Mon 01 February 1999
Though himself a violinist, Vivaldi nevertheless proved, in 27 cello concertos and nine cello sonatas, that he was able to write just as expressively for the tenor/bass member of the family. Roel Dieltiens, a pupil of Pierre Fournier and Andre Navarra, has chosen seven of Vivaldi's cello concertos for his disc with Ensemble Explorations. One of the loveliest of them is the C minor work (RV401). What a long way we have come since what I imagine was among the first recordings of this piece with Vincenzo Altobelli and I Musici, during the mid to late 1950s (Philips, 2/58 — nla). The issue is not merely one of modern instruments versus period ones, but rather a reappraisal of the inflexions and punctuation with which the performer engages the interest and attention of his or her audience. Dieltiens makes these points forcefully with his understanding of how best to project and enliven late baroque syntax. Phrases are elegantly shaped, effectively punctuated and delivered with inflective charm. Intimate, conversational, sometimes animated, sometimes affectionate — a wide variety of moods touches the listener. Vivaldi's music is seldom lacking in expressive subtlety and it is often to be found in the inner part-writing and its relationship with the solo line. The sheer simplicity of so many of the ideas is often the secret of its affective allure. All is played with panache and a heady feeling for the music's often intense lyricism. And, as is increasingly the case, the music is underpinned by a continuo richly endowed with variety of colour and texture to which harpsichord, organ, lute and guitar contribute at one time or another. Apart from the C minor Concerto, Dieltiens has skilfully chosen pieces which are infrequently performed, playing the last in the programme, RV4 1 5, on a violoncello piccolo. It's an attractive piece, much favoured by cellists but, alas, unlikely to be the product of Vivaldi's pen. A rewarding issue.