Christopher Hogwood - Complete Vivaldi Recordings -
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Reviews of some of the original recordings that make up this set:
II cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, Op. 8
"There are many things to enjoy and admire in this new recording of what must be Vivaldi's most popular set of concertos, on account of its including The Four Seasons, What I enjoyed most were the lively rhythms, imaginative phrasing and clarity of line, features which are common to each one of these performances."
La stravaganza, Op. 4
La stravaganza was Vivaldi's second published set of concertos. It appeared in about 1713, shortly after his successful L'estro armonico of 1711. The edition was published by Estienne Roger in Amsterdam and
brought out in two books as the composer's Op. 4. The 12 concertos of La stravaganza are all scored for solo violin and strings. In general, greater emphasis is placed on the 'solo' element than in the earlier set where 'concertino' writing plays a more extensive role. Bach transcribed for solo harpsichord movements from the First and Sixth Concertos though he would have seen this music in an earlier, somewhat different manuscript form. In the case of Concerto No. I in B flat only the first movement appears in Bach's G major solo keyboard version (BWV980); and where Concerto No. 6 in G minor is concerned Bach closely follows the opening movement, greatly modifies the second and follows an entirely different finale; the key, however, remains the same (BWV975). If the substance of the concertos themselves seem at first sight less varied than that of L'estro armonico the same certainly cannot be said of the solo violin writing which is richly endowed with passages of beguiling fantasy. Indeed, it seems to me that some of Vivaldi's utterances in this set exceed anything in his Op. 3 in respect of poesy and tenderness; an outstanding example of his lyrical gift occurs in the Largo of Concerto No. 12 in G major. Here a heart-rending melody is treated to a series of variations over an ostinato bass in a most inventive manner; the effect is magical and the piece must surely rank amongst Vivaldi's loveliest creations. The Grave e sempre piano of Concerto No. 4 in A minor, with its sighing suspensions, its ethereal solo violin line, and characteristic chromaticisms, is hardly less inspired, evoking an air almost of fairy-tale enchantment. There's a surprise at almost every leading note in this tender movement.
Fast movements are treated to a rich variety of patterns. Some of them, such as the opening Allegro of Concerto No. 2 in E minor, recall ideas in Vivaldi's earlier Op. 3 set; but others, such as the finale of the Twelfth Concerto, and the opening movements of Concerto No. 8 in D minor begin with a lively violin solo rather than the usual tutti ritornello, and are boldy distinctive. All but one of the concertos fall into Vivaldi's customary 'fastslow-fast' movement pattern; the odd man out is the somewhat Corellian Concerto No. 7 in C major, which follows the sonata da chiesa pattern with an interesting Largo opening movement. The set as a whole is rich both in experimental gestures and musical fantasy, qualities that are emphasized in these captivating performances.
The soloist in each of the 12 concertos is Monica Huggett, for whose playing I am filled with admiration. Her warm tone, her well-nigh impeccable intonation, her sensitive shading of dynamics and her communicative articulation bring us to the heart of this music in a seemingly effortless fashion. Her virtuosity enables her to be convincing in all shades of musical affect—fiery where necessary, as in the spirited outer movements of Concerto No. I in B flat, but also lyrically, even, on occasion, poignantly expressive, too. The small group of string players which, on this occasion, comprise the Academy of Ancient Music, set up a responsive partnership with the solo violin. Very occasionally, I'd have preferred lighter tuttis in slow movements—the beautiful Largo of the Twelfth Concerto, which I've already mentioned, struck me as being a shade too assertive; but that is not at all to say that the performance lacks either finesse or sensibility. Everyone concerned sounds inspired by the music and this makes for notably rewarding performances. Christopher Hogwood has realized his continuos imaginatively and, as in his recording of Vivaldi's Op. 8, plays harpsichord or organ according to what he considers to be the individual sound requirements of each concerto; and the presence of a theorbo, as I have remarked before, is invariably effective.
To sum up, a splendid achievement all round. Wonderful solo violin playing, lively orchestral support, sensitive direction and a fine recorded sound. Strongly recommended.
– Gramophone [3/1987]
L'Estro Armonico, Op 3
Vivaldi's L'estro armonico was the first of his sets of published concertos. It appeared in 1711 though several, if not all of the works contained there had been in circulation previously. What is striking about L'estro armonico ('Harmonic Energy', 'Fancy', 'Whim' or whatever) is the diversity of its contents and indeed the novelty of them. Here are concertos for one, two and four solo violins arranged in symmetrical groups; cello concertante parts make an appearance and, unusually for Vivaldi, several concertos at times call for divided violas. L 'estro artnonico had a great influence on composers in most European countries, ample testimony of which can be found in contemporary comment and, of course, in Bach's five transcriptions for solo keyboard and another for four harpsichords and strings.
Let me say now that these performances are outstanding. Gone are the ponderous, rather exaggerated gestures which dominate so many recordings of these pieces. In their place are commendably transparent textures which, together with lightly-tripping phrases and a generally crisp attack (an admired feature of the orchestra of the Pietã in Venice) restore the spirit of the dance to the music. Above all, I think, it is the intimate nature of the playing, and the recording, too, which provides the greatest contrast with other performances; there is no trace of the 'big band' sound here, thank goodness, but instead a group of single strings whose vitality and sparkle seldom fails. Just occasionally there are patches of shaky intonation and a handful of instances, too, where ritornellos would have benefited from sharper focused rhythms; but these were certainly not enough to qualify my enthusiasm for the performances as a whole. The four violinists, Catherine Mackintosh, Monica Huggett, Elizabeth Wilcock and John Holloway all take their turn separately and collectively in the role of soloist. Each has his or her own distinctive sound and approach to the music and no doubt listeners will devise their own league-table as they become more and more familiar with the performances. I found them all stylish, alert and sensitive in their playing and, if I have any favourites myself, I intend to keep those cards pressed close to my heart!
This is a splendid achievement. I hope we can look forward to a similar approach to Vivaldi's Op. 9, La cetra, using reliable texts. Highly recommended!
– Gramophone [12/1981, reviewing the original LP release]
Violin Concertos Op. 6
Although not as well known as his Op 3 or even Op 4, Vivaldi’s third published set of concertos, the Op 6 of 1719, is if anything more consistently typical of the ‘classic’ Vivaldian three-movement violin concerto in its much-imitated form. Here is a case, one supposes, of Vivaldi and his publisher giving the public what it wants. Not that they are entirely predictable; while some slow movements are scored for violin and continuo only, others feature the soloist only minimally; the finale of No 3 – a curious, slightly overlong echo piece – dispenses with his services altogether; and the finale of Concerto No 6 is spiced up by some tasty little Purcellian dissonances.
The Academy of Ancient Music and Christopher Hogwood have been taking a leisurely stroll through Vivaldi’s published concerto sets with a variety of soloists ever since they recorded Op 10 back in 1977, having taken in Opp 3, 4, 8 and 12 along the way. This Op 6 (a period-instrument first, says Decca) was actually recorded four years ago, and thus dates right from the beginning of Andrew Manze’s involvement with the group as associate director and concertmaster. Not surprisingly, then, it fails to show quite the same degree of communal fun and games as the more recent accounts, directed by him, of concertos by Handel and Geminiani. Buoyant though these Op 6 performances are, and virtuosic though their solo playing is, they are restrained by comparison. Nevertheless, there is authentic Manze to be heard in places, for instance in the dreamy opening and lovingly nurtured tone of Concerto No 2’s slow movement, or in the deliberate dragging of the last solo in the same work’s finale. And even when he’s playing it straight, Manze is still a violinist worth hearing.
The 16-piece orchestra perform well too, producing that bright, clean and typically British kind of Vivaldi sound for which the Academy of Ancient Music is largely responsible, and which is well captured by the recording – I particularly like the nicely judged level of prominence given to the continuo organ. With the charming Cuckoo concerto as a filler, this is pleasant stuff indeed. Vivaldi and his publisher probably got it right, because if you like Vivaldi, you will certainly like these concertos.
– Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone [12/2000]
La Cetra, Op. 9
It wasn't all that long ago that original-instrument performances were something of an oddity to be argued about in music journals and heard only now and then on records. Now they seem to be coming out with dizzying regularity, even in competing editions of the same music. During the LP-SD era, Vivaldi's "Lyre" was recorded in toto five or six times. Now, within two years, here is a second original-instrument traversal. It seems to say that, while musicological points may still feed erudite arguments, the general public has come to accept to a fair degree not only the concept, but the sound of these ensembles.
The impetus behind the earlier recording (Huggett and the Raglan Baroque Players conducted by Nicholas Kraemer—see: Fanfare 11:2) and this more recent one is quite similar: light, fleet, modern-British baroque. For the most part, I find the only major difference being in the sound, which is closer and more realistic in the recording by L'Oiseau-Lyre. Time was I thought all was well: God was in His heaven, the Queen upon her throne, and Simon Standage was with the English Consort. Thip recording he has made with the Academy of Ancient Music, has shaken that comforting notion somewhat, but the new alliance, nonce or otherwise, is a happy one. In all, I would have to say that both sets offer much, L'Oiseau-Lyre with better sound. There are, of course, slight differences in nuance here and there, all valid, and I urge the prospective buyer to try to hear some of both if possible. Lacking the opportunity, either will please, Hogwood & Co. marginally more so.
– Nils Anderson, Fanfare [9/1989]
6 Concertos Op. 11
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 ranks 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.'
– Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone
Concertos RV 129, 151, 531, 533, 537, 564
The programme, sandwiching two string orchestral concertos between four varied concertos, is of the absorbing kind made possible only by Vivaldi's fecundity. All the works are in alternative recordings, though not so coupled, but the Academy's versions, making out the strongest possible case for using period instruments and practices, remain unequalled. The name of this recording's game is variety, sonorities and bespoke writing for the solo instruments. From the antiphonal glory of RV537 (Venetian shades of Gabrieli) to the touching eloquence of the Largo of RV531 (which I have often used to illustrate Affekt and embellishment to students), the playing is a model of period style.
Though rather bass-heavy in RV151, the balance is excellent. Very strongly recommended.
– Gramophone [5/1986]
Vivaldi's oboe concertos have not exactly languished for want of attention. There have been at least two integral series—with different contents—by Holliger (Philips, LPs only) and Glaetzner (Capriccio). There was a considerable difference in contents between the two sets, neither of which is currently listed in Opus. Surprising, Opus doesn't show any discs devoted exclusively to the oboe concertos of Vivaldi, nor does the latest Penguin Guide. Consequently L'Oiseau-Lyre's imaginative compilation is all the more welcome. In addition to four solo concertos, Hogwood has included a concerto for two oboes and another for the unusual combination of pairs of oboes and clarinets. The quadruple concerto, one of two composed for that particular combination, may be of special interest. L'Oiseau-Lyre doesn't make any claims for the latter, but I would guess that it's pretty rare. It's new to my collection, and I couldn't find it in Opus. All of the concertos in the program are primarily virtuoso vehicles, with the honors shared by the two well-matched soloists. Both Hammer and de Bruine play their period instruments with exhilarating, almost insolent, ease (as do Hoeprich and Pay), but flying fingers aren't the point of the disc. Duke Ellington's dictum is as applicable here as anywhere, and Hogwood has seen to it that these performances swing with the best of them. The recording is excellent, and the disc is well recommended. But why is Philips sitting on the Holliger recordings?
– George Chien, Fanfare [9/1993]
Two discs could not more thoroughly discredit Stravinsky’s mindless remark about Vivaldi: ‘a dull fellow who could compose the same form over... and over’. Every one of these 36 movements reveals some novelty to surprise and delight. I Musici’s violin selection includes a double orchestra, muted strings without harpsichord, and vivid portrayals of ‘Sleep’, ‘Suspicion’ and ‘Anxiety’. Hogwood’s choice is more colourful still, from solo bassoon and strings – three of 39 extant concertos for this charming grandfather of the wind – to a brilliant palette of virtuoso violin and oboes, dazzling horns, cello, bassoon and strings, enriched with a varied continuo – archlute and organ as well as harpsichord. I Musici and Sirbu are finely matched – she has led this conductorless ensemble since 1992. Her playing is technically immaculate, including a flashing cadenza in the double-orchestra concerto. The recorded sound, though, is rather brittle and intense –as is the spirit of their playing. Their exuberance is far from effortless. For Hogwood, recording quality is softer-edged, reflecting the warmth and transparency of period instruments. He makes points all the more effectively by understating them, subtly shaping phrases and dynamics to create a fine sense of direction.
– George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine
"Discs devoted entirely to the Red Priest's cello concertos used to be very rare indeed, but the recording industry seems to be slowly correcting that oversight. This, however, is the first such disc employing original instruments. To my knowledge, RV. 416 was recorded only once before (by the Collegium Aureum for Harmonia Mundi some twenty-five years ago). RV. 412 receives its recorded debut in toto here, although the middle movement inexplicably appeared once before as a substitute for the one in RV. 411 on an SD by Iona Brown and the ASMF (Fanfare 8:2). The rest of the works on this program have received a reasonable amount of attention over the years.
Coin's instrument (Testore, c. 1750) has a soft, plaintive sound with none of the “juiciness“ of its modern counterpart. For RV. 413 and 418, he uses a “cello piccolo“ (De Lannoy, 1768), a term new to me. Hang me for a wooden-eared dullard, but I don't hear much difference between the two instruments other than a very slightly warmer tone in the former. I daresay this is one of Hogwood's best efforts on behalf of II prete rosso. His tempos are lively, but not driven, and there is none of the brusqueness that marred some of his earlier performances. In sum, a delightful disc that can be highly recommended to both the Vivaldian and the casual listener. The sound is excellent."
– Nils Anderson, Fanfare [1/1990]
Cello Concertos and Sonatas
Christophe Coin's third solo Vivaldi disc completes his recording of the nine cello sonatas (the six which used to masquerade under the misleading and erroneous title Op. 14 are contained on L'Oiseau-Lyre 0 421 060-20H, 4/89) while adding three more cello concertos to the six already issued (L'Oiseau-Lyre 0 421 732-20H, 8/89). That leaves 18 cello concertos to go, but I would urge L'Oiseau-Lyre to consider the matter carefully since Vivaldi seldom disappoints us when he writes for this instrument. Coin has chosen well, by and large, but it is nevertheless a question of first among equals and even a cursory glance over the scores of the remaining concertos as yet unrecorded, makes one long for a cellist of this technical calibre and fine sensibility to offer us the rest.
The three sonatas on this new disc were not published during Vivaldi's lifetime. Two of them (RV39 and 44) are preserved in the library of the Naples Conservatory while the remaining one (RV42) with a notably expressive Sarabanda comes from the SchOnborn library at Wiesentheid. Coin's feeling for dance rhythms, his clear articulation and musical phrasing, and his sharp ear for detail make for outstanding performances. Perhaps he does not possess that feeling for caricature present in Anner Bylsma's Deutsche Harmonia Mundi recording of these sonatas (Cr) RD77909, 6/90) but that is a dimension which can hinder a listener's enjoyment on frequent acquaintance. Here, the music is further enlivened by characteristically stylish continuo playing by Christopher Hogwood, who rings the changes between organ and harpsichord, and the two other members of the continuo group, Ageet Zweistra (cello) and Eugene Ferre (baroque guitar).
The three concertos have all been recorded by other cellists in the past but seldom if ever as delightfully as interpreted by Coin and the strings of the Academy of Ancient Music. As in the sonatas the continuo is given additional colour by an archlute in the two minor-key works and by a chitarrone in the remaining G major Concerto. There are plenty of contrasts in the spirit of these concertos, the D minor characterized by virile, pulsating motifs in the tuttis of the outer movements, the C minor a gentler, more melancholy work and the G major in Vivaldi's happiest vein. Virtuosity reigns supreme in the solo writing of the Allegros though, as so often with Vivaldi, attentive listening to enchanting little turns of phrase brings considerable rewards in a more lyrical vein; where the slower middle movements are concerned I reiterate what I implied in my review of the earlier disc that the depth of expression of which Vivaldi is capable is too often disregarded or underestimated. This music was intended to move the passions, to appeal to the senses and it does—unfailingly. A splendid issue in every respect. Warmly recommended.
– Gramophone [1/1992] Read less
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Superb! October 24, 2013
By Donald Bauder (Salida, CO) See All My Reviews
"Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music present the best Vivaldi I have ever heard on CD. The interpretations are excellent; ditto for the acoustics. Don Bauder"