Rolf Lislevand

Vivaldi: Concertos pour Mandoline

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The Instants Classiques series from France's Naïve label doesn't represent a high point for French design; the virtually unreadable white print on pink background for the timeline of Antonio Vivaldi's life might, in fact, represent some kind of nadir. There is only minimal annotation, and the presentation of the material leaves a lot to be desired: though this is billed as a disc of mandolin concertos, exactly two of the six pieces fit the description; the rest are for some combination of lute and violin (or, in RV 540 concerto, the lovely viola d'amore). The only good thing is the music, which collects excerpts from several recordings by string player Rolf Lislevand. They are exceptionally nice examples of the new, mostly Italian trends in playing Vivaldi on historical instruments (Lislevand is Norwegian, but many of the supporting players are Italian). Most startling are the two trio sonatas included, where the continuo accompaniment in the outer movements is attacked with such gusto that it takes on a literally percussive quality. Elsewhere, Lislevand is the star of the show, with an ability to make even the most familiar pieces, like the Concerto for mandolin and orchestra in D major, RV 425, sound new with his flexible phrasing and lyrical sensitivity. He recaptures the virtuoso dimension of the music, and the performances range from strong to surpassingly beautiful. At a budget price, an excellent choice for the listener who wants to devote some commute time to exploring the historical-performance approach to Vivaldi.

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