45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2003
For those listeners who are only familiar with the most popular facet of Vivaldi's output, the ubiquitous Four Seasons, the prospect of wading through this earlier set of twelve violin concertos may not initially sound all that enticing. Unlike their much more familiar cousins (which in fact are a part of another set of concerti, Il cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Invenzione op.8), La Stravaganza does not come equipped with easy-to-grasp programmatic clues as to what the music is `about' - no musical depictions of cuckoos, peasant's dances, midday heatwaves, buzzing flies or walking over iced rivers here. Instead, what you get is two cd's worth of more or less `abstract' Italian baroque concerti, with a typically Vivaldian accent. Does that imply an unimaginative déjà-vu journey over a terrain devoid of real interest, then, with nothing much more to tell these twelve concertos apart from each other than their somewhat dryish RV catalogue numbers? After all, a very accomplished composer also once exclaimed that Vivaldi was but a dull fellow who just composed the same concerto over and over again.
The answer, of course, is a resounding no. To a certain extent, the aforementioned opinion of Stravinsky may well be justified - however, following this logic, it would be as correct (and as blatantly wrong) to claim that all Camille Pissarro actually could paint was a single dot. Errare humanum est, even if you should happen to be a Stravinsky. Accusing Vivaldi of dullness just because he happened to compose in a certain personal (admitted, occasionally strictly defined) style sounds every bit as silly as condemning Pissarro's canvases, in a word, pointless.
Be as it may, and to the joy of all baroque music lovers, La Stravaganza is literally bursting with gloriously swirling melodies, dazzling solos, melting cantilenas and powerful ritornellos. All this topped with a spotless and inspired delivery from the ASMF and the soloists (Carmel Kaine and Alan Loveday) makes this mid-price Decca set an irresistible bargain. More so, in fact, than the Penguin Rosette-awarded ASMF version of La Cetra under Iona Brown - a decent record in its own right, but one which somehow seems to miss the all-important last ounce of soaring abandon. However, this performance of La Stravaganza not only manages to negotiate the tricky runway leading towards Vivaldian heights of elegance and beauty; it also takes flight, and the following dazzling sense of weightlessness elevates the listener to quite another level.
The recording comes from 1975, and while it is not absolutely hiss-free, the analogue-to-digital remaster is very successful, bringing out the glowingly warm string tone in both solo and tutti sections. The continuo (alternating between cembalo and organ, with theorbi included) is not so forwardly situated as in more recent and "authentic" versions, and, in keeping with the ASMF tradition of that era, the overall sound is rather controlled, streamlined and smooth - however, this is not a blemish when the playing is of such high voltage. The occasionally irritating dimension of over-polished surfaces and routine that was later to creep into some ASMF recordings (e.g. the later digital set of the Bach Brandenburg Concertos) is gloriously absent here, as there is a very real sense of `competition' between the solo players and the tutti sections - almost as if both were mischievously trying to outplay each other. With musicians of this calibre, the results can be only successful.
As far as non-historical recordings are concerned, Marriner and his team in their heyday achieved heights that still remain out of reach for most ensembles trying their hand in this repertoire. Should you want to add a specimen of vintage ASMF Vivaldi in your collection, well, this is a perfect choice.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I doubt anyone reading this, regardless of how long or little a classical music listener or collector, would include Englishman Neville Marriner among his or her list of great conductors of any of the modern, romantic, classical or baroque eras. Yet, Marriner gracefully conducted music from all those times in recordings for Decca/London, many of which remain alive and in circulation today. I would make an argument that none of his recordings -- and he has many great ones -- are better than this recording of Antonio Vivaldi's dozen violin concertos collectively known as Op, 4 and La Stravaganza.
I also doubt most people reading this are wondering why I'm writing a review of something 35 years old. If not, they're probably asking why I would be interested in promoting a dozen concertos for the same instrument from a composer whose legend, in some quarters, is that he wrote the same concerto 500 times. The answers to these questions begin in the first paragraph: this is a classic recording of music of endless fascination and creativity, lovingly played, and freshly transferred to CD from high quality analog originals.
Recorded in 1973-74 in London and released on a set of LPs the next year (that I owned back in the day,) La Stravaganza is Vivladi's attempt at harmonic invention and extremely involved solo passagework that is mastered throughout the recording by Marriner's partners, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra and soloists Alan Loveday and Carmel Kaine. Right from the brillinat outburst of the famous first concerto in B flat major, their collaboration is beautiful, virtuosic, sensitive and warmly played in the best pre-period vintage style. Organist-continuo player Christopher Hogwood, who has gone on to a magnificent career as a period conductor, tells you succinctly in the notes about Vivaldi's "extravagance."
The sound of this package, which was good in the LP era, has been transferred appropriately. It may not satisfy an audiophile but that person wouldn't buy a recording made in 1973. If you are a person that enjoys Vivaldi but often doesn't see the difference in his works outside the Four Seasons, check out this offering. These concertos are consistently lively and full of invention that sets them apart from each other. For the small required financial output, this will reward even the most jaded Vivaldi listener many times over.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2008
It is to me completely unfair the critic that Vivaldi wrote over and over again the same concert.
One must hear this work to understand how deeply wrong this is.
In La Stravaganza we find a trully inspired Vivaldi. The melody is so rich and vibrant, the melodies are so compelling that is dificult not to listen with pleasure to this masterpiece.
I have listened to this work many times now. In my opinion, this is a much more intense version that the one Rachel Podger plays. Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin-In-The-Fields have hier a great performance.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2013
Vivaldi's style is perhaps one of the first things classical music fans learn to recognize. His active running outer movements are almost always toe tappers. The harmonic activity pleases the classically trained ear and Vivaldi had a complete command of the tonal palate as it was developed in his day. Describing the melodic lines of these fast movements, one phrase that comes to mind is "perpetual motion". One never accuses Vivaldi of being "static". It is his consistancy of style that led Stravinsky to make his infamous disparaging remark that "Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 500 times". That is patently unfair to say the least. Vivaldi has much to offer the astute listener and one could even borrow from Mozart that Vivaldi wrote music that will please the connoisseur and will also please the unknowledgeable listener without them knowing why.
I find Vivaldi's outer movements stimulating and often exciting but his slow inner movements are even more often a source of delight. In these often brief movements, sometimes hardly more than a bridge, one will discover Vivaldi's most advanced harmonic ideas. Chords are inverted for maximum effect and if you follow the bass line, you hear that it moves in the most economic way possible. This creates unbalanced inversions that impel movement with an irresistable force. A dominant seventh chord wants to resolve but when the 3rd, 5th or 7th is in the bass, it often resolves to another inversion that also wants to resolve and this acts as a source of energy that Vivaldi had a complete mastery of.
La Stavaganza, one of Vivaldi's lesser known sets of violin concerti, would be far more radical in its day than our ears hear it today. It is possible to understand, at least to some degree if you put your mind in an early 1700's frame, the avant garde character of this music. Listen to the skips in the melody, the rhythmic variations of the inner voices and the constant changes of density of the overall sound. Vivaldi's sense of invention is constant and Neville Marriner and the ASMF are ever alert to these ever changing modes of expression and bring them out in a most pleasing manner. This is important music and this recording from 1974 is tastefully remastered so we can fully explore and enjoy it today. No Vivaldian should be without this important set of concertos and the rest of the classical music fans will have much to celebrate here, especially if they remain alert to the subtle and ever changing creative impulses that are so prevalent in Vivaldi's universe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2013
I am very critical of many of Marriner and ASMF's forays into the baroque repertoire, they produced an enormous quantity of muzak wallpaper. This however really rolics along with confident and assertive bowing from the 2 lead fiddlers, Alan Loveday and Carmel Kane. The modern instruments are well served also in this performance that returned the necessary appendages to an oft-neutered Vivaldi.
on October 10, 2012
This set of 12 concertos for violin and continuo, entitled La Stravaganza, comprises the second set with opus number published by Estienne Roger of Amsterdam, the Op.3 set being the first, published three years earlier. The first two sets of works grouped under opus numbers were each a set of 12 sonatas, also published by Roger. Until the last pair, the other concertos alternate between major and minor keys as we work through the set. They are splendidly played on this 1975 Decca recording, like the Op.3 set, by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields with either Carmel Kaine or Alan Loveday as soloist on six concertos each.
An error was made in the transfer of Concerto No.8 in d minor from the master tapes as track 5, CD 2, lasts only 1 min 16 sec (not 4'30" as indicated in the booklet) and is in the nature of a slow introduction. I suspect that the first three sections of this movement (allegro - adagio - presto) have been omitted in the tape transfer. Furthermore, while a two-movement work by Vivaldi is not unknown (the `symphony' `Al Santo Sepolchro' for example) but this is unusual. But this is the only blemish in an otherwise fine recording.
on December 14, 2012
My own preference when it comes to Baroque orchestral works is usually for period instrument renditions -- in the case of La Stravaganza at the time that I write this, that choice would be Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. This vintage modern instrument version, however, holds its own. To my untrained ear it might seem to lean a bit toward Romantic sensibilities now and then, but so what -- there's more than one way to play anything. These are fine performances: Energetic and lithe, smooth and accomplished. They bear up well despite their age, and in fact remain my number one choice for a modern instrument set of these concertos.
on March 5, 2013
This is a wonderful rendition of Vivaldi's works entitled 'La Stravaganza'. The orchestra of St. Martin in the Fields is a superb group, and Neville Mariner knows how to get the best from them. As a former professional violinist, I would recommend this recording highly. It is very well done - the sound is great, both highs & lows, & the musical interpretation imaginative & compelling. One feels like dancing, or soaring, depending which part of the recording is playing at any given moment. If purchased, this recording will not disappoint - it is well worth it.
on February 4, 2012
Another good purchase. This recording is worthy of your collection. I am impressed by the clear sound of this cd. Can't really go wrong with Vivaldi !
This cd is an extravaganza in composition and playing. Happy and thoughtful cultivations of discernment and discrimination displaying actions of affection and appreciation abound and percolate effervescently, bubbling, foamming, and frothing into joy that may bring sweet tears to your eyes.
Drink up and good day my musically thirsty friends!
on August 27, 2014
I love the music. The performance of St. Martin's is perfect, can I say more? I've heard other renditions of this wonderful music, but none compare with St. Martin's. This is one of my favorite concertos by Vivaldi, the melodies are memorable, the music is beautiful. Who could ask for anything more.?