Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Sheer delight: Vivaldi's Concerti da Camera

Vivaldi: Concerti da Camera - Il delirio fantastico - Calliope
Vivaldi Concerti da Camera; Il delirio fantastico, Vincent Bernhardt; Calliope Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 29 August 2018 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
Engaging accounts of Vivaldi's chamber pieces with their wonderful variety of textures

This delightful new release from the French label Calliope presents us with a disc of chamber music by Vivaldi, seven of his Concerti da Camera played by the French ensemble Il delirio fantastico, director Vincent Bernhardt.

Vivaldi didn't call his Concerti da Camera that, he simply referred to them as Concertos but they are different in form to his regular concertos. These pieces are written simply for a mixed ensemble of solo instruments and continuo (here violone, guitar/theorbo and organ/harpsichord), without the supporting string ensemble. They are not strictly Concerti da Camera in the early 18th-century usage, they are chamber works which use the concerto form so that the individual instruments move between roles, solo display, accompaniment, secondary melody, thus creating chamber music written in the same form as the larger concertos.

Twenty-one such works survive in Vivaldi's catalogue (two are of dubious authenticity), and all use a mixed variety of instruments, wind and strings, so much so that we must assume that Vivaldi enjoyed exploring the wide variety of textures that the combination of form and instrumentation presented him with. In a sense, they can be seen as concertos for flute and ensemble as each uses a flute with an ensemble consisting of one or two violins, sometimes an oboe, bassoon and continuo. Yet Vivaldi's writing makes them more than this, because of the way different instruments can come to the fore, and if a flute player played them as a concerto vehicle, they might be disappointed. It is the chamber ensemble nature of the pieces which gives them their charm.

We don't know why or for whom he wrote them.
Perhaps for his pupils at the Pieta in Venice or perhaps for one of his patrons such as Philippe de Assia-Darmstadt for whom Vivaldi was maestro di capella da camera in Mantua from 1718, and with whom Vivaldi stayed in contact after leaving his service in 1720, or perhaps for Saxon Kurprinz Friedrich August who stayed in Venice during 1716-17 and brought an ensemble which included the violinist Johann Georg Pisendel for whom Vivaldi wrote music for Dresden. Or perhaps, like Handel and his Italian chamber duets, the form was one which Vivaldi liked writing and returned to at various periods during his working life.

Whatever the background, they are delightful works. Il delirio fantastico play them with great charm and verve, really engaging us with the music and given a strong sense of chamber interaction. Instruments move in and out of focus, and you feel the musician's delight in the changes of texture which this gives.

The works on this disc are generally in three movements, slow, fast, slow, but one is of a larger scale format, Concerto RV104 La notte which has five movements and includes extra detail in the movement titles, the fourth being ' Il Sonno' Largo. You sense an underlying narrative in the work, and the piece would later be re-cast as a flute concerto for Vivaldi's Opus 10.

These pieces deserve to be better known, and this delightful recording should win many friends. I certainly hope that Il delirio fantastico returns to Vivaldi's Concerti da Camera for more.

Il delirio fantastico - Virginie Botty (flute), Jon Olaberria (oboe), Florian Gazagne (violin), Amandine Bernhardt (violin), Sayaka Shinoda (violin), Etienne Floutier (violone), Ulrik Gaston Larsen (guitar/theorbo), Vincent Bernhardt (harpsichord, organ, direction).

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) - Concerto RV 99
Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto RV 108
Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto RV 88
Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto RV 104 La Notte
Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto RV 94
Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto RV 96
Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto RV 107
Il delirio fantastico
Vincent Bernhardt (director)
Recorded in the chapel of l'Hopital de Fourviere, Lyon, 30 October to 1 November 2015
CALLIOPE CAL1852 1CD [63.05]
Available from Amazon.


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