L’Estro Vivaldiano

Venetian Composers and their mutual influences
Mensa Sonora, Gabriel Grosbard/Matthieu Boutineau
passacaille 1035
Music by Albinoni, Bicajo, Gentili, Schreyvogel, Tartini, Vivaldi & Ziani

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he premise of this excellent compilation is simple: Vivaldi did not live in a bubble, so let’s explore the music that he must have heard in Venice at the time. To most readers that will mean the inclusion of composers who (even with the best will in the world) must be described as obscure: Johann Friedrich Schreyvogel, for example, or Giorgio Gentili. Personally, I had only heard of the latter because I was asked to edit some of his concertos for someone doing concerts in Italy. I am not going make extravagant claims for the music – nor, indeed, do the musicians; rather, I will suggest that, if you heard any of it on the radio, you would be hard pressed to say whether or not it was Vivaldi (with the possible exception of the sonata by Albinoni which struck my ears instantly, or perhaps the B minor Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro  RV167, but then there is another Sepolcro  sinfonia later in the programme that might fool you…) Mensa Sonora play one to a part and produce a lovely balanced sound with the solo part emerging organically from the texture when required. As obscure composers go, the author of a G minor concerto for violin and organ by the name of “Padre Bicajo” takes some beating – although Michael Talbot has argued that he may merely have been the owner of the sheet music and the composer was none other than the Red Priest… Whoever wrote it, it merits its place on this thoroughly enjoyable and edifying disc.

Brian Clark

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