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Vivaldi - The French Connection 2 / Chandler, La Serenissima

Vivaldi / Serenissima
Release Date: 06/14/2011 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2218  
Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Adrian ChandlerKaty BircherGail HennessyPeter Whelan
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



VIVALDI “Paris” Concertos: No. 2 in e, RV 133; No. 8 in d, RV 127; No. 11 in G, RV 150. Concerto in F for Violin and Oboe, RV 543. Flute Concertos: in a, RV 440; in d, RV 431a, “Il Gran Mogol.” Concerto for Flute, 2 Violins, and Bassoon, RV 104, “La note.” Read more class="ARIAL12b">Bassoon Concerto in C, RV 473. Violin Concerto in B?, RV 365 Adrian Chandler (vn, cond); Katy Bircher (fl); Gail Hennessy (ob); Peter Whelan (bn); La Serenissima (period instruments) AVIE 2218 (79:03)


Titled The French Connection 2 , this is La Serenissima’s second collection devoted to concertos by Vivaldi composed for a French nobleman, or with stylistic elements typical of French music from that period. (RV 431a was written on French paper!) If you’re having déjà vu all over again, it’s because I reviewed the first collection (Avie 2178) almost exactly two years ago in Fanfare 33:2. As I remarked last time, France had a strong appetite for the music of Vivaldi and his fellow Italians during the 1720s and ’30s, and so it is not surprising that Vivaldi, on occasion, “spoke French.” Adrian Chandler’s excellent booklet note discusses this in greater detail than it is possible to do here.


Two CD premieres are claimed here, that of RV 431a and RV 365. The former was discovered in April 2010 in the National Archives of Scotland. Unfortunately, a second violin part was missing, but Andrew Woolley reconstructed it, using RV 431 (a simplified version of RV 431a) as a guide. A “Mogol,” by the way, is a representative of the Mughal Empire, part of the Indian subcontinent during Vivaldi’s lifetime. Some of the music on this CD is unfamiliar, then, and some of it will have the average Baroque enthusiast nodding and saying, “I’ve heard this one before.” All of it is of high quality, and there are, as always, some surprises. Chief among these is RV 473, which concludes with a lengthy Menuet en Rondeau . Longer than the first two movements combined, this movement would unbalance the concerto were it not so enjoyable, and were its increasingly ornate variations not so inventive.


Compared to other period-instrument ensembles, La Serenissima’s performances are well mannered, yet they are lively when they need to be, and gently introspective when they are not. The soloists are members of the ensemble. Last time I singled out bassoonist Peter Whelan, and I am moved to do so again. His joyful and virtuosic quacking in RV 473 is the sound that lingers most tenaciously in my ears after this CD has stopped spinning. Like many English ensembles of this sort, La Serenissima is a touch too proper to do full justice to Vivaldi’s Mediterranean temperament. Its name is an allusion to Venice, I assume, but it also describes its musicianship, for better or worse. (Mostly better.)


FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle



Vivaldi is one of the most frequently-recorded composers these days. If you want to record his music and want to avoid the beaten path, what do you do? The answer from Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima is to look at Vivaldi's music from a thematic angle. The booklet for this CD lists the discs they have made over the years. One of the themes was "Vivaldi in Arcadia", and another "Music for the Chapel of the Pietà". This disc is the second devoted to "The French Connection". This title has to be taken with a grain of salt as there is no formal connection between Vivaldi and France. He was never in the service of a French court and never wrote music at the request of any French aristocrat. Chandler rather wants to shed light on French elements in Vivaldi's music.
 
Everyone knows how strongly French composers of the early 18th century were under the influence of the Italian style. Music by Italian composers, and in particular by Vivaldi, was frequently performed in France, for instance in the Concert Spirituel. The influence of the French style in Italy is far less known. In his liner-notes Chandler refers to several traces of French influence in Italy, and especially in the oeuvre of Vivaldi. If there is a 'French connection' it could be a collection of concertos for strings and basso continuo which are referred to as the 'Paris' concertos. Chandler suggests that these could have been intended as a presentation set for a French nobleman.
 
In the booklet the French elements of every piece on the programme are listed. In particular aspects of the French overture style are traceable. The second movement of the Concerto in F (RV 543) is entitled 'allegro alla francese'. The finale of this concerto is a minuet, and the Concerto in C (RV 473) even ends with a 'menuet en rondeau'. That is all very interesting, and Chandler could be right that these are deliberate references to the French style. At the same time it is quite possible that these elements had become so generally accepted that they were not experienced as specifically 'French'. How many music-lovers or even composers of today think of Poland when they hear or play a polonaise? In the early 17th century Italian keyboard composers also wrote pieces 'alla francese'. But scholars can't identify exactly what is so French about them. Sometimes the connection seems rather far-fetched. According to the list the 'French connection' of the Concerto in d minor (RV 431a) is that the manuscript was written on French paper. Well ...
 
That concerto, with the nickname Il Gran Mogol, is one of the main attractions of this disc. It was only recently discovered in Edinburgh, of all places. Not that it was entirely new. Scholars knew that it had been written, and a reworking is listed as RV 431. This version also allowed the reconstruction of the missing second violin part of the first version, which is catalogued as RV 431a and is recorded here. It was part of a series of concertos devoted to various nationalities. This one referred to the Mughal Empire (India). Other concertos have disappeared. Those with a more than average knowledge of Vivaldi's oeuvre will immediately think of another concerto, this time for violin, with the title 'Il Grosso Mogul'. But that is an entirely different piece and has nothing in common with this flute concerto.
 
This piece has been recorded for the first time, and that is also the case with the Concerto in B flat (RV 365). It exists in two versions, the first of which is played here. The liner-notes don't say whether this concerto has been recorded before in its second version. The main difference regards the last movement of which there are two; here the oldest is played. Notable in the programme is also the Concerto in F (RV 543): the French elements in the titles of the various movements have already been mentioned. It needs to be added that the two solo instruments largely play unisono, which could be a reference to the French habit of oboes playing colla parte with the violins. It is also remarkable that there is no slow movement: there are three allegros and a closing minuet.
 
The most virtuosic piece is definitely the Concerto in C (RV 473) with many wide leaps and some very low notes. Vivaldi must have had a particularly skilled soloist in mind. It is remarkable anyway how many bassoon concertos he wrote and they are all quite demanding. Peter Whelan delivers a brilliant performance. The closing 'menuet en rondeau' is especially impressive. It is one of the disc’s highlights. The performances are generally quite good, though I find them at times too restrained. The fast movements come off fairly well, but the slow ones are often too static, especially as long notes are mostly devoid of dynamic shading. Katy Bircher gives a fine performance of one of Vivaldi's most popular pieces, the Concerto La Notte (RV 104). She is equally convincing in the two flute concertos.
 
On balance, the concept of this disc, the choice of music and the performances make this an interesting contribution to the growing Vivaldi discography.
 
-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Strings in E minor, RV 133 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Adrian Chandler (Violin)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
2.
Concerto for Flute in A minor, RV 440 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Katy Bircher (Flute)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
3.
Concerto for Violin and Oboe in F major, RV 543 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Adrian Chandler (Violin), Gail Hennessy (Oboe)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
4.
Concerto for Bassoon in C major, RV 473 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Peter Whelan (Bassoon)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
5.
Concerto for Flute in D minor, RV 431a "Il Gran Mogul” by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Katy Bircher (Flute)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
6.
Concerto for Strings in G major, RV 150 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Adrian Chandler (Violin)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
7.
Chamber Concerto for Flute, 2 Violins and Bassoon in G minor, RV 104 "La notte" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Katy Bircher (Flute), Adrian Chandler (Violin), Peter Whelan (Bassoon)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
8.
Concerto for Strings in D minor, RV 127 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Adrian Chandler (Violin)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
9.
Concerto for Violin in B flat major, RV 365 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Adrian Chandler (Violin)
Conductor:  Adrian Chandler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Serenissima

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