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 Recording of the Week  Vivaldi in a new light

With all the doom and gloom about the economic crisis dominating the news this week I looked for something uplifting and exciting to tell you about, and it didn’t take me long to come up with Daniel Hope’s new Vivaldi album as the perfect antidote. Now I have to admit that I came to this disc knowing the Four Seasons and one or two other concertos but not a lot else, and if I’m honest, also with a slight preconception that because Vivaldi wrote so many Violin Concertos (over 200 of them) they can’t be of that high quality and must be somewhat shallow in substance. How wrong I was!

Daniel Hope
Daniel Hope

By all accounts Antonio Vivaldi was an extraordinary man, incredibly arrogant and fun loving, and very good at promoting himself. Most importantly though he was an amazing violinist who dazzled his listeners. There are reports of people writing to their friends after a concert that they'd never heard a violin sound like that, or that they'd never heard technical passages played quite so brilliantly. His violin writing is therefore technically extremely challenging, both in the concertos and in the sonatas and other violin repertoire.

It is important to mention the other repertoire here, as one of Daniel Hope’s intentions with this disc (other than showing how wonderful Vivaldi is) is to draw attention to some of the ways in which Vivaldi used the violin in other works. Also on the disc therefore is an extremely beautiful aria from one of Vivaldi's recently discovered operas Andromeda Liberata where a solo violin accompanies the singer (sung here by the fabulous Anne Sophie von Otter), as well as the improvisatory sonata La Follia written for two violins and basso continuo.

For those into ‘authentic’ performance practice I should warn you that both orchestra and soloist use modern instruments, but that doesn’t mean it is not ‘historically informed’ as, like with his Bach Concertos he made a few years ago, a lot of the stylistic qualities are very similar to what you would expect from a period instrument performance – restrained use of vibrato, decent tempos and clear phrasing. Roger Norrington once pointed out that the most important aspect of period performance is “in the mind and not in the hardware”. Listening to this you can hear exactly what he meant.

I’ve put the first movement of the Concerto nicknamed L’Inquietudine below to whet your appetite but should add that in addition to the dramatic explosions like this there are also some really beautiful slow movements as well. It has really opened my eyes to what a really very fine composer Vivaldi undoubtedly was. And if you feel you've caught the Vivaldi bug as much as I have I should point out that we've got the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin disc of the composer's Double Concertos as this week's half-price Harmonia Mundi Golden Disc.

Daniel Hope plays Vivaldi

Daniel Hope (violin) and others, Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC