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Screen Shot 2012 06 11 at 10 43 51 PM **Vivaldi: Concerti per violino, volume 4:
L'imperatore by Riccardo Minasi and Il Pomo d'Oro** - RV 331 - RV 171 - RV 391 (from La Cetra) - RV 271 (L'Amoroso) - RV 327 - RV 263a - RV 181 Riccardo Minasi's last two solo albums have contained the fare of what we might deem "standard" baroque composers: Corelli and Handel, and so it might not be a shock to see him take-on another standard name, that of Antonio Vivaldi. But there's something always a little dark about his choices, if not the character employed in his reading of Biber's Rosary Sonatas, then the practically naughty reading of Veracini's D-minor sonata. Three of the concertos offered in this concert from from Vivaldi's opus 9 collection, La Cetra. RV 331: the opening work is familiar. It's played by Giuliano Carmignola with Venice Baroque in their release called "Vivaldi" on Archiv Produktion. That CD is far more "engineered" in its sound; the orchestra far off into the distance, the soloist more focused in the front, its sound polished and smooth. Minasi's reading has a more integrated approach to the sound: Minasi's clearly well-integrated into the orchestra. The sound is a tad more raw, not only in the recording overall, but also in Minasi's style. In its quiet guises, Minasi's instrument takes on a sweetness. At his most extrovert, his instrument is pushed to a limit, the tone taking on an organic quality that reminds of me ripe fruit, with its strings over-vibrating. RV 331 in G minor sets the rustic mood for the remainder of the recording. The recording would have benefitted from better "engineering." When listening with headphones, I hear the acoustic of the room, which I take had a medium-high ceiling. It's far from being a church or grand hall; yet it's wet enough and the reverb short enough to not qualify as a "studio" recording. If you can get past the fact that the recorded sound isn't the very best, there's a lot of fruit left for feasting. RV 171, in C, is a confident affair. The opening ritornello is light on melody; the first solo episode for the violin also lacks melodic interest, instead giving the soloist the opportunity to exercise the limits of his instruments upper-range, in short phrases, similar each in rhythm and shape. Minasi comes across in the texture slightly strident with an un-natural sounding vibrato. This isn't Vivaldi's strongest writing, but Minasi commands attention nevertheless in emerging from the orchestral forces by pushing hard on his instrument. The short middle movement doesn't arrest my attention; the third opens with a ritornello with parts in the minor mode before giving way to a solo section in major. The short turns of phrase again come from the same pen and mind as those in the opening movement; despite Minasi's admirable intonation in all the bariolage Vivaldi puts him through, the musical result is somehow less than satisfying. The only redeeming part of the concerto is further along in the development where the violin can indulge in double-stopping and a little slide. Minasi's diction is all very even as he digs into it. RV 391 comes from the opus 9 collection, La Cetra. The version I have with Simon Standage and the AAM lacks dynamic contrasts between phrases, but it actually adopts a slightly more bouncy rhythm than the reading by Minasi and Co. Where Standage's violin tone is ever so slightly anemic and thin, Minasi's diction again commands with bite and by now we're recognizing the sonority of his original Amati instrument. The whole concerto is a better-written piece of music than RV 171. I only wish Minasi had pushed the tempo more. The last movement contains even stronger writing, and Minasi matches the flavor of this piece with his heavy bow-arm. His part comes across clear with authority, with certain intensity. I thought they could have played with tempo a bit here; in the sections with just violin and continuo in the final movement, accelerandos might have been used to tighten Affekt; the final solo section, chock full of more bariolage, is exciting, especially with the contribution from the tutti violins. RV 271 is another well-known concerto, one of Vivaldi's with a special title, in this case, "The Lover." I think the piece bounces so much better at a faster tempo, I find Minasi's choice in need of a push. His effect with the piece is different than Standage's with the English Concert. His line takes on a tender character, never strident or forced. It's matched in the middle movement for solo violin and unison upper strings. I like Minasi's closing to "L'Amoroso" better than Standage with Pinnock, and they even take the cadences seriously with a reduction in tempo. RV 327 is new to me, which isn't a disappointment. I'm fond of concertos in G minor. Vivaldi and Minasi are back to old tricks by now; high tessitura for the violin, a strident, intense tone for Minasi's reading. His playing again highlights the huskier, richer tonal nature of the lower notes on his instrument. The tutti sections in the first movement almost feed too stoic; the whole movement could use a small push in tempo. And again, the last movement of 327 adopts a much more fitting tempo, faster for sure. Unison runs are always fun. The violin solos feature little snippets of melody attached to repetitive patterns of challenge. While the key and tempo keep your foot tapping, the music again isn't Vivali's best. And that is the ultimate challenge for the players: how to mask the weakness in the work while at the same time highlighting the virtuosity? Minasi's ability to stay about the orchestral texture helps for sure, along with his sure intonation through all extremes of register. RV 263a also comes the La Cetra collection, op. 9. Comparing Minasi to Standage and AAM is interesting; Minasi's playing is so more intense, with the opening notes sounding as hammer strikes. He almost comes across as angry. RV 181 is another example from La Cetra. I like the percussive continuo contributions from the harp and harpsichord, set on a lute stop. Minasi's contribution might be helped in solo sections with more variation in dynamics as the line is played. In short, the variety of violinists and bands with the naïve collection of Vivaldi's concertos has been strong, including my favorites Enrico Onofri and Anton Steck. Here Minasi is joined by Il Pomo d'Oro, which employs an articulate continuo team. Few baroque violinists convey the athleticism of Riccardo Minasi, especially on such a consistent basis. Just listen to the final movement of RV 327! In this regard, he somewhat reminds me Nigel Kennedy, without going to the extremes Kennedy did to gather our attention. Minasi's playing, I gather, is more about the art. His instrument is a delicious vehicle for expression. While I may not agree with every interpretive decision made, I can hardly complain. My only regret with this release is the quality of the recorded sound—specifically—the placement of microphones and the captured acoustic around the orchestra. This means, for me, the recording does better on loudspeakers in a room than high resolution headphones. There's no doubt the musicians here had a lot of fun. Warmly recommended.

Sonate concertate in stil moderno

Sei Solo a Violino senza Basso accompagnato, serie II