Notes and Editorial Reviews
Flute Sonatas: in C,
RV 269, “Primavera”
Mario Folena, Stefania Marusi (fl); Roberto
Loreggian (hpd, org); Francesco Baroni (hpd) (period instruments)
BRILLIANT 93703 (64:20)
Vivaldi must be almost the best-known composer of the Baroque era, and probably (together with Bach the elder) the most recorded as well. His flute concertos (op. 10) have many available versions, from run-of-the mill to the extraordinary (in this last category it is impossible not to mention Sébastien Marq’s for Opus 111 and Dorothée Oberlinger’s for Aurel).
Curiously, the sonatas and trio-sonatas have encountered a less enthusiastic reception, and are more rarely recorded. Many have proven to be unauthentic or simply Vivaldi-inspired and sold under the Italian composer’s name for merely commercial reasons (such is the case of the lovely sonatas of
Il pastor fido
, first attributed to Vivaldi as op.13 and now believed to be from Chédeville’s pen). Whatever the reasons, it is a pity that Vivaldi flute sonatas have not received more attention from interpreters in general.
The present CD does much to redress the injustice, presenting a lively and competent version of these works. The playing is excellent throughout, technically accomplished, and musically solid. The Palanca flutes used here have the big, impressive tone that makes the Palanca model the ideal choice for anyone frustrated by the smallness of any other Baroque flute model. The quality of the sound recording is also commendable. If compared with some of the recordings in the market, this one shines brightly. In my own collection I have a recording of RV 48, 49, 50, and 51 by Maxence Larrieu (for Pavane) that simply disappears in the shadows next to this one. So overall, this is a praiseworthy recording. RV 50 (the “Stockholm Sonata”) can be found in a good version by Walter van Hauwe, for Channel Classics, and RV 49 and 50 can also be heard by Jean Christophe Frisch (for Accord). But you will hardly find a combination of Vivaldi flute sonatas as good as this one and with a more attractive price tag.
However, having the nasty streak that I do, I did find a minor fault to complain about. Mind you, it is truly minor. I had a hard time even identifying the problem. I have often said that in music one cannot be too expressive or “do” too much to a phrase. But hélàs, one can. Mario Folena, playing the first flute and apparently heading the group (his is the photo on the cover), is a very fine flutist, with imagination and flexibility. His intonation is right on, and the tone he produces is huge and round. But I got the impression that he wants to give more than the music contains, and the effort becomes apparent.
The preludes added to the sonatas (for example that of the very first track) are a good idea, but the performance shows an excess of delicateness regarding the emission of each note. The phrases proceed with too much caution, too much intention, when all we want is a careless string of arpeggiated chords that will serve to “place” us harmonically. The image of a cornucopia, impetuously spreading its luscious fruits on the ground comes to my mind. And yet Folena plays deliberately as if each note was a glass vial that had to be handled with the utmost care when placed on a flat surface. The idea of the alternating bass instruments in a single piece is another such instance. The intent was obviously to create diversity and avoid boredom. And yes, both harpsichord and organ are superbly played, sound great, and are appropriate for the moments where they are utilized. But the sound of one after the other is disruptive and unnecessary. In the trio sonatas, these quibbles disappear. They sound freer, less contrived, simpler—and simply efficient.
Before anyone gets the impression that I did not like the CD, let me dispel such a notion. I wish that all the CDs I receive to review had as their main fault an excess of care expression, rubato, and inflection, or simply an exaggerated desire to please the ear. This is definitely warmly recommended, most especially for flutists, for its qualities as well as for its defects.
FANFARE: Laura Rónai
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