Lawes Consorts to the Organ Phantasm Linn F Í CKD399 (78’ • DDD/DSD)
Consort music from Phantasm including Lawes’s masterpiece It is good to welcome a second disc of the Carolingian composer William Lawes (1602-45) so soon after the excellent ATMA issue of the Royall Consorts (9/12). Where on the earlier disc Les Voix Humaines used Baroque violins, Phantasm, in this sequence of ‘Sets’, opt for a consort of viols. The title ‘Consorts to the Organ’ is slightly misleading in that the organ (here a small portative instrument) plays only an incidental part, adding substance and colour to the ensemble.
In addition, this second group of consorts, written between 1636 and 1639, tend to be rather more adventurous than the Royall Consorts, notably in the one four-movement work, the Set in C minor, in which Lawes opts for two movements labelled Aire instead of one. Otherwise this work too consists of a Fantasia (this time unusually elaborate) and a lively Paven (the spelling at the time for pavan).
As on previous discs, Phantasm, under the direction of Laurence Dreyfus (tenor viol) with Daniel Hyde on the organ, give immaculate performances, not least in that elaborate Fantasia in C minor, described in the notes as the ‘craggiest’ movement but in fact exhilarating in the elaboration of its counterpoint. In addition, the note rightly describes the Paven of that same Set as Lawes’s masterpiece. First-rate Linn recording. Edward Greenfield
Vivaldi 12 Violin Concertos, ‘La cetra’, Op 9 Holland Baroque Society / Rachel Podger vn Channel Classics F b Í CCSSA33412 (117’ • DDD/DSD)
Podger in Holland for the 1727 ‘La cetra’ set La cetra (‘The Lyre’) was published in Amsterdam in 1727, dedicated to the Austrian emperor, Charles VI. (Confusingly, another manuscript set of 12 concertos, from the following year and likewise dedicated to Charles, is also called La cetra.) The familiar ingredients of Vivaldi’s concerto style are well established by this stage in his career; there are perhaps two or three concertos where the elements are put together in a rather superficial way but the set as a whole demonstrates Vivaldi’s remarkable ability to find continually renewed inspiration in writing for solo violin with string orchestra. (Just one work, No 9 in B flat, a spirited, airy double violin concerto, changes the setting.) My particular favourites are No 3, with its elaborate orchestral tuttis in the outer movements, No 5, which has an unusual, tempestuous character, the seriousminded No 8, with its elaborate, sonorous writing for strings, and, perhaps best of all, the last concerto in B minor. One of two in which the solo violin plays scordatura (with nonstandard tuning), it’s notable for its attractive melody and continual inventiveness.
Even what might seem to be mundane accompaniment figures have an expressive nuance that gives positive support of the solo line. Podger plays with her customary beauty of tone, purity of tuning and lively variety of articulation. Her melodic decorations in the slow central movements give a delightfully unforced, spontaneous impression.
The performances take a few liberties. I love the way that at the start of the First Concerto, the repeated chord pattern is extended backwards, providing a sort of ‘young person’s guide to the basso continuo’, as organ, harpsichord, double bass and guitar enter one by one. And Podger’s elaboration of the chordal introduction to the Fifth Concerto immediately establishes the work’s dramatic character. I’m not so sure about what sounds like a mandolin obbligato in the Largo of the Second Concerto (or is it just harpsichord?). It’s a delightful sound but draws attention away from the violin melody. Still, these are brilliant, energetic performances, full of genuine Vivaldian spirit and excitement. Duncan Druce
Vivaldi ‘Concerti per fagotto, Vol 3’ Bassoon Concertos – RV474; RV475; RV480; RV485; RV494; RV502 Sergio Azzolini bn L’Aura Soave Cremona Naïve F OP30539 (70’ • DDD)
Azzolini’s third concerto disc for Naïve’s Vivaldi series In his booklet-note for this third volume of bassoon concertos, Sergio Azzolini wonders what or who it was that inspired Vivaldi to compose 39 of the things, more than anyone else ever has and more than the Red Priest himself wrote for any other instrument except the violin. He does so without much hope of an answer – it is indeed a mystery – yet he seems happy enough to have such a problem; I doubt if there was ever a bassoonist who has radiated more pleasure in these pieces.
The six concertos offered here may not be ones to attract immediate attention to themselves but each reveals somewhere in it this composer’s unique personality and creative spark. The fast movements mix forward momentum with a sensitive lyricism for which the Baroque bassoon is well suited, and are full of ideas; and, needless to say, there is the usual crop of achingly beautiful slow movements, some conjuring a summer night on the Grand Canal, others early-morning mist creeping across the lagoon.
Azzolini matches this invention at every turn in his playing, ever on the look-out for what can be said with little pauses, sharp dynamic contrasts and deliciously applied crescendos and decrescendos to keep the ear gratefully ensnared. He does not necessarily do what you expect but he is always tasteful, always lyrical, always musical. He himself likens the bassoon’s role in these concertos to Harlequin, which explains a lot, for here is a player of compelling character, wit and likeability, the sort of person who can beguile you with as simple a thing as the charming little flourish which signs off RV475. I find as I get older that I fall increasingly under Vivaldi’s magic spell; it is performances like these that are the cause. Lindsay Kemp
Vivaldi ‘Nuova Stagione’ Concertos – RV194; RV235; RV403; RV420; RV431; RV440; RV517; RV808 Gli Incogniti / Amandine Beyer vn Zig-Zag Territoires F ZZT310 (74’ • DDD)
Beyer’s ‘new seasons’ and the first recording of RV194 Like the sun on Monet’s haystacks or Rouen Cathedral, Vivaldi’s genius shone on his own conception of the Baroque concerto so as to subtly alter its colour and texture while leaving the basic shape intact. So you could think of violinist Amandine Beyer, her chamber outfit Gli Incogniti and the musicologist who prepared the performing editions, Olivier Fourés, as a kind of compound Monet, painting what they hear in Vivaldi’s music in rich yet precisely deployed colours. Two concertos for violin and organ bookend two violin concertos, two cello concertos and two flute concertos (not in that order); the forces more or less
10 GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2013