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Fanfare Magazine: 39:1 (09-10/2015) 
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Brilliant Classics

Code-barres / Barcode : 5028421946290


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Reviewer: Dan Sperrin

Vivaldi’s Trio Sonatas are wacky. This is a poor critical term: but, as this CD attests, they are a site for some of Vivaldi’s earliest creativity and strange experimental play. They are also packed with intricacy and performative virtuosity. These early Trio Sonata years coincide with the period of Vivaldi’s life in which he was progressing as a violin virtuoso, and the compositions show every sign of this influence.

These CDs, apparently, offer a “world premiere recording authorised and based on the Critical Edition by Fabrizio Ammetto,” which is an impressive gesture. There is some hefty information on the publication of the sonatas in the information booklet, which can’t be squeezed into a review: but, the essence of the context is that these sonatas were published by a Giuseppe Sala, who was well established in the printing world of Venice at the fin de siècle. These early works made Vivaldi’s name quickly: the strange irreverence and ornately flourishing style of late 17th-century Venice is most evident in these pieces, and they perfectly suspend a sense of virtuosity and charming colloquialism together. They lapse occasionally into furious 16th notes and punchy, percussion-like shreds on the strings and mandolins: So, they are good companion pieces to the Lute Concerto, which is a more refined later version of a similar set of ideas.

Vivaldi is often controversially mixing together genres, tones, textures, styles, and instruments in strange ways. Of course the period and the place are famous for their inventiveness and avant-garde generic hybridity (cf. earlier Gabrieli, the St. Mark’s composer of In Ecclessiis), and the appearance of an organ, and the several stringed instruments (old guitars, lutes, mandolins) show someone keen to expand the range of possibilities in chamber music. This gives it yet another paradoxical dimension: It is courtly, lavish, but also of the street, with folk-rhythms and patterns grounding a sense of the edificial and elite. The 12th piece is a case in point: it is a follia, a common trope of the high Baroque, which cycles ideas around a central line derived from an old rustic variation on a minor scale (thought to have derived from a play on the modal scale). It is very much common cultural stock, and this piece is the one full of furious percussion-like flurries on the strings. However, despite the sense of the festive and the improvised, there is a deep sense of tonal order and structural coherence, not unlike Bach’s follia compositions later in the century (The Peasant’s Cantata, 1742), which shows Vivaldi at a real flashpoint of originality in a career we already know for its singularity.

The recording quality is unexceptional, and the performance is solid. Brilliant Classics is not quite at the cutting edge of the recording world, but this is a trusty and worthy disc. The CD is better as a curio of historical poignancy and delight in the early Vivaldi, which does not diminish its value, and I advise anyone interested in Vivaldi’s wider career to jump on this as the first recording of some really stunning work. Greater Vivaldi enthusiasts than I will inevitably consider these pieces immature and best read as prophetic of greater works, but I think they are interesting and exciting by themselves. Worth a listen.



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