Sun 04 October 2009
Antonio Vivaldi had his own cello specialist for part of his tenure at the Ospedale della Pietà, and there were several other virtuoso cellists in his orbit. His six sonatas for cello and continuo, of an unknown date of composition, are surprisingly simple technically and may have been intended as teaching pieces at the Ospedale. Most Baroque cellists and viol players, as well as quite a few performers on the modern cello, have recorded them, but this set by Dutch-Swiss cellist Roel Dieltiens stands out as dramatic and adventurous. It won't be to all tastes, but if you're curious about a northwestern European counterpart to the ultra-operatic Italian approaches to Vivaldi's instrumental music, give this nicely recorded historical-instrument disc from Etcetera a try. The booming continuo group could not be more different from the plain harpsichord and subtle added cello of Jaap ter Linden's budget set on the Brilliant label. Keyboardist Bart Naessens plays both harpsichord and organ, and he is joined by various combinations of Baroque guitar, cello, and violone, seemingly chosen according to the particular character of the movement being played. And that character is heavily emphasized; Dieltiens, save for the fact that he is playing a Baroque cello, sounds like Rostropovich in the emotional intensity and tempo flexibility he gives to the slow movements that open each of the five sonatas recorded here. Even more unusually, the last sonata on the disc, No. 7 (RV 44), features interpolated improvisations for the organ and the guitar, the latter with a sort of sung-along line from guitarist Jurgen de Bruyn. It might have been nice to hear something in the notes about this, but the listener is asked to take it on fait. The bottom line is that this is Vivaldi at maximum intensity level, which generally serves these sonatas well; there are plenty of unexciting versions of them. This is further testimony that many Vivaldi works are just now finding basic interpretations that work.