Vivaldi: Concerti per fagotto IV
Sergio Azzolini; L’Onda Armonica (Naïve OP30551)
The stream of releases in Naïve Classique’s Vivaldi Edition has dried to a trickle recently, a matter for some concern for all of us who have relished its revelations, stirring performances and quirky cover art. Volume 59 – the fourth volume dedicated to the bassoon concertos – is the first to appear since L’incoronazione di Dario in April 2014, which, for a label which set out at the start of the century to record all 450 works in Turin’s National University Library is worrying, as there’s still a long way to go. Of Vivaldi’s 90 or so violin concertos, only five volumes have appeared so far, with none of the big collections such as L’estro armonico or Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione yet published. France Musique today reports that Naïve could lose its independence and be snapped up by a major label.
Journey’s end is near, however, for the bassoon concertos. Of the 39 concertos Vivaldi composed (37 complete), Naïve now has four volumes (26 concertos) under its belt. Sergio Azzolini remains our guide, cause enough for celebration as he is undoubtedly the finest baroque bassoonist in this delightful repertoire. The bassoon is not cast as clown by Vivaldi. Yes, outer movements chortle, but there’s drama here too, while slow movements are often mysterious, shrouded in Venetian mists. There is no documented evidence that the bassoon was ever played at the Ospedale della Pietà, the institution for which Vivaldi composed much of his music. It’s likely that the majority of his bassoon concertos were written for Antonín Möser, a player at the Bohemian Count Wenzel von Morzin’s court.
Of the six concertos here, the C major Concerto RV469 opens with the grandest of gestures, while the Largo is a florid cantilena. The G major RV492 is the most operatic in character though, full of contrasts from a swaggering opening to a deeply melancholy central movement. The A minor RV500, which also exists in a version for oboe (RV463), ends with a dashing fugato.
Azzolini, in his booklet note, links the central movement of RV491 to two sacred works, the Magnificat and Kyrie, enhanced by use of chamber organ in the continuo. A wintry chill marks the ‘piano sempre’ opening to the A minor Concerto RV498, the pick of the bunch here, proving that all Vivaldi concertos are most certainly not the same. The Larghetto is incredibly tender, while the teasing finale is most good-natured.
Unlike previous releases, where the excellent L’Aura Soave Cremona acted as support band, Azzolini is here partnered by his own ensemble, L’Onda Armonica, created in 2013. It’s a stylish group, sonorous but minus some of the dramatic excesses of some other Italian period ensembles. Anyone investigating Vivaldi’s output for bassoon may want to opt for the earlier three volumes, which pack slightly more punch in the playing, but this is a worthy successor.