Another excellent addition to the series
Russ | Richmond, VA | 05/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you have been collecting the previous volumes of Naxos' complete survey of Antonio Vivaldi's (1678-1741) bassoon concertos, as I have, you are probably expecting good things from Volume Four. Happily, I can report that the playing and sound quality is up to the excellent standard established by the previous entries in this series. And, what of the concertos themselves? Although this may be more subjective, I actually think the six concertos presented here, on average, are the most interesting in this series thus far.
Similar to Volume Three (Vivaldi: Bassoon Concertos 3), this release contains two minor key concertos (RV 481, 499) and four major key concertos (RV 485, 477, 470, 494). Although each of the six concertos recorded here are highly inventive, even by Vivaldi's standards, my personal favorite is RV 477. I find the open movement's slyly simple descending theme in the upper strings to be wholly irresistible (Track 7). This concerto's conclusion is interesting for Vivaldi's simultaneous use of the bass and tenor qualities of the bassoon. Listen to the downbeat bass anchors followed by ornamentations in the tenor register as an example (Track 9). Another favorite is the tempestuous opening ritornello of RV 481 (Track 1), followed by an unforgetable doleful bassoon melody. Throughout this series it should be noted that Benkócs handles all of the wide leaps and rapid figurations with ease (or at least he makes it sound easy), and takes care to provide the appropriate stylistic contrasts called for in these pieces, whether it is through his legato versus staccato articulation or through his clearly discernable pianos and fortes.
In my review of Volume Three of this series, I made some comparisons to ASV's competing set of bassoon concertos. I think those comparisons continue to remain applicable. Namely, the sound engineering and bassoon playing is superior on the Naxos series. While on the other hand, I find the ensemble and continuo playing to be more characteristic on the ASV series. But, the reason to acquire Vivaldi's bassoon concertos is to experience the unbelievable virtuosity it requires to perform these tremendously tricky pieces, and Benkócs surely disappoint. Just listen to the rapid fire sixteenth note precision in the conclusion of RV 494 (Track 18). With that said, the Naxos series is the clear choice here, without even considering Naxos' lower price.
In conclusion, this release is fully and enthusiastically recommended to those collecting this series. If you have yet to begin collecting these fascinating concertos, this volume makes an excellent introduction to Vivaldi's bassoon concertos.