Vivaldi and German sonatas? What gives? Vivaldi, recall, was a popular man in Baroque times. Even Bach collected his concertos and arranged them. It shouldn't surprise us then, to find that his immensely Italian music was popular in other German centers, including Dresden, where the violinist Pisdendel was especially fond of his style. They in fact met, Vivaldi and Pisdendel, in 1716 and Pisendel took over the orchestra in the 1720s. He collected Italian concertos, including those by Vivaldi. It is believed, then, that these violin sonatas were written especially for Pisendel by the composer of the Four Seasons. All works are preserved in the Saxon State Library, yet all are not clearly marked for violin soloist. We'll find our recording is nevertheless affecting. *Vivaldi: *Sonate di Dresda Europa Galante (Fabio Biondi) (p) 1996 Opus 111** Here Biondi plays with distinguished company, notably the leader of Concerto Italiano, Alessandrini on harpsichord. Biondi makes his contribution on a 1750 Milanese violin. It has a somewhat flavored tone, a bit winey (not whiney) and sweet with careful control of the left hand. The recording is loud, but the acoustic could be better. The violin is heavily favored. I think dynamics carried out in the performances would have been more effective with the mike backed off a bit. With that crevat out of the way, on to the music. The zesty Biondi seems very confident (although not always in tune, which at times I think lends well to a rustic flavor) in the fast movements. Little flourishes and emphases on notes and rhythms make for interesting flare. Of special note are sonatas RV 5, a short allegro from RV 26, and and the G minor sonata (RV 28) which just happens to sit in my favorite key centre. The cello and harpsichord are well matched here, they seem at times to be one in the same. The harpsichord has a rather spongy sound, with a nice crisp twang. Maybe not the best for solo work, but works well in the cotinuo environment. The sonatas for me are the real highlights. They are very different from Vivaldi's other sonatas (say the Manchester set or the op. 5). Previously unknown to me, these sonatas, I supsect, might have involved some additions from Pisendel, who is to say... Or, they could have been private sonatas of Vivaldi's which reflect his own taste in performance. No matter, and no matter who wrote them, the fast movements especially are special pieces, peppered with inherent ripeness. The quick, zesty fast movements are enough to keep me listening to this rewarding disc of 5 sonatas plus an extra movement.
This review originally appeared on biberfan.org on 12/26/04.