Venise – Vivaldi – Versailles No. 3
Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal, Stefan Plewniak
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS065
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Ten of the twelve concerti in this Paris manuscript are known from other sources, suggesting that the manuscript was drawn up at relatively short notice as a presentation piece for a potential patron. The set is associated with a visit to Trieste by the Austrian Emperor Charles VI, in whose retinue was the keen amateur violinist Franz Stephan, who seems to have acquired the set. This perhaps explains why they are all ‘ripieni’ concerti, spotlighting the whole ensemble rather than a soloist. The subsequent enormous popularity of Vivaldi’s music in France can hardly be put down to these concerti, as they lack the sparkle and originality of several of the master’s other manuscripts and publications. Plewniak and his orchestral forces seem determined to make up for the risk of any musical mundanity with the sheer energy of their performance – however, this seems frequently to err on the side of aggression. Each energetic track is preceded by what sounds like a sharp intake of breath from all concerned, while the percussive attack on the stringed instruments is given further edge by some very choppy guitar playing. It is a pity that this element of aggression is allowed to creep into these performances, as many of the more relaxed movements are lyrically and tastefully presented. I don’t want to sound too unenthusiastic about this latest in a series of thought-provoking recordings to emanate from the Palace of Versailles, but at the same time it seems part of a fashion of ‘overplaying’ Vivaldi, when often his music should be allowed to speak more for itself.
D. James Ross