Vivaldi Violin Concertos Op 6
Although not as well known as his Op 3 or even Op 4, Vivaldi’s third published set of concertos, the Op 6 of 1719, is if anything more consistently typical of the ‘classic’ Vivaldian three-movement violin concerto in its much-imitated form. Here is a case, one supposes, of Vivaldi and his publisher giving the public what it wants. Not that they are entirely predictable; while some slow movements are scored for violin and continuo only, others feature the soloist only minimally; the finale of No 3 – a curious, slightly overlong echo piece – dispenses with his services altogether; and the finale of Concerto No 6 is spiced up by some tasty little Purcellian dissonances.
The Academy of Ancient Music and Christopher Hogwood have been taking a leisurely stroll through Vivaldi’s published concerto sets with a variety of soloists ever since they recorded Op 10 back in 1977, having taken in Opp 3, 4, 8 and 12 along the way. This Op 6 (a period-instrument first, says Decca) was actually recorded four years ago, and thus dates right from the beginning of Andrew Manze’s involvement with the group as associate director and concertmaster. Not surprisingly, then, it fails to show quite the same degree of communal fun and games as the more recent accounts, directed by him, of concertos by Handel and Geminiani. Buoyant though these Op 6 performances are, and virtuosic though their solo playing is, they are restrained by comparison. Nevertheless, there is authentic Manze to be heard in places, for instance in the dreamy opening and lovingly nurtured tone of Concerto No 2’s slow movement, or in the deliberate dragging of the last solo in the same work’s finale. And even when he’s playing it straight, Manze is still a violinist worth hearing.
The 16-piece orchestra perform well too, producing that bright, clean and typically British kind of Vivaldi sound for which the Academy of Ancient Music is largely responsible, and which is well captured by the recording – I particularly like the nicely judged level of prominence given to the continuo organ. With the charming Cuckoo concerto as a filler, this is pleasant stuff indeed. Vivaldi and his publisher probably got it right, because if you like Vivaldi, you will certainly like these concertos.'