VIVALDI - The French Connection
Intriguing title? Well some, at least, of Vivaldi’s own French connections are known: the French ambassador to Venice was among his patrons, and he supplied 12 concertos without soloist to an unknown Parisian collector. Adrian Chandler has taken three of these last as a starting-point for a full disc of flute, bassoon and violin concertos in which, he reckons, references to the French style are apparent. But is a dotted rhythm here, a chaconne there and a sprinkling of Rameau-ish moments enough to make Vivaldi sound French? Wisely, Chandler does not claim so, though his concession that “Vivaldi’s style is rarely unrecognisable” puts it mildly; Vivaldi seldom sounds like anyone else, even in the grand overture-like first movement of the Violin Concerto RV211, by some margin the most French-drenched piece on this disc. The chaconnes and melodic frou frous found elsewhere may suggest Frenchness to one as sensitive to the composer’s style as Chandler, but to the average listener they will surely sound like Vivaldi from head to toe.
But if this disc works hard to justify its title, what care we when the results make such enjoyable listening? And who can blame Chandler for looking for a way to programme and market Vivaldi that avoids filling it with 10 works all of the same type? Here the three solo instruments come and go in various combinations, always pleasing us and never outstaying their welcome. They are played with skill and taste, lapsing only when the bassoon overpowers the flute in the slow movement of RV438. The orchestral sound, as always with La Serenissima, achieves bright attractiveness and vivacity without feeling the need to pursue the taut energy of some other groups. And that’s just fine.