I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Imaginarium records Vivaldi Sonatas

La Follia is the titular name for the 2010 "Vivaldi Power" CD released by Imaginarium (Enrico Onofri, Alessandro Tampieri, Alessandro Palmeri, Margret Köll, and Riccardo Doni) featuring various string sonatas by Antonio Vivaldi on DHM/Sony. The hour of music explores mostly works from Vivaldi's first two opuses, including the famous La Follia trio sonata, not to mention RV 28, a work in G minor that was believed to have been written for the Dresden-based violinist, Pisendel. These works aren't entirely new to me, having access to some by other performers. In fact, the famous La Follia sonata was performed earlier by Onofri's other ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico, under the directorship of Giovanni Antonini. Onofri's other releases have been stunning, to say the least. Onfori remains to my ears and eyes one of the most affective players I ever witnessed live. The sound on this recording is its worst attribute. The instruments all take on a silvery, metallic sheen, despite the performer's use of historic instruments. It's the recording venue that lends the sound. It's not entirely off-putting. The use of harp in the continuo and a crisp cembalo also help portray the music in its shimmery, metallic presentation. Nevertheless, I get the sense with listening both in the car and with good-quality headphones that the balance wasn't quite right for this recording... with the violin and a single continuo instrument, the sound is thin, and combined with a fuller complement of instrumentation, the violin doesn't always rise to the top of the texture. Having heard some of these works before, I appreciate Onofri & Co.'s interpretations. They aren't always superior, but they often add another dimension to the music, a freshness if you will. It can be found in the dynamic treatment of a single note or an entire passage, it might also be found in some creative ornamentation. Onofri's signature schtick is on tap here, that very slow vibrato on long notes that simple makes the music sing in that irresistible way, adding a richness where there ought to be nothing but a single thin note. Onofri doesn't play with the music quite as hard as Fabio Biondi might, for the sake of being different. But his new interpretation of RV 63 (La Follia) is something curious. On a recording level, I prefer the earlier 1990s recording by IGA. For the interpretation, again IGA wins. But there is still merit on this reading, somehow more transparent, sparkling, and in many ways, far more elegant. If the earlier reading on Teldec was rustic and athletic, this one is fancy and lighter. There is still drama in this version, but from different players (in one case, a chromatic swipe across the harp wakes you up plenty well). I of course recommend this new recording, but I also recognize that it is not as strong a release as Onofri's earlier Voce nel Violino with the same ensemble. And after listening several times, I wonder what I'd be saying if the qualities of the recording--and not the performances--had been improved. My most enjoyable listening was via headphones, where you can hear the textual ramblings of the harp and other facets of intricate fast notes. It is an attractive release, even more so if your collection currently doesn't include other offerings from Vivaldi's opp. 1 & 2.

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