Massimo Lonardi and the Conserto Vago put together this program of Vivaldi's works for lute, throwing in a couple of violin sonatas with the lute as part of the continuo to fill it out to an hour of music. Although the ensemble is another one of those that admirably strives for authentic period performance, the overall reaction to its execution is that it is technically excellent and interpretationally pleasant if somewhat dry. The instruments blend well together (with no intonation problems) and the recording's sound picks up everything very fully, including the rich, lower registers of the big lutes. Lonardi, and the others as well, is a very clean performer, having no trouble whatsoever making those typical Vivaldi motoric moments precise and even. The opening Concerto for Lute and Viola d'amore, RV 540, is the largest in terms of ensemble used and the weakest of the program. It doesn't have that spark of animation that is expected in Vivaldi's music, making it more suited to being lively accompaniment for dinner rather than a captivating recital on its own. The smaller ensemble works fare better. The energy between the players is brighter and better communicated. There is a sense of purpose to each movement of the sonatas, whether it's a dancing allegro or optimistically meditative larghetto. The Concerto for Lute, Two Violins, and Continuo, RV 93, is stripped down to the bare minimum of instruments, which suits it very well. The ensemble is sharp with its thirty-second notes and Lonardi's embellishments are very fitting, as they are in all the pieces here. In the second movement, his almost stilted phrasing doesn't quite make sense until the embellishments are added. Nice as the sonatas and the final concerto are, there is still room for more naturally drawn lines and intuitive feeling in the Conserto Vago's performance to make them more musically appealing and less academically reserved.
Vivaldi: Concerti e Trii per liuto e archi Review
by Patsy Morita