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GRAMOPHONE ( 09 / 2018)
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Reviewer: Charlotte Gardner

Anyone familiar with La Serenissima’s zestily elegant Four Seasons (10/15) will be aware that these musicians represent one heck of a crack team when it comes to the music of Vivaldi. Indeed, last year they carried off a Gramophone Awards for their multi-composer assortment of sinfonias and concertos, ‘The Italian Job’ (5/17).

‘Vivaldi x2’ presents a medley of double concertos for hunting horns, oboes, bassoon, violin and cello, and it’s a feast of pleasures right from its RV539 kick-off: the most glittering of Vivaldi’s two double horn concertos, featuring some of the highest-tessitura horn-writing in the entire Baroque and headed up here by soloists Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot with some fantastically nimble, neat, exuberant period horn‑playing.

That high tessitura also allows RV539 the relative novelty of a slow movement for which the horns can stick around. However, you’ll forget to miss the horns here in the other concerto, RV538, because what we get instead is another soloist to whom I could listen all day, cellist Vladimir Waltham; hear his gently grainy, luminous tone and his sighing trills, and fall in love. Plus, that tone acts as a perfect foil for the silkier sound coming from director Adrian Chandler’s violin in the violin-and-cello concertos RV546 and RV547.

Balance is always satisfying, too. Soloists-wise, we have horns distinct from but evenly weighted with the orchestra, bassoons further forwards than the bright-toned oboes, and the strings properly forwards so as to really appreciate their timbres. Continuo is also nicely judged; returning to RV538’s slow movement, I love the way they move from unobtrusive support one moment (and the harpsichord always remains delicately in the back of the sound) to the bass stepping up to meld and tonally blend with Waltham’s hung suspensions, and the theorbo using opportune moments to poke invitingly through. Bravissima, La Serenissima. Again.



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