In this music they are as they should be: one living organism, both playing their Baroque violins with gorgeously burnished tone and an agile virtuosity which, freed from the macho pyrotechnics of the solo concertos, gains a relaxed and tender quality that reveals the poet in Vivaldi. And in those rare moments when there really is a difference, when one violin cuts loose with a glorious, yearning stretch of melody while the other accompanies with arpeggios or some such (as occurs in the finales of RV 524 and 516), it warms like a sudden surge of blood through the veins. Andrea Marcon and the VBO play their accompaniment role with their usual expert light touch, and the recording is spacious, clear and neatly balanced. A perfect Vivaldi treat.
Record Review /
Gramophone (London) / 01. November 2008
Carmignola and Mullova set a cracking pace in the opening movement of the G major Concerto RV 516 . . . I have little but admiration for this sparkling playing with slow movements, in particular those belonging to RV 516 and RV 509 yielding an air of pure enchantment.
Record Review /
BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. November 2008
. . . one of the great virtues of Carmignola's playing lies in the absence of any exaggerated expressive gestures, histrionics or other intrusive mannerisms . . . Carmignola is evenly and sympathetically partnered by Viktoria Mullova, in six of Vivaldi's concertos for two violins, strings and continuo . . . Even if readers have their own favourite versions of a least some of these six discerningly chosen concertos they are unlikely to be disappointed by what is on offer here. Tempos in outer movements are generally well judged . . . the soloists' incisive and crystal-clear articulation enables us to hear the music in minute detail. Elsewhere, the soloists, together with responsive support from the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon's direction, seem to discover effortlessly and with genial timbre the poetry and virtuosity present in Vivaldi's music. Outer movements sparkle with vitality and amiability while slower middle movements weave a spell of enchantment in the hands of these violinists. It is particularly so in those belonging to the Concertos, RV 516, two movements of which derive from an earlier trio sonata for two violins (RV 71), and RV 509.
Record Review /
International Record Review (London) / 01. January 2009
Viktoria Mullova und Giuliano Carmignola interpretieren auf galante Weise sechs Doppelkonzerte, unterstützt vom noblen Klanggewand, das Andrea Marcon und das Venice Baroque Orchestra zur Verfügung stellen . . . Die beiden Solisten sind fast durchweg gleichberechtigt, präsentieren sich im musikalischen Zwiegespräch, das mitunter in einen bravourös ausformulierten Wettstreit mündet . . . [faszinierend] die Momente, wenn die beiden Geigen sich in hellster Harmonie miteinander verbinden.
Record Review /
Zeitzeichen (Berlin) / 01. January 2009
Diese Kompositionen erfahren . . . ihre glanzvolle Wiederentdeckung. Man erlebt einen frischen, technisch brillanten Zugriff auf diese zu Unrecht vergessenen Meisterwerke. Ob einfühlsamer Dialog oder klangvoller Wettstreit, hier sind ohne Zweifel zwei der fähigsten Barockgeiger unserer Zeit am Werk. Es begeistert, wie genau die melodischen Phrasen einander antworten, wie makellos elegant die Linien ineinanderfliessen. Die beiden Solisten sind musikalisch gleichberechtigt, so dass der Eindruck entsteht, es spiele ein einziger Solist mit einem gegenüber den Solokonzerten jedoch wesentlich gesteigerten Ton- und Ausdrucksspektrum. Diese Gleichberechtigung und die bis ins Detail abgestimmten Gestaltungsabsichten machen die Aufnahme unnachahmlich. Die Klangschönheit des Solistenduos ist schwerlich zu überbieten, ihre Skalen sind pfeilschnell, die Akzentuierungen wach, die rhythmischen Konturen federn. Beide Solisten sowie das quirlige Venice Baroque Orchestra verwenden Originalinstrumente, um die Klangfarbenvielfalt der Musik herauszustreichen.
Record Review /
Neue Zürcher Zeitung / 13. February 2009
Le dialogue-duel s'établit sur la communauté des respirations et des phrasés -- quel art et quelle imagination dans chaque coup d'archet! Du grand violon, concentrant dans les allegros, en un ballet millimétré, la lecon des archets parallèles. Ahurissant. Les mouvements lents distillent un cantabile serein; plus rarement une fascination réciproque . . . solennel, presque lugubre, où nos grands félins joueurs s'observent en miroir. Andrea Marcon sculpte avec son orchestre vénitien des écrins étonnants, souple et moelleux pour le RV 524, d'une galanterie délicate dans le RV 509. Avec le RV 511, il nous invite au théâtre: Allegro molto gorgé de surprises (crescendos et syncopes), Largo visité par des pizzicatos incongrus et un théorbe déboutonné, étrange accord dissonant du ripeno dans le finale, lu par Marcon sur le manuscrit. Une telle affiche faisait rêver: elle tient toutes ses promesses.
Record Review /
Diapason (Paris) / 01. March 2009
Mullova and Carmignola play Vivaldi Double Concertos
Thanks to The Four Seasons, the solo violin concerto is the genre with which Vivaldi is associated above all others. And indeed, at nearly 250 works, this species of composition forms the largest single portion of his output, outnumbering his next favourite, the concerto for orchestra, by more than four to one. In historical terms, too, his development of the formal aspects of the solo concerto was his greatest legacy: his model of three movements in the sequence fast-slow-fast still wields influence today, and the so-called "ritornello" structural principle - in which returning orchestral statements of a strongly defined, harmonically stable main theme offer a framework for more free-ranging and lightly scored passages involving the soloist - informed every composer's approach to concerto-writing until well into the 19th century.
Yet Vivaldi's concerto output is considerably more varied than that. Not only did he compose concertos for a wide range of string, wind and brass instruments, he also wrote them for differing numbers of soloists, from none to 13. His first taste of international fame, indeed, came with a set of twelve concertos which offered alongside its four solo concertos equal numbers of concertos for four and two violins. Published in Amsterdam in 1711 under the title L'estro armonico, it achieved great popularity in northern Europe in those early days of the instrumental concerto, making its mark on German composers in particular. The flautist and theorist Johann Joachim Quantz later recalled that "as musical pieces of a kind that was then entirely new, they made no small impression on me. I was eager to accumulate a good number of them, and Vivaldi's splendid ritornelli served as good models for me in later days"*. Vivaldi also acquired a keen following at the Dresden court, who sent their best violinist Johann Georg Pisendel to Venice to study with him; and in Weimar the young J.S. Bach transcribed for solo keyboard six pieces from the 1711 set, including two of the "double concertos".
Only two further concertos for two violins by Vivaldi were published in his lifetime (one as part of his op. 9 La cetra set in 1727, another printed independently in Amsterdam), but there are a further 24 surviving, most of them in the huge manuscript collection of Vivaldi's works now held in the National Library in Turin. These concertos are rarely performed today, either in concert or on record, but, like much of Vivaldi's unpublished output, contain music that is not only undeserving of its neglect, but offer facets of his creative personality that are not always evident in the works he chose to see into print.
The concertos presented on this disc by Viktoria Mullova and Giuliano Carmignola demonstrate for the most part Vivaldi's usual method of writing for two soloists on similar instruments: rapid interchanges of phrases and melodic fragments which echo, overlap and swap over with each other, alternating with passages of parallel motion, almost invariably euphonious (only the slow movement of RV 523 uses the texture to create expressive dissonances). They thus differ from the Vivaldi-inspired but more polyphonic manner of Bach's well-known Concerto for Two Violins, and show the influence of the dominant texture of the chamber music of the time, the trio sonata, in which two matched instruments would duet over a continuo accompaniment consisting of a bass-line instrument and a chord-playing lute, harpsichord or organ. This similarity appears even more obvious in the slow middle movements of RV 509, 516, 523 and 524, which feature "continuo" instead of orchestral accompaniment, and becomes explicit when it is seen that RV 516 shares both its second movement (with slight differences) and much of the material of its first and third with one of Vivaldi's unpublished trio sonatas (RV 71).
Whether these dialogues be virtuosic (as in the outer movements of RV 511 and 514) or melodious (as in the relaxed first movement of RV 509 or the expressive second movement of RV 514), they almost always give meticulously equal treatment to the two soloists, with neither assuming a dominant role in terms of range, technical difficulty or quantity of material. The effect is of a single character in the solo role, albeit one performing musical feats more complex than those achievable by a single player. In this regard it is easy to imagine them providing performance material for the youthful musicians of the Ospedale della Pietà, the Venetian orphanage of whose renowned all-female orchestra Vivaldi had charge as teacher and director for much of his career. Their concerts drew visitors in numbers to the Ospedale's chapel on the Riva degli Schiavoni - to admire the music of course, but also sometimes to search for wives; opportunities to show off the abilities of talented players in solo roles in as democratic a manner as possible must have been welcome. This primarily local use is suggested by the fact that while all of the concertos recorded here can be found in the Turin manuscript, thought to represent Vivaldi's own personal stock of scores, only RV 523 survives in a second contemporary copy.
Occasionally, however, there are breakaways from this two-as-one approach, when one violin will play a snatch of melody while the other accompanies. Such moments are fleeting, but can be all the more striking for that, as in the final movements of RV 524 and, most memorably, RV 516, where a glorious tune emerges from the arrow-like orchestral scales of the ritornelli. Having already pictured a pair of Ospedale inmates sharing the more equal dialogues elsewhere, is it going too far for us to speculate that Vivaldi himself, known as a virtuosic if sometimes unpolished violinist, might have taken one or other of these roles, either advertising his presence as melodic lead or gently supporting a favoured pupil with rock-solid arpeggios?
* Sie machten, als eine damals gantz neue Art von musikalischen Stükken, bey mir einen nicht geringen Eindruck. Ich unterließ nicht, mir davon einen ziemlichen Vorrath zu sammeln. Die prächtigen Ritornelli des Vivaldi haben mir, in den künftigen Zeiten, zu einem guten Muster gedienet.