Viktoria Mullova; Giuliano Carmignola (Violin)
Antonio Vivaldi (Composer)
Andrea Marcon (Conductor)
Venice Baroque Orchestra (Orchestra)
Two of today’s most charismatic, attractive and original violinists join forces for an album of Double Concertos by Antonio Vivaldi.
When we refer to the "Bach Double," most classical music aficionados know what's being discussed: Johann Sebastian Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043. Apart from reconstructions, it's his only double concerto for two violins. With Antonio Vivaldi, such an abbreviated designation is impossible, as he has 27 -- count 'em -- 27 double concertos for two violins. While that may seem less manageable a total, at least it provides a sizeable amount of music for violin virtuosi Giuliano Carmignola and Viktoria Mullova to pick six concerti from in making their Archiv Produktion disc Vivaldi: Concertos for Two Violins. Despite the "rarely heard" designation on the CD's front cover sticker, all of these concerti are well known and already recorded numerous times, so they don't earn any special points for rarity of repertoire, an attribute in which Carmignola has scored in other Vivaldi recordings that he has made on his own. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of pure fiddling, this team of Carmignola and Mullova is a potent and phenomenal one.
These six concerti are rather conservative choices for Vivaldi; none of them "rock," such as in the Vivaldi works that Fabio Biondi tends to favor, nor are any of them outwardly stormy as in the case of the "Winter" concerto from Le Quattro Stagione or the concerto "Il tempesta de mare." However, the C minor concerto RV 509 has some measure of aggression and a tincture of that lovely, mysterious quality that evokes masks, capes, and canals; the dark side of eighteenth century Venice. The kicker here, however, is the Concerto in B flat, RV 524; it is given a dazzling and energetic performance by both star soloists and the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon; they really get this thing off the ground and don't let you down until the last note. While some of the other concertos here just simply do not operate at the same level of inspiration, overall Carmignola and Mullova's Vivaldi: Concertos for Two Violins is really well done straight-ahead Vivaldi with some dynamite moments, and Archiv's recording is as clear and refreshing as a spring rain. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis , Rovi
Much of his legacy is still to be brought to the public. Until then, it's kept in a dedicated Turin collection. Vivaldi literally invented the concerto style wherein one or more instruments dialog with the orchestra in a three-movement structure which typically alternates between fast, slow and fast tempi. His contribution to this genre consists of hundreds of concertos counting from one to thirteen soloists (the latter in certain concertos for multiple instruments). They feature not only the violin but most of the instruments of his time. Some of the concertos actually exist in various re-orchestrated versions to accommodate the available instruments and skills of the soloists of the day's various venues.
The double concertos on this disc are amongst those rarely played. This alone would be reason enough to single out this album. These concertos belong to Vivaldi's masterpieces and illustrate multiple aspects of his composing style where two violins rapidly swap phrases, echo and overlap each other but never collide or interfere. Vivaldi's compositional style is characterized by democracy in that both soloists play equal parts in the music. None dominates the other in bravura, range or spotlighting. It is easy to understand why when one remembers that Vivaldi mainly composed for the young musicians of the Ospedale della Pieta, an all-girl orphanage. The two intertwined violin scores allowed his young pupils to deliver a far more complex and technically advanced performance than they would have been capable of on their own.
Yet at times one of the violins suddenly takes control of the composition for a short instant as though stepping in front of the second soloist. One hypothesis is that those short and rare escapades into virtuosity or contemplation may have been intended for Vivaldi himself who had a reputation for being an exceptional violinist.
But more than the rarity and exceptional quality of the material here, it is the quality of the soloists and of the Venice Baroque Orchestra that are stand-outs. Club Vivaldi lovers, of which I am a proud card-holding member, will debate infinitely on whether Andrew Manze, Fabio Biondi or Giuliano Carmignola is currently the best performer of Vivaldi's violin concertos and whose Stradivarius, Guarneri or Guadagnini is best suited for the job. I have a preference for Carmignola's sensuality and grace over Manze's less exuberant sound and Biondi's devilish virtuosity yet on this disc, the debate becomes irrelevant.
Just as those double concertos were designed to create an impression of greater
skill than any soloist could achieve on their own, the association of Viktoria Mullova and Giuliano Carmignola reaches levels rarely if ever attained for this repertoire. These two simply know how to play music together. The results are gorgeous, the complicity obvious and their sonorities, although slightly different, a perfect complement to each other.
I don't know if it is emulation or perfect chemistry but Carmignola takes full advantage of the nuances his borrowed Stradivarius is capable of and Mullova ups her baroque interpretational style to a level she had not demonstrated before. Mullova has come a long way over the past two years resurrecting herself from her creative depression. The very best compliment one can pay her here is how virtually impossible it has become to tell the two violinists apart. Considering that Carmignola is at his very best with decades of practice on this repertoire behind him, this means a lot.
This is delightful passionate music made even more exceptional by the encounter of two like-minded virtuosi. The Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon's baton too is on its best behavior, unobtrusive yet offering a fully developed tonal range in perfect support of the soloists.
Once in a blue moon, the perfect repertoire collides with exalted soloists, an orchestra delivering its best performance in a long while and recording engineers respectful of the performance. When that happens, a Blue Moon Award is de rigueur. If you think Vivaldi is overrated and overplayed, this disc will force you to reconsider. If it does not, you better check your pulse. Your ticker could be expiring...
01. Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Continuo in G major, R. 516 - 1. Allegro molto
02. Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Continuo in G major, R. 516 - 2. Andante (molto)
03. Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings and Continuo in G major, R. 516 - 3. Allegro
04. Concerto in D major for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV511 - 1. Allegro molto
05. Concerto in D major for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV511 - 2. Largo
06. Concerto in D major for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV511 - 3. Allegro
07. Concerto in D minor for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV514 - 1. Allegro non molto
08. Concerto in D minor for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV514 - 2. Adagio
09. Concerto in D minor for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV514 - 3. Allegro molto
10. Concerto in B flat major for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV524 - 1. Allegro
11. Concerto in B flat major for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV524 - 2. Andante
12. Concerto in B flat major for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV524 - 3. Allegro
13. Concerto in C minor for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV509 - 1. Allegro ma poco e cantabile
14. Concerto in C minor for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV509 - 2. Andante molto
15. Concerto in C minor for 2 violins, strings & continuo, RV509 - 3. Allegro
16. Concerto in A minor for 2 Violins, Strings, and Continuo, R.523 - 1. Allegro molto
17. Concerto in A minor for 2 Violins, Strings, and Continuo, R.523 - 2. Largo
18. Concerto in A minor for 2 Violins, Strings, and Continuo, R.523 - 3. Allegro