A corrupted Vivaldi makes a comeback

Fabio Biondi gives a bracing rendition of an original 18th century John Walsh-edition of La Stravaganza

Composer: Vivaldi
Repertoire:  La Stravaganza; Il Proteo
Artists: Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Virgin Classics 5193002

The Music: In 1728 London publisher John Walsh marketed the corrupted version of Vivaldi’s La Stravaganza recorded here. Walsh took five of the original 12 violin concertos, deeming the rest too ‘stravagant’ for his customers, and added one from an unknown, possibly un-Vivaldian source to make a set’s six. Biondi himself supplements another, Il Proteo, to make a CD’s 60 minutes. But why not pilfer from the original? Bach did (BWV980).

The Performance: A bracing, Baroque-pitched tutti–basses slapping, harpsichord punching, upper strings digging with their bow heels – starts the disc. Biondi’s first solo strains at the leash; he tends to rush his quick movement breaks. In the magical Largos, he’s seductive, careful with dynamics and expressive with the phrasing. The eerie, high-strings-only Grave of No.4 has a bitter edge; the seesaw theorbo of No.11’s Largo sparkles like a Baroque sugarplum fairy. Il Proteo makes a distinctive conclusion. Solo violin and cello echo one another and swap blemishless long notes at close pitches to play games with the listener.

The Verdict: The exercise in historical accuracy – real 18th-century Londoners heard this – is spoilt by the albeit appealing supplementary concerto and over enthusiastic soloist.

Want More? Rachel Podger’s more restrained account of the full dozen with Arte dei Suonatori is preferable (Channel Classics, CCS 19598).