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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

Azzolini’s bassoon back out for a second Vivaldi volume

There was a time when even my heart might have sunk at the idea of ‘Vivaldi Bassoon Concertos, Vol 2’, but that was before I heard Sergio Azzolini and L’Aura Soave Cremona in their Vol 1 (9/10). Now I could not feel more differently. In that first release Azzolini’s lusty blowing, irrepressible playfulness and ardent lyricism brought seven of Vivaldi’s 39 bassoon concertos surging into life and made of the solo instrument itself a character of real vitality and depth. As another of those distinctive Naïve covers popped out of the envelope, anticipation was in the air.
Nor, for the most part, was it disappointed. Azzolini is on excellent form again and seems to have lost none of the infectious eagerness with which he started out. Perhaps not every concerto here is of consistent quality but there are some wonderful moments: as in his cello concertos, Vivaldi often finds a melodic melancholy and textural richness here that surfaces less frequently elsewhere, while the first movement of RV483 bristles with brilliant operatic bluster, RV496 and RV472 are blessed with ravishing slow movements (the latter having the haunting mien of a lonely love-lament in a Venetian nightscape), and RV496 ends with an athletic finale. Azzolini catches all these moods and is everywhere tireless in avoidance of the routine  -  listen to the dramatic pause before the last ritornello in RV496, where others might simply have ploughed on head-down.
Less successful is the recorded sound, which renders the strings a touch glassy and indistinct in comparison to the cleaner focus of the earlier disc. But it does not take Azzolini long to put that out of your mind. Has anyone ever grabbed hold of this music so wholeheartedly?


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