“A Tale of Two Seasons” = VIVALDI: Sinfonia to “L’Incoronazione di Dario”, RV719; Arias from “Arsilda”, RV700 and “L’Incoronazione di Dario”, RV719; Concerto Grosso Mogul in D, RV208; Violin Concerto in B-flat, RV367; Arias from “Motezuma”, RV723; Violin Concerto in C, RV191 – Sally Bruce-Payne, mezzo-sop./ La Serinissima/ Adrian Chandler, dir. & violin – Avie AV2287, 76:18 [6/13/13) [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
This will be easy—the stated purpose of this album is to dispel the notion that Vivaldi was a composer who “wrote the same concerto 400 times!” We’ve all heard this before; the thing is most people who love Vivaldi don’t really care. Every concerto, every vocal work is such a delight, even if not the most profound music in the world, reminds us of why we do love classical music so. But the album makes some interesting points, and by comparing these works (the first three listed from 1717 and the next three from 1733), we see what a difference in style actually took place over these years.
The early arias are more direct, harmonically simple, and geared to a sense of expression that is immediately appealable to the audience. Concertos are difficult but remain true dialogs between soloist and orchestra. When we move into the realm of the more mature composer in 1733, we find that the solo episodes in the concertos are far more elaborate and involved, reflecting the bel canto influence, leaving the orchestra in a role far more inferior than before, and giving equal weight to the left and right hands of the violin. The arias are extremely challenging from a technical standpoint, pulling the voice into areas previously not explored, and going far beyond mere dramatic considerations.
Bruce-Payne does a fine job navigating the pitfalls of the vocal pieces, while Adrian Chandler show a spectacular technique and wonderfully fluid manner of playing, all the while directing his fine band in performances that are sparkling and highly engaging. Sound is wonderful, and this release takes its place in the multitude of worthy Vivaldian recorded outings.