Baroque Music For Summer: VIVALDI
Many listeners think summer's a time when grandly scaled romantic works should be mothballed like plush overcoats, to be tried on again when the weather cools down. Many want music that's lighter in both texture and philosophy. I hate to think of Baroque chamber music as the musical equivalent of a long, cool, tropical cocktail, but lots of people use it that way. If that's your pleasure, here's a quick survey of a recent release.
There are those who characterize Antonio Vivaldi as a composer who wrote 500 variants of a single concerto. Few make that claim seriously, except perhaps those who haven't spent much time listening closely to Vivaldi's music. Granted, he adhered to certain patterned conventions of his time, and many of his works were purely functional and no doubt quickly tossed off. But the best of Vivaldi is inventive stuff, and a lot of it bears close scrutiny.
Among the more neglected corners of Vivaldi's output are his 37 bassoon concertos. Daniel Smith is working to rectify that in a series with the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Philip Ledger. Perhaps I should pretend to be less surprised than I am, but there's some lovely stuff here: Vivaldi gives the bassoon fleet and truly virtuosic allegro movements, and sweetly turned slow ones. Smith plays a modern instrument and uses modern techniques (lots of timbral manipulation and a lavishly artful vibrato in the slow movements), but he plays with taste and makes a strong case for these.