VIVALDI Double Violin Concertos
The Venice Baroque Orchestra have a frill-less way of going about their Vivaldi programming: no mixed running orders, no imaginative fillers, no clever links between different items, just single-minded concentration on one genre, as recent discs of ripieno concertos, sacred motets and opera arias have shown. This time the subject is double violin concertos, six of them and nothing else. Surprisingly, this is largely unexplored territory, not least as our performers have eschewed the four published examples of the Op 3 set in favour of works from the 24 surviving in Vivaldi’s manuscripts. None is new to the catalogue, but none is exactly well known, and all the more welcome are they for that.
Vivaldi’s approach to double-concerto writing was mostly to provide equal music for both soloists, who either play in euphonious parallel or alternate melody and accompaniment in short snatches. For this reason it is not only impossible to separate or differentiate the playing of Viktoria Mullova and Giuliano Carmignola here, but undesirable too. In this music they are as they should be: one living organism, both playing their Baroque violins with gorgeously burnished tone and an agile virtuosity which, freed from the macho pyrotechnics of the solo concertos, gains a relaxed and tender quality that reveals the poet in Vivaldi. And in those rare moments when there really is a difference, when one violin cuts loose with a glorious, yearning stretch of melody while the other accompanies with arpeggios or some such (as occurs in the finales of RV524 and 516), it warms like a sudden surge of blood through the veins.
Andrea Marcon and the VBO play their accompanimental role with their usual expert light touch, and the recording is spacious, clear and neatly balanced. A perfect Vivaldi treat.