VIVALDI: Sinfonia in C Major , RV 709; Cello Concerto in G Minor, RV 416; Cello Concerto in F Major, RV 412; Cello Concerto in C Major, RV 114; Cello Concerto in E Minor, RV 409; Cello Concerto in B Minor, RV 424; Cello Concerto in A Minor, RV 419; Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins, Cello, Strings, and Continuo, RV 565; CALDERA: Sinfonia No. 12 in A Minor “La passione di Gesu Signor nostro”; Sinfonia No. 6 in G Minor – Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello/ Akademie fuer Alte Musik/ Georg Kallweit – Harmonia mundi HMC 902095, 68:34 ****:
Recorded in October 2010, this is one lively collection of a good bulk of Vivaldi’s 27 cello concertos, with works by fellow Venetian Antonio Caldera (1670-1736) included to fill out an already dense (30 individual tracks) program. The opening C Major Sinfonia by Vivaldi begins furioso, proffers a stately Andante, and concludes with a direct, truncated version of the “Spring” Concerto from The Four Seasons. Cello virtuoso Queyras enters properly with the G Minor Concerto, a piece that demands quick shifts of registration within the Lombardic format Vivaldi favors; the last movement Allegro demands arpeggios and runs at a decidedly brisk tempo. The “breathless” approach to Vivaldi has become the norm in the recent past, especially as the restrained vibrato in the original instruments lends a razor-honed effect to the streamlined sound. Queyras plays a 1696 instrument from Gioffredo Cappa, whose bass register projects a throaty tone, and the upper baritone sighs and warbles with particular urgency. The F Major Concerto, RV 412 has Queyras’ sawing in plaintive riffs, risoluto, occasionally altering his bow position to effect a rasping sound. Suspensions mark the Larghetto, the cello’s repeating an arioso figure not far from the “Winter” Concerto slow movement. Boisterous spirits rush the final Allegro along, the cello’s fioritura as virtuosic as anything in his violin concertos, the writing an immediate model for Boccherini.
The first Caldera piece, a “prelude” to an oratorio, the Sinfonia No. 12 in A Minor (1730), takes its cue from the sonata di chiesa (church style), this concerto expressly conceived for Holy Week. The influence of Corelli makes itself felt, the sound richly layered, the rhythm in the Allegretto a tripping gait that sachets with some distinction. The brief Adagio projects some mystery, the texture dark and moving to a held suspension, so that the final Allegro can enter with a deciso affect in generous harmony. The No. 6 in G Minor Sinfonia (1731) proves quite expressive, filled with sighing effects and prancing accompaniments. A brief Adagio leads to a bouncy but short Allegro e spiritoso in echo effects.
The little ripieno Concerto in C, RV 114 without any major solo part opens with gay, hunting figures and sighing motives. A solo violin does help us segue to the forceful Ciaccone, whose repeated figures sway and pulsate with festive energies.
Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in A Minor, RV 419 exploits Queyras’ singing line, while the potent Lombardic beat and throbbing repeated riffs in the tutti add terraced dynamics that quite compel re-hearing. The give-and-take in the rhythmic flow certainly belies the idea that Vivaldi composed “the same concerto some 600 times.” The harpsichord of Raphael Alpermann distinctively fills in the rich continuo for these works, and his presence in the A Minor Concerto Andante almost constitutes a double-concerto. A wicked peasant dance in rocketing runs and broken figures has our feet tapping and ears burning in the final Allegro. An odd amalgam of timbres and textures, the Concerto in E Minor, RV 409 projects a Renaissance sound, almost a hurdy-gurdy assisted by a plaintive bassoon (Christian Beuse). The sudden bursts from the string tutti in the Allegro/Adagio keep us alertly wary. The last movement’s rhythm could have inspired parts of Massenet’s Le Cid.
The Corelli-inspired Concerto in D Minor, RV 565 (from L’estro Armonico, 1711) has had multiple lives in violin arrangements, even rescored by J.S. Bach as his BWV 596. The splendid bass line provided by Akademie Alte Musik throbs while the upper voices sing in resolute harmony. The Largo e spiccato second movement enjoys a plaintive sonority, melancholy but nobly measured. The Allegro indulges Vivaldi’s love of antiphons and the sudden juxtaposition of large and small forces. For a particularly lovely cantilena, try the Largo from the B Minor Concerto, RV 424; in fact, the entire nine-minute work points that lively infectious singing style that Boccherini adopted as his own.
A rich reflections into Rachmaninoff’s oeuvre