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Tender and Exuberant Vivaldi, with La Serenissima

La Serenissima
Eric Richmond
La Serenissima

At the age of twenty, Adrian Chandler created the baroque band “La Serenissima,” and they’ve been together ever since. Next year, this award-winning baroque ensemble will celebrate their 25th year together. Their new CD features a specialty of Vivaldi’s, the “double” concerto, and WCRB has chosen it as our CD of the Week.

Vivaldi x2 is full of the inventive virtuosity that made Vivaldi famous. It opens with a double horn concerto that challenges its players to keep Vivaldi’s rollicking, care-free spirit alive while managing some of the highest writing (two octaves above middle C) that can be found in any baroque horn piece anywhere. It could be that Vivaldi wrote these for trumpeters, since 18th century instruments required a similar technique and range. But Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot pull it off with unbelievable color and panache.  The pastoral slow movement (track 2) calls on their extreme musical virtuosity, closing off phrases with a whisper and holding on to a serenity and synchronicity that must be devilishly difficult.  They do it with a purity of sound that is astounding.

And the virtuosity just keeps coming. The D minor concerto for 2 oboes (tracks 4-7) has Vivaldi's nifty, signature propulsion that grabs you right from the start. Oboists Rachel Chaplin and Mark Baigent are perfect partners, completely melded in sound and intention.

Adrian Chandler is the violinist with French-born cellist Vladimir Waltham in concertos that highlight both instruments with a joyous brand of virtuosity.   The slow movement of the A Major concerto (track 9) is an aria-like duet that shows a real soulful sympathy between these two.

The recording also features the brilliant bassoonist Peter Whelan, who always sounds like he’s letting you in one some incredibly important secrets when he plays.  And listen to the joie-de-vivre he brings out of his back-and-forth with oboist Rachel Chaplin in the Concerto in G’s last movement (track 13).

And we get to hear everyone in the last concerto on the disc, which has a mystery in its title: “Concerto for S.A.S.I.S.P.G.M.D.G.S.M.B. in F.” Adrian Chandler has a pretty good guess about what all those letters mean, which you can find in the liner notes.  Whatever or whoever it stands for, the concerto is gorgeous and noble, with plenty of the color that Chandler says Vivaldi was constantly on the lookout for.

To purchase this recording, visit ArkivMusic.