This set of four two-violin concertos plus a single short but arresting ripieno concerto doesn't contain a single one of Vivaldi's big hits, but each one of the four duo works contains new wrinkles in the relationship between the soloists. Vivaldi exploited the virtuoso talents of the young female students under his tuition at the Ospedale della Pietà, neither a hospital nor an orphanage, but a place for the Venetian upper crust to stash the offspring of its illicit affairs. Several of these works almost seem to be framed as competitions between the two soloists (sample right at the beginning of the Concerto for two violins in C major, RV 507), and the chief attraction of this recording is the control of the violinists, veteran Vivaldi specialist Giuliano Carmignola and Gli Incogniti director Amandine Beyer, who seem alert to every twist in the music and handle everything Vivaldi throws at them. Part of the credit goes to Beyer's direction; the complexity of the relationship between the soloists is augmented by carefully terraced textures in the orchestra. One could wish that the orchestra were a bit larger; there is just a single viola, cello, and 2 violone, plus continuo, with a quartet of violinists, and Vivaldi's orchestra at the Ospedale was much larger. The contrast between soloists and ripieno does not emerge with that crackle that it should. Yet solo Vivaldi playing at this level is rare, and the recording may safely be recommended to historical-performance enthusiasts.
Vivaldi: Concerti per due violini Review
by James Manheim