VIVALDI Il teatro alla moda
Finding a marketing angle on a new Vivaldi concerto release is sometimes an exercise in harmless deception, so it is good when, as here, it’s based on an original and music-based concept strongly and honestly delivered. ‘Teatro alla moda’ takes its title from the waspish satire on the early 18th-century Venetian operatic scene penned by the aristo composer Benedetto Marcello. Marcello had Vivaldi’s shameless showmanship securely in his crosshairs, but while this disc opens with the brilliantly nervy overture to L’olimpiade, this is not an opera-based programme: rather, Amandine Beyer’s exciting young group have gleefully thrown Marcello’s criticisms back in his face by showing not just how vivid Vivaldi’s theatricality can be, but that it shows itself in its greatest depth in his concertos rather than his stage works.
That takes imagination and an inquisitive mind – these are not well-known concertos – but what really makes this programme work is that the concept is fully realised in the playing of it. Every work here is a drama peopled with characters who make entrances, deliver monologues, start conversations. Naturally the solo violin is the lead, and Beyer laments deeply in the single-movement RV314a, flexes macho muscles in the crazy cadenza to RV228, ornaments entrancingly in RV372a and ensnares in the hypnotic final solo of RV391. Her buzzing reconstructed violino in tromba in RV313 is a Rabelaisian grotesque, either dancing coarsely or whining sotto voce for some unattainable love. But the ritornellos do more than fill the spaces between: listen to the sudden piano in the opening of RV282’s first movement, the withdrawal into introspection in the first ritornello of RV322 or the explosive tumult that opens RV323. And the whole of RV391, with its soloist in ghostly scordatura, casts a sinister veil of nocturnal intrigue. All this is achieved without tearing the music apart: flow, colour, lyricism and poise combine, and Vivaldi’s spirit lives to command the stage.