Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cream of the Concertos

Today, as you will have noticed, if you needed to Google anything, is Antonio Vivaldi's 332nd birthday. Therefore, music is muchly in order. I am myself quite fond of Vivaldi's work (besides, I just have a fondness for the tidiness of Baroque compositions in general). The exuberance of an orchestra pouring out a Vivaldi presto or allegro movement is a hearty dose of cheer, to say the least, but where Vivaldi outdoes even himself is in the slow movements of his concertos, the exquisitely simple adagios and largos. Would it be terribly cliché if I were to bring up the largo movement from Winter in the Four Seasons as a case in point? There is a wonderful version of that on one John Harrison's website (you have to select "music" in the side tab, and the rest of the navigation is self-explanatory).
While we're at it, the same piece translates splendidly to guitar. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a great recording of the largo alone on acoustic guitar, but here is a wonderfully executed version by a guitarist named Rafael Scarfullery; it isn't the musicianship that is lacking, but the microphone.

Even a slighter change of the instrument can change the flavour of a tune. Here Lakis Laftsis takes the solo on the Concerto in C Minor for Mandolin and Orchestra--on the bouzouki!

Trio Nahual, composed of students from the Accademia Chigiana di Siena (I think that's what the caption said)offer a pleasant passage from Concerto for Two Mandolins and Orchestra, just without the mandolins and orchestra.

But the mandolins finally get a bit of their own back with the Concerto in A Minor (usually a violin piece) The group here is the Orquesta de Pulso y PĂșa Sotomayor de Manzanares, in Spain.

The largo from this concerto is another fine example of the beauty of Vivaldi's slower passages:

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