Time Out for Music

Vivaldi Revivified

This evening I heard a breathtaking performance of Vivaldi’s Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione, played by Fabio Biondi and his group, Europa Galante. It’s on the Virgin Classics label. Here’s how Virgin Classics describes the recording:

Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante offer a new recording of the 12 concertos published as Vivaldi’s now-famous opus 8, Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione – the collection which contains the much-loved Four Seasons. For this unusual reading Fabio Biondi has worked not from the familiar, published score but from manuscripts held in Manchester, Turin and Dresden. There are marked differences between Vivaldi’s published works and manuscript sources: in the music not intended for publication Vivaldi was able to display a freedom that marks out his typically exuberant and Venetian style. This spirit of freedom is, for Biondi, the key to the works’ interpretation. Fabio Biondi, as violin soloist, and Europa Galante react with the passion and flair for this repertoire that explains why they now stand pre-eminent among the world’s Baroque ensembles.

That’s not hype. It’s the most scintillating performance of Vivaldi’s works that I’ve ever heard — by a long shot — and I’ve heard a lot of them. For a sample of Concerto RV 253 (No.5) La tempesta di mare, click here.

A Past Master at Work

Earlier in the evening I had heard the overture to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which reminded me of a great recording of the aria Largo al Factotum, made by baritone Riccardo Stracciari in 1917. Yes, recorded 87 years ago — and as bright and shiny as if

Stracciari were today’s hit baritone. Just listen and enjoy.