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

Vivaldi opus 1

You can think of Vivaldi's output around his published opuses, op.1-12, not to mention the knock-offs in op. 13. Of course, his catalog by Peter Ryom uses the RV numbers to identify pieces, which might not tell us too much about which published collection from which they come. This recording from Naive features violinist Stefano Montanari's ensemble L'Estravaganza. He's joined by Stefano Rossi on violin, Franceso Galligione on cello and on keyboards with Maruizio Salerno. The presentation is of Vivaldi's first opus, a collection of trio sonatas. I "stole" this purchase from under the nose of another shopper in a London record store last year who had especially come for it. When the salesman went to the spot from where I had found it, he became puzzled as to where it went… I paid for my purchases and waved it in the air when I safely knew it was mine.

This is not a complete recording, however of Vivaldi's premier opus. London Baroque under Charles Medlam recorded the complete collection, with additions, for BIS. I like LB, but these Italians definitely offer a daring style to Vivaldi that was worth grabbing off a London shelf.

The sound is nicely captured in a wide stereo image using loudspeakers. The two violins are of course separated on each side, enough so that you can clearly make out the differences between the two lead parts.

In some cases, you're going to be reminded here of Corelli's trio sonatas, and I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't a model for Vivaldi. By in large, Vivaldi adopts 4 movement slow/fast/slow/fast ordering with his dances, there are exceptions, too. The most extrovert one is the track that opens the recording, which I almost wish they had put at the end, op. 1 no. 12, RV 63, La Folia. Since this show piece is often presented without the other 11 sonatas, it's a fair piece I believe by which to compare this recording with others. LB presented the op. 1 in a drier acoustic. The harpsichord grabs our attention first, but overall, the presentation is pretty straightforward. The sound is a bit on the thin side, but there's ample athleticism in the right places. L'Estravagante opens with a richer, fuller sound, also with more drama and pause between the opening chords. Organ and lute fill the continuo texture, which only helps to add to the sense of richness in sound.

The dramatic approach puts more time on the Italian version's length (adding over an extra minute). But it also varies the instrumental color of the ensemble, in ways that likely you're already familiar with in our forerunners of Italian baroque performance, including Montanari's main orchestra, L'Accademia Bizantina.

I think the collection as a whole is a nice reading of Vivaldi's premier opus. As far as comparison's of La Folia go, I prefer Il Giardino Armonico's and Musica Antiqua Köln's versions… but if I really got my way, I'm a sucker for repeating chord progressions (La Folia being a nice one in a minor mode) and having them all is the ultimate.

Vivaldi's first big hit was his third opus, L'Estro Armonico… so you may not feel you need every piece in his earlier sets. This might fit the bill using one CD. If you are curious about his first opus and are shopping for a good contender, however, the dramatic style here on original instruments is nicely done, even despite it's not full lot.


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