The Italian violinist joins forces with his hometown orchestra in never-before-recorded music by a foundational composer, and it's WCRB's CD of the Week.
You may not recognize any of the music on this CD of the Week, but the sound world it evokes will almost surely have the ring of familiarity. Among the very small handful of composers whose music popularly defines the term “classical music,” Vivaldi’s is especially distinctive. From its driving sequences to meditative passages that seem to stop time, the profile is remarkably consistent, whether emanating from the famous Four Seasons or from any of the works in this new collection on the Naïve label.
And there could be no better messenger for this music than violinist Alessandro Tampieri. He was born in Ravenna, a beautiful city situated about halfway between Bologna and San Marino on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and known for the elaborate mosaics that decorate its ancient structures. At the age of 15, he joined the local ensemble known as Accademia Bizantina, drinking in the traditions and character that bring an unmistakable Italian flair to Vivaldi’s music, eventually becoming the group’s concertmaster.
Now, Tampieri brings that accumulated wisdom and cultural affinity to the premiere recording of recently-discovered manuscripts that date back to the 1730s. Alternatingly sunny and stormy, they also communicate the kind of crisp elegance you'd expect from the composer of those Four Seasons, not to mention the riveting Gloria or any one of hundreds of other works.
What you won’t hear when you listen to this album are the countless hours and many hands involved in bringing this music to your speakers. After Vivaldi died, his manuscripts passed through unknown hands until 1930, when the National Library of Turin found and bought them. This massive collection includes over 450 pieces, most of which were previously unknown, and none of it in an easily-legible or performable state.
Scholars have had to interpret the hand-written scores and debate interpretational decisions, and they’ve worked with musicians to come up with a final sound that approximates their best guess at what Vivaldi himself heard when they were new. Musicologist Alberto Basso created "The Vivaldi Edition" project in 2000 with the astonishing goal of recording all of this music. This is volume 62 of The Vivaldi Edition, which you can learn more about from WCRB’s Chris Voss on Out of the Box.
It’s a fascinating story, but all of that history and effort aside, the most striking aspect of this recording is the sheer beauty of Vivaldi's music and the extraordinary playing of Tampieri and his colleagues, from the lightness and playfulness of the allegros to the lyricism of the largos and adagios. The Red Priest himself couldn’t ask for a better reflection of his remarkable art.
Listen to a track from the album: