näive Vivaldi Edition nears its halfway point

Jordi Savall’s Acclaimed Recording of Opera, Farnace
Rinaldo Alessandrini Conducting Two “Glorias”
Oboe Concerti from Alfred Bernardini and Zefiro

In 2000, when the Paris-based record company näive announced its launch of a 15-year project to record the more than 450 works of Antonio Vivaldi held in the National Library in Torino, Italy, many people were sceptical. Nearly 100 CDs by one composer? Now nearly at the halfway point, the Vivaldi Edition is recognized as a groundbreaking project with far-reaching repercussions, from raising the performance level of this composer’s virtuosic music to changing our understanding of the history of Western music.

Antonio Vivaldi is practically a household name today thanks to his ubiquitous piece, The Four Seasons, which is as much a hit today as it was when it was first published in 1725. We are now learning that there are numerous works of equal quality penned by the Venetian priest, including operas on a par with those of Georg Friedrich Handel, sacred music, and hundreds of concertos. The influence this prolific composer had on the history of music is only now beginning to be understood and evaluated, in great part thanks to the Vivaldi Edition.

The project distinguishes itself by engaging some of the finest modern interpreters of Baroque music and working with leading Vivaldi scholars on reconstructing much of the music. The packaging, which has elicited much attention and commentary, presents striking photographic portraits by artist Denis Rouvre. To date, 43 titles have been released, of which eight are full-length operas.

The most recent opera recording, La fida ninfa, features Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducting the Ensemble Matheus and an all-star cast. New Yorker critic Alex Ross made the album a CD of the Week at his popular blog, The Rest Is Noise, and David Stearns gave the album a 4-star review last month in the Philadelphia Inquirer, calling it “one of the ultimate landmarks” in the edition. Lawson Taitte gave the album an A-rating in the Dallas Morning News, reporting:

“Naive's series of Vivaldi operas remains one of our time's most interesting projects. La fida ninfa, top-flight Vivaldi, has had a few previous recordings, all dismally inadequate. This new one boasts an all-star cast and great orchestral playing under Jean-Claude Spinosi, exhilarating in the Red Priest's famous storm imitations, feather-light in the many pastoral moments. The plot involves brothers parted at birth, pirates, lovelorn nymphs and even a goddess or two. Sandrine Piau and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, both sensational, play the sisters; Verónica Cangemi and Philippe Jaroussky are the brothers, Lorenzo Regazzo the pirate and Topi Lehtipuu the sweet-voiced tenor father. All are virtuosos in top form. Whether you're a baroque enthusiast or are relatively new to Vivaldi, you're likely to enjoy this one.”

Antonio Vivaldi: Farnace
Coro del Teatro de la Zarzuela
Les Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
3CD set available August 25 from naive

Antonio Vivaldi: Gloria RV589 and Gloria RV 588
Introduzione: “Ostro picta, armata spina” RV642
Concerto Italiano (choir and orchestra)/Rinaldo Alessandrini
Sara Mingardo, contralto
Available August 25 from naive

Antonio Vivaldi: Oboe Concerti
Ensemble Zefiro
Alfredo Bernardini, oboe and direction
Available August 25 from naive

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