Linn's Vivaldi: L'Amore per Elvira, featuring the English group La Serenissima under the direction of Adrian Chandler, has quite a bit to offer the Vivaldi fancier. First are Chandler's excellent reconstructions of two of the fragmentary "Graz" violin sonatas that have not come down with their continuo parts intact. Chandler has filled in the missing music with entirely satisfactory replacements that appear to be seamlessly Vivaldian, rendering these works into a listenable form for the first time. The other instrumental work heard here is RV 83, the sonata for violin, cello and continuo -- Vivaldi's only known sonata for this combination of instruments. These instrumental performances are fantastic, particularly by virtue of the energetic lute contribution to the continuo, not to mention leader Chandler's appropriately fiery solo violin work.
However, the name of the lutenist isn't provided in the notes, although he is included in the group's picture. A web address directs us to more information, yet the name isn't found there, either. Quite simply, the instrumental pieces that grace Vivaldi: L'Amore per Elvira do not constitute the main fare on the program. These are the three cantatas included, Tremori al braccio, RV 799; Elvira, anima mia, RV 654; and Lungi dal vago volto, RV 680. All of these works date from the 1710s and were created for the court of Mantua; Tremori al braccio is a stormy minor-key creation only discovered in 1999 -- this is its first recording. Soprano Mhairi Lawson is the resident voice in La Serenissima and is more than up to the task of negotiating Vivaldi's hellish vocal writing. The only problem is that Lawson's voice, while agile and spry, is not particularly transparent or beautiful. Mostly what it is, is LOUD -- very, very loud. Lawson knows how to put it out there, front and center. More cultivated tastes in Vivaldi's vocal music, more used to interpreters such as Catherine Bott, Suzie LeBlanc, or Angelina Reaux will find Lawson adequate without being as fresh or inspiring as her colleagues. Nevertheless, instrumentally L'Amore per Elvira is glorious, so whether or not one will want this Linn release will depend on where one's sympathies lie with Vivaldi. Based on the instrumental components alone, the album is at the very least recommendable, but one many not wish to return to the cantatas as often as to the other pieces. Linn's hybrid SACD sound is great and will put the sound of La Serenissima right in your living room.