Mon 08 April 2002
This release from Roel Dieltiens and his Ensemble Explorations wasn’t in my database of reviews. For shame.
To be sure, this is volume 2 of a 2-CD set now available at discount in re-issue.
This ensemble plays both on historic and modern instruments, depending on the music. So, for this release of Vivaldi, they play in a very luxurious manner using historical instruments. I’m not sure I can say all of the style is “baroque” in the way we might have learned to associated with the word growing up with the likes of Chris Hogwood or Trevor Pinnock in the 1980s. This music is luxurious, as I stated, in part because of Dieltiens’s sound. But too because of the almost “Romantic” playing of the ensemble.
It’s really sublime.
Concertos covered in this release include RV 420, 408, 411, 407, 544, 421, and 561. Listening to movement three of RV 420 in A minor, for me captures the essence of what these folks are capable of. Drama. Rich texture (guitar and harpsichord are both used in the continuo). The right measure of dynamic contrasts with a 1-per-part ensemble. Liberties with timing to really deliver a perceived Affekt in the lines. And a brisk tempo that’s sure to set one’s foot tapping.
Another stand-out for me is the deep, dark opening of RV 407 set in D minor. It has a rather lengthy opening, it seems, and the ensemble here manages to present it with a fleeting briskness, darkness in sound, and variety of textures (here pretty much defined through differences in articulation between a static lower foundation and the moving repetition from the violins. Organ in place of harpsichord. The last movement adds-in harpsichord for fleet-footed dancing. It sparkles.
It’s all out fun in the A-minor’s third movement (RV 421). Dieltiens owns this piece. His band’s got more style than a well-appointed housewares store. And then the cello emerges confident, blending into the sound in a somewhat “live” sounding recording.
It works better on loudspeakers than headphones. My only gripe.
The major-moded pieces work well too, like the ultimate work on the disc, a C-major work borrowing from Vivaldi’s Spring. It’s got a variety of soloists at the helm, which is why it, like RV 544, have higher Ryom numbers. If we never knew the Four Seasons, this piece would have worked just as well (the later parts of the theme and resulting sections of the work aren’t so “Springy.” Here in this concerto grosso the drama of Vivaldi’s solos are passed between a violin and dual cellos.
Having compared this CD to the two sets published by Il Giardino Armonico with Christophe Coin, the sets from Roel Dieltiens are my certain favorites. Confident playing with a really spot-on interpretation make Vivaldi’s lesser-known concertos for cello sing. While some of the concertos are bigger winners than others, they each are played with equal attention and most certainly with flair.