IF THERE is a problem with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, it’s simply that it is so familiar. And that means that, for any performance to be special, it has to be different.
While the recent performance by a much- reduced Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Ottavio Dantone – with solo violinist Giuliano Carmignola – was efficient, it rather lacked sparkle.
The first concerto burst onto the scene with a lively opening movement and a rather characterful last where the soloist occasionally let the odd note sag slightly, bringing it back into tune and reinvigorating the performance. Notably, too, Carmignola played with minimal vibrato, adding more of what we, today, think of as an authentic performance.
The sublime pianissimo opening to Summer contrasted with the vivacity of the opening to Autumn where, in the slow movement, there was a particularly sensitive conversation between solo harpsichord and the orchestra. The first half of the concert was devoted to the music of Bach – Johann Sebastian and his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann.
The WF offering was his F minor Harpsichord Concerto. The orchestra players stood which added a considerable edge to the performance. Dantone was soloist and directed from the keyboard. The first movement, Allegro di molto, was innocuous and perfectly pleasant with a scrupulously worked solo part.
Dantone’s playing was particularly sensitive in the slow movement. There was a particularly striking section for solo violin – played by Thelma Handy – and harpsichord. The Prestissimo finale was breathtakingly vivacious.
The concert opened with a performance of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 1 in C major. This had an intimate sound, though the sprightly fugue in the Ouverture certainly kept the audience, if not the players, on their collective toes.
Glyn Mon Hughes