This premiere recording of six Vivaldi concertos is full of surprises. The works are entirely unknown because, unlike his other compositions, they were written not for publication but for substantial private commissions from wealthy patrons. Dating from his most mature years, they exhibit a style very different from his earlier concertos, which often sound almost mass-produced. Though they are still cast in the customary three movements and are full of the usual sequences, they are more unpredictable, dramatic, and daring; adventurous in form, harmony, and texture; with sudden contrasts of mood, character, and expression. The slow movements are meltingly beautiful, but no two concertos are alike, either in detail or overall effect. Some movements hardly seem to hang together; they appear to consist of collages of motives, punctuated by bursts of virtuosity.
The performance is equally unconventional. Giuliano Carmignola, as he demonstrated on his previous Vivaldi recording, is a formidable virtuoso who projects spontaneity, vitality, and expressiveness. In solo parts bristling with runs, often into the highest register, trills, double stops, and arpeggios, he displays breathtaking speed and facility, total command of every style of bowing and articulation, and a ravishing, powerful, infinitely variable tone. Except for the harpsichord, the orchestral instruments, tuned to normal pitch, hardly sound Baroque--their tone is full-blooded and varied. By using two harpsichords and a lute, conductor Andrea Marcon achieves percussive effects sometimes resembling gunshots, and the playing is by turns brilliant, lyrical, and exciting. --Edith Eisler