Gunhard Mattes / Maya Schaufelbühl

Vivaldi: Concertos for Flute & Oboe

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Listeners confused by the group of Vivaldi "concertos for flute & oboe" advertised on the cover of this Ukrainian-German release can be apprised that it contains no such thing -- these are familiar concertos, for violins, mandolin, or trumpet, that have been arranged for flute, oboe, and strings. This is always a tricky issue. Baroque composers were prime pracitioners of the reduce, reuse, and recycle ethic, and they all, from Bach on down, remade vocal works into concertos, concertos for one instrument into those for another, and so on. They also often exhibited subtle mastery in making the adaptations, and that does not really happen here. It would have been nice to know the origins of the arrangements used, but the booklet notes by oboist and conductor Gunhard Mattes focus mostly on the qualities of the original Vivaldi compositions. There are some interpretatively strange results. In the opening Concerto in A minor, RV 522, a very familiar piece from the L'estro armonico set, Op. 3, Mattes tries to get away from the terraced quality of the original by setting a clipped, tense mood intended, perhaps, to set off the flute and oboe and give them room to operate. But the piece does not really coalesce as a whole this way. The final movement, a daring rethinking of the concept of imitative entrances into a luxuriant tower that makes a vivid contrast with the violinistic solo entrances, loses this contrast and seems rather pointless. The fault is not with the INSO Lemberg orchestra, nor with oboist Maya Schaufelbühl, and in fact everyone involved performs the music smoothly. What has happened here is something that has happened over and over again since choirs pulled Vivaldi's Gloria off the scrap heap of history in the 1940s: Vivaldi's music has been underestimated.

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