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Fanfare Magazine: 43:4 (03-04/2020) 
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Reviewer:  Bertil van Boer

Recorded last year in Toronto, this collection of solo works by Antonio Vivaldi shows that the venerable ensemble Tafelmusik is alive and well. It is well known that the composer was adept at writing for a variety of instruments, some conventional and some lesser known. It is not entirely clear why this group has been chosen, but one suspects that violinist and director Elisa Citterio meant for it to show off her talents, given that three of the works are for solo violin, and there is an extensive solo part in the Sinfonia to the opera Ottone in Villa. The C-Minor Concerto (RV 761) begins rather furiously with almost a dialogue in the ritornello, with the solo spinning out the sequences from the lower to the upper registers. The Largo floats along thinly, while the finale is almost Spanish it is decisive rhythmic structure. Here, the solo has a rather complex line that remains mostly in the higher tones but with some impressive double-stop work. The second concerto in E Major (RV 271), nicknamed “L’amoroso,” is rather quite lilting, perhaps even a bit insistent, while the second movement is an austere lament. The work ends with a flurry of sequences. Of course, both the Lute Concerto (RV 93) and Four-Violin Concerto are concert favorites, with the former better known for its performance by the mandolin. Here, a pair of flutes provides the lighter tone of the music. The latter of course has the opening fanfare of the soloists tumbling all over each other before a more strict ritornello heralds the various imitative effects. The finale with its rhythmic pace consists of a series of scalar sequences that give the work an undulating contour.

The other concertos are of the multiple instrument variety that contrast both like and unlike instruments. Sandwiched in between is the D-Minor Bassoon Concerto (RV 481) with its manic opening and relentless rhythmic ostinato and solo Alberti bass. When the solo instrument enters, it plumbs the entire range, but with some nice lyrical sequences. The Larghetto is like an operatic statement, dramatic and stoic, but with redeeming textures and suspensions. The solo line is a gentle lyrical aria. The finale, however, practically explodes with energy, like instrumental fireworks going off in sequence. Here the solo part is almost at the point of playability. The duo concerto for oboes (RV 534) is appropriately cheerful and lively, with the solos in parallel thirds and a solid bassoon underpinning. At times, the oboes almost sound like trumpets in their crisp and pointed lines. The Largo practically minces in small motivic sequen-ces, while the finale is a raucous chase. The final work (RV 564a) pairs violins and oboes in a sort of double duet, allowing swirling violin parts that sound like an outtake from The Seasons, and initially the oboes play a secondary role mimicking the violins. The flowing Adagio reflects a barcarolle in the melodic flow. Here the oboes are limited to chords in between the violin solos. The final movement is a chase, and one can almost hear the hounds as the instruments hunt each other.

All of these works have been recorded before (though not all together, that I’m aware). The performance from the Tafelmusik is, as one might expect, polished and lively. The tempos are excellent for Vivaldi and one cannot faulty the intonation or phrasing. Citterio’s playing is technically proficient and musical, as are the other soloists drawn from the ensemble. As one would expect, this is a fine disc and shows that their reputation as one of the finest early music ensembles is fully justified.

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