When we refer to the "Bach Double," most classical music aficionados know what's being discussed: Johann Sebastian Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043. Apart from reconstructions, it's his only double concerto for two violins. With Antonio Vivaldi, such an abbreviated designation is impossible, as he has 27 -- count 'em -- 27 double concertos for two violins. While that may seem less manageable a total, at least it provides a sizeable amount of music for violin virtuosi Giuliano Carmignola and Viktoria Mullova to pick six concerti from in making their Archiv Produktion disc Vivaldi: Concertos for Two Violins. Despite the "rarely heard" designation on the CD's front cover sticker, all of these concerti are well known and already recorded numerous times, so they don't earn any special points for rarity of repertoire, an attribute in which Carmignola has scored in other Vivaldi recordings that he has made on his own. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of pure fiddling, this team of Carmignola and Mullova is a potent and phenomenal one.
These six concerti are rather conservative choices for Vivaldi; none of them "rock," such as in the Vivaldi works that Fabio Biondi tends to favor, nor are any of them outwardly stormy as in the case of the "Winter" concerto from Le Quattro Stagione or the concerto "Il tempesta de mare." However, the C minor concerto RV 509 has some measure of aggression and a tincture of that lovely, mysterious quality that evokes masks, capes, and canals; the dark side of eighteenth century Venice. The kicker here, however, is the Concerto in B flat, RV 524; it is given a dazzling and energetic performance by both star soloists and the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon; they really get this thing off the ground and don't let you down until the last note. While some of the other concertos here just simply do not operate at the same level of inspiration, overall Carmignola and Mullova's Vivaldi: Concertos for Two Violins is really well done straight-ahead Vivaldi with some dynamite moments, and Archiv's recording is as clear and refreshing as a spring rain.