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“Vivaldi & Friends”
Antonio Vivaldi: “La Folia”, Concerto grosso after Trio Sonata Op. 1 No.12, RV 63 – Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins, Op. 3 No.10, RV 580 (original version and transcription by Johann Sebastian Bach) – “L’Estate", Op. 8 No.2, RV 315 – Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos, RV 531
René Duchiffre: Concerto in D Minor for Two Violas Da Gamba “Tango”

Apollo’s Fire, Jeannette Sorrell (conductor)
Recorded at St.Paul’s Church, Cleveland Heights (February 2008) – 74’34
Avie AV2211 – Booklet in English, French, and German

Ever hear the saying that “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 500 times”? He obviously had a good thing going because his contemporaries were impressed enough with his works to have used them as a basis for variations incorporating their own techniques and today there are countless recordings of his concerti. To hear it played on the period instruments of the baroque orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, is a unique experience.

Jeanette Sorrell, director and harpsichordist, formed the Cleveland-based group in 1992 hoping that it would elicit strong emotions in listeners and she has succeeded. On this, one concerto features four violins, one, two cellos and another is Bach’s transcription for four harpsichords of the Concerto for four violins. In the 18th century, transcribing violin pieces to keyboard was common and here Ms.Sorrell transcribed “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for the harpsichord. Although you’ve heard it many times before, this is definitely worth your time and attention.

Legend has it that the wild Folia originated in Portugal and the melody spread across Europe, catching the attention of composers everywhere including Corelli, Marias, and C.P.E. Bach, but this Vivaldi version is considered to be an outstanding example. Ms. Sorrell’s arrangement takes the original trio sonata and turns it a concerto grosso so that the entire ensemble can join in the fray. The result draws us in and leaves us as breathless as the dancers who participated in the “madness”!

My particular favorite on this disc was the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violas Da Gamba, the Tango Concerto. Written by the principal cellist of Apollo’s Fire, René Schiffer under his pseudonym of René Duchiffre, this showed that the gambas could hold their own against an orchestra made up of strings, harpsichord and percussion. Of course, the Tango originated in the 20th century so here the composer used the rhythmic components that share characteristics with baroque dance forms (such as the Follia). Once again, the intensity of the work was electrifying and it’s what helps to raise this recording to such a high level. If you’re familiar with Apollo’s Fire then this disc should join your collection alongside their others; if you have never heard the group before, pick this one up and see why they are garnering rave reviews and performing to sold-out houses here and abroad.

Suzanne Torrey




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