italian the four anonymous sonnets, also included in the printed set, on which Vivaldi based his programme. An unexpectedly interesting release.
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