Notes and Editorial Reviews
Domine ad adjuvandum.
Oboe Concerto in g. Violin Concerto in b. Cello Concerto in g. Concerto in A for Strings.
Fuga del Sepolcro. Fuga Postale. Fuga Arguta. Suite des Pièces pour le Clavecin
Frederico Maria Sardelli, cond; Paolo Pollastri (ob); Roberta Mameli (sop); Anton Martynov (vn); Vittorio Ceccanti (vc); Giulia Nuti (hpd); Modo Antiquo (period instruments)
BRILLIANT 949749 (69:28)
This review is going to be a strange one, given that the disc itself seems like an episode right out of
The Twilight Zone
. When I first received the disc, the cover and title (
Baroque Concertos, Psalm, Chamber Music
) seemed like it was yet another rediscovered Italian composer from the era of Antonio Vivaldi, especially given the fragmented frontispiece with dispersed antique books, a face worthy of Canaletto, and an 18th-century wine glass, all looking terribly late Baroque Italian. The titles of the pieces seemed, well, to fit the same ambience, but four works at the end revealed that this was indeed not so. Frederico Maria Sardelli, the conductor of the Modo Antiquo ensemble and composer of the works in question, was born in 1963, which brings up a number of issues here. First, the pieces on the disc are indisputably Baroque in form, structure, and style, not reconstructions or paraphrases, which makes the entire set an anachronism. Second, Sardelli is noted for his scholarly work on Vivaldi, and therefore composing in essence new music that is purported to be so strictly Vivaldian seems somewhat odd, if not downright bizarre (and here the issue of conflict of interest might arise among the purists). Third, how he persuaded a scholar such as Michael Talbot to write an introduction is a mystery, though it is clear that this scholar finds the entire disc of “new” Vivaldi-Sardelli “amusing.” Finally, one must wonder about the relevance of composing in “historical styles” (as Talbot puts it), but also whether this is an anomaly or some sort of very bizarre trend and limited to Sardelli or which could be a model for others to follow. Here, one can contemplate (on the edge of sanity) of someone “writing” a new opera by Mozart or a new Haydn symphony (and here endeth the lesson).
It must be said straight away that these works are not fakes; Sardelli makes no claim that they are part of some sort of conspiracy to “augment” Vivaldi’s already fruitful corpus, further laying complete claim to ownership (as he states regarding the entire disc). One can, of course, glimpse the real Vivaldi peering forth from time to time in places such as the rolling vocal pyrotechnics of the “Domine ad adjuvandum” aria of the motet of the same name or the seeming quote from the
in the opening movement of the Oboe Concerto. Since the real Baroque composer wrote in a rather formulaic manner—which is not to say disingenuous or dully repetitive—his style and structure are not inimitable, especially for one who has so immersed himself in Vivaldi’s music. But to create (not recreate) new works is a hard sell. Stefano Bollani’s extremely tortuous logic in his explanation doesn’t help, either. He notes that Sardelli is channeling Vivaldi, causing the latter to “awaken” and ship off new music (via email, no less), which is actually by Sardelli in his guise as the avatar of Vivaldi. At this point, many of you would probably reach for the straight-jackets, or wonder if controlled substances were not somehow involved. Or in any case wonder to what musical authority this ought to be reported. Moreover, how did they persuade Brilliant Classics to market such a disc; on a whim or as an exotic
To sort all of this out, one must parse the disc carefully. First, we can pretty much ignore the notes for all of the reasons listed above. The logic presented is either strange science fiction or bizarre mental ramblings. Second, in terms of performance, there is no doubt that Sardelli runs a tight ship. Roberta Mameli has just the sort of facile and accurate voice to handle the virtuosity demanded by either composer (Vivaldi or Sardelli), and here she is quick as lightning, taking the roulades with decided ease. The instrumental soloists are her equal in every way, given that the concertos are highly demanding technically. Vittorio Ceccanti’s cello playing doesn’t miss a note, even though the part is extreme. The ensemble Modo Antiquo is crisp and clean, and Sardelli (here the conductor) knows how to elicit decisive responses in which the swirling fast parts and the Vivaldian harmonies are crystalline.
As for the music, these are interesting pieces on their own merits, their obvious Baroque style and the issue of recreation notwithstanding, though there are oddities. For example, the suite for harpsichord (ably performed by Giulia Nuti) reeks more of C. P. E. Bach than Vivaldi (a secondary haunting?), and the three fugues (labelled somewhat oddly as sepulchral, postal, and pungent) have odd and not very satisfying themes. (Vivaldi would not have chosen such, I would venture to guess, but since these are Sardelli and not Vivaldi, the point is moot). The first is a descending chromatic scale, bits of which reappear in ascending fashion in the third, and the second has a strange, trippy theme that seems rather un-Baroque. The counterpoint, however, is well done in a very conventional manner.
Given all of this, a verdict is difficult to reach. The performances are excellent and the music (if one accepts that it is to be on its own merits) quite good. But how one reconciles this sort of “modern” Baroque composition, even performed on early instruments, will be a matter of taste and mindset. For the Vivaldian purist, the words are probably “caveat emptor,” and if one can get past the obvious issues presented, then the disc might be a fun singleton or cocktail-party conversation piece.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer