Notes and Editorial Reviews
Flute Concertos: in G,
RV 430 (275a);
op. 10/3, “Il gardellino”;
Alexis Kossenko (fl, cond); Arte Dei Suonatori (period instruments)
ALPHA 174 (77:01)
Well, it didn’t take long for there to be a corrective to the misguided Stradivarius release of Vivaldi flute concertos reviewed in
34: 3. There, Stefano Bagiano chose to play the composer’s op. 10 concertos on a recorder, contra the fact that they were explicitly written for transverse flute. If that weren’t poor decision enough, he was accompanied by an ensemble of only seven players, this despite an Italian Baroque tradition of employing large forces in orchestral music and a documented 60 players in Vivaldi’s Pietà orchestra. The final offense was a disc containing less than 47 minutes of music selling for $18.99.
Everything that was wrong with the Stradivarius release is put to rights by this new Alpha CD. Rather than record all six of the op. 10 concertos, something that has been done often enough and to a fare-thee-well before, Alexis Kossenko has chosen an assortment of concertos (not all of which are originally for flute), as well as an assortment of six different transverse flutes on which to play them, all dating from Vivaldi’s time. Bear in mind that the Baroque transverse flute Vivaldi was writing for, though held horizontally and played by blowing into or across an embouchure, like the modern flute, was still made of wood and had smaller finger holes and no keys. Metal flutes with larger finger holes, elaborate key mechanisms, and other innovations began to be introduced in the early 1800s.
Kossenko’s accompanying ensemble, 13 in number, while still possibly smaller than what Vivaldi might have employed, is almost double the size of the seven-player complement of strings plus harpsichord on the Stradivarius disc. Even better, and likely more historically informed, Arte Dei Suonatori’s instrumentalists include in the mix a bassoon, alternately harpsichord and organ, and interchangeably theorbo, archlute, and chitarra. These last-named plucked instruments not only add color, but as reinforcements to the bass line they would probably have been considered indispensable to the continuo contingent. So, we have here performances that are not just on period instruments but that are
the period, a distinction not necessarily granted simply by employing period instruments. And last but not least, we have in Alpha’s production a CD selling for less than the Stradivarius disc and containing a full half-hour’s more music.
Apart from the op. 10 concertos, which were published in Amsterdam sometime around 1728 and therefore had to have been written in connection with Vivaldi’s on-again, off-again service to the Ospedale della Pietà, information pertaining to other of the composer’s concertos designated for flute is hard to come by. Some, written earlier, were likely intended for recorder; others—RV 434, for example—were probably adapted for transverse flute from recorder concertos; while still others—and that would include RV numbers 427, 430 (275a), and 438 on this disc—may well have made the rounds as violin, oboe, and/or bassoon concertos before landing on flute. What we can be fairly confident of is that the direction of Vivaldi’s transcriptions went from recorder to flute, from old to new, not the other way round. Any flute concertos following the op. 10 set would almost certainly have been for the transverse instrument.
This is an absolutely splendid release and a must-have for all Vivaldi lovers as well as for all who appreciate vibrant playing in truly historically informed performances. French-born flutist Alexis Kossenko is an award-winning artist who devotes his talent more or less equally to both the modern and Baroque flute. In the former capacity, he has performed under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovitch and Valery Gergiev and recorded the Nielsen flute concerto with Justus Frantz and the Philharmonie der Nationen. In the latter capacity, he has partnered Baroque specialists such as Richard Egarr, Andrew Manze, and Catherine Bott, and has performed under John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, Skip Sempé, Jean-Claude Malgoire, Jos van Immerseel, Jaap ter Linden, and Fabio Biondi.
This is not my first encounter with Kossenko and the Polish Arte Dei Suonatori ensemble. In 33:2, I described Kossenko’s playing of flute concertos by C. P. E. Bach as “simply astonishing,” and urged a “must-buy” recommendation. Volume 1 of the collection made Laura Rónai’s 2006 Want List, in which she called Kossenko’s playing “fabulous” and the orchestra “cohesive and brilliant.”
If icing on the cake be needed, it comes in the form of a thick French and English booklet containing notes on each individual concerto, detailed information on the instruments employed, and several pages of high-quality photographs. Viva Vivaldi, and kudos to Kossenko, Arte Dei Suonatori, and Alpha for a beautiful recording.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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