Early Music Review
January 21, 2019
Fancy a glide down the Grand Canal with some wonderful Venetian sunshine glinting off the water in shimmering reflections, then this marvelous recording will not disappoint; even the familiar works are played with poise and fine articulation without any blistering speeds that boggle the mind and defy one's ears, or vice versa!
To read the full review, click HERE
November 19, 2018
The debate in Vivaldi over transverse flute or recorder is sometimes not easily settled, particularly since the ranges and technical demands overlap to a large degree. This being said, this Canadian recording uses the recorder in all of its glory. These works have often been recorded before both on modern and period instruments, and Vivaldi’s music is flexible enough to accommodate the timbres and flexibility of both. Here, however, we have a rather nice set of works that are impressively performed and interpreted.
The opening is the famed “piccolo” concerto with its twirling roulades in the solo outer movements. Vivaldi originally meant for this to be an “ottovino,” sometimes reinterpreted as a “flautino” or little flute. Today we translate this as piccolo, but in his time it was perhaps not quite as well defined, meaning some sort of very high-pitched instrument, either a sopranino recorder or perhaps one of the smaller transverse flutes that Johann Joachim Quantz defines. In any case, it is meant to whirl about in the uppermost registers, but where Vivaldi really shines in this work is in the second movement, a slow lament aloft from a steady-paced ostinato accompaniment. In the G-Minor Concerto, subtitled “La Notte,” we have a sort of dramatic sequence that opens with a French style set of powerful unison dotted rhythms before running amok in a set of swift sequences and scales. The third section, a Presto, is almost a tempest, while the finale begins with a slowly unfolding harmony that seems evocative of moonrise, gentle and mysterious. The finale is at Vivaldi’s usual frenetic pace, with the alto recorder whipping about through the sequences. In the C-Minor Concerto (RV 441) we are thrown into the more spacious Baroque world of Bach, with a set of longer lines that are spun out in the opening ritornello, but when the solo enters there is a flurry of virtuosity with some technically challenging passages. The second movement quite French in style with dotted rhythms introducing a more mournful lyrical recorder line. The finale is more solemn than one might expect, spun out longer and with some interesting rhythmic duplication before the extremely virtuoso arpeggiated figures in the recorder. Of particular interest in the F-Major Concerto (RV 442) is the slow and stately Siciliano second movement, while the C-Major finale (RV 444) has a joyous and almost galant moment with its bright trills and use of the extreme range. The only oddity is the F-Major Concerto (RV 312R) which is a modern arrangement of a violin concerto. I suppose this was added to fill out the disc, and while the arrangement seems suitable for the recorder, it doesn’t really add to the canon for the instrument.
There has been some discussion over the past several years regarding HIP performances, particularly whether one ought to use an “orchestra” of one instrument per line or a larger ensemble. Here, the Arion orchestra uses a rather more traditional approach, with 4–3–2–2–1 for the strings, lending the violin sound not quite the robustness of a larger number but not as spare as one-on-a-part. Going back to Quantz’s recommendations, this seems about right for the textures and necessity of accompanying the often shrill recorder. Of course, the continuo group also includes an archlute and guitar to reinforce but not overwhelm those softer passages where the harpsichord might seem a bit too forceful. In any case, the sound is clear and with just enough depth to provide an excellent rendition of Vivaldi’s often subtle orchestration. As for the playing of Vincent Lauzer, it is universally excellent, with just the right amount of ornamentation and a good sense of phrasing. He moves easily between the various recorders without breaking a sweat. In short, while there are plenty of recordings out there, you should check this one out for its lively and often joyous performance.
© 2018 Fanfare
Tribune de Genève
October 20, 2018
L’histoire discographique de la dernière décennie nous dit combien, dans le répertoire concertant de Vivaldi, les effectifs ont eu tendance à s’assécher en termes d’expression musicale : tempi toniques et sonorités saignantes, voire râpeuse, voilà en résumé la doxa dominante. Ici, on assiste à un revirement de paradigme, avec un Arion Baroque Orchestre bien charnu, où les premiers violons et le continuo affichent des rondeurs opulentes. Reste la grande virtuosité que requiert l’ensemble des pièces réunies, et sur ce terrain, le flûtiste Vincent Lauzer est un voltigeur aussi agile que peu démonstratif. Un album marquant.
Tribune de Genève
Early Music America
October 9, 2018
Discs like this one give the lie to the idea that Vivaldi rewrote the same concerto several hundred times (or whatever Stravinsky supposedly said about him). The rich low strings opening up RV 312R’s central movement, the harmonic zig-zags of RV 441’s finale, the downright jarring dissonances of RV 442’s otherwise placid Largo, or the melody skipping over a glassy lake of strings in RV 443’s second movement are far from cookie-cutter devices. Vivaldi’s highly-structured, often virtuosic, and incredibly expansive catalog of works may sometimes blur together, but recorder player Vincent Lauzer and Canada’s Arion Baroque Orchestra illuminate its formal as well as its expressive variety Violist Jacques-André Houle’s liner notes explain that Vivaldi composed some of the most difficult works for the recorder of the Baroque era. Lauzer meets these demands with precision and polish throughout the recital, but it is obvious that he reads, hears, and feels through the racing arpeggios and stacked sequences into something deeply personal. From the first track on, he makes a real event out of Vivaldi’s ornate passages with subtle changes of articulation and rhythmic drive. The closing Allegro of RV 445 is a prime example of Lauzer handling even the most labyrinthine lines with care and attention to detail. His metronomic precision actually turns the rapid-fire chirps of RV 312 R’s finale into a riveting account rather than a mechanical exercise.
Lauzer’s tone on alto, soprano, and sopranino recorders is centered, full-bodied, and often beautifully vibrato-less. The contrast between Lauzer’s big, round sound and Arion’s drier strings on the opening Allegro Ma Non Tanto of RV 441 adds further textural as well as narrative interest. RV 441 turns into a miniature scena, recalling the composer’s lengthy theatrical catalog: Opening with divided strings wavering over and under the lead, Lauzer begins his solo in introverted fashion before dramatically opening up into sustained notes and descending runs. The subsequent slow movement finds him working with shadings of tone and dynamics. The final movement pits the orchestra and the soloist against one another in a heated dialog.
Arion Baroque Orchestra
Arion also gets to really lock in with Lauzer in RV 312 R, as well as the duel in RV 441. The well-known La Notte concerto (originally composed for transverse flute) finds soloist and orchestra conjuring up some dreamy, haunted evening with creeping rhythms, muted strings, and staccato outbursts. Arion’s halting gestures and extreme dynamics sometimes come close to exaggeration, yet it is hard to fault these musicians’ obvious passion. The “Sonno” (Slumber) section also features some particularly evocative sustained chords. Most of the time, Arion is accompanying Lauzer rather than competing with him, and while the group never draws undue attention to its part, there is impressive musicianship at work underneath the soloist. Vivaldi would drop the continuo and use upper strings as the sole accompaniment on countless slow movements; Arion’s graceful strings chanting behind the soloist illustrate the sheer simplicity and power of this effect.
Vivaldi was often writing his concertos for the orphans of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, for human beings he knew and with whom he no doubt developed personal relationships. The idea of a human printing press churning out repetitive works is not just unhistorical but misses the charm and invention of Vivaldi’s music. Lauzer and Arion provide strong advocacy for the Red Priest in their program selection and especially through these performances.
Andrew J. Sammut - Early Music America
October 3, 2018
Si Lauzer subjuge par son habileté instrumentale (flûtes alto, soprano et flautino), le plus extraordinaire est qu'il ne le fait jamais avec force ou pour attirer l'attention. Il se laisse porter puis réagit avec passion au tumulte musical. Ainsi la farce, l'exaltation légère, l'élan joueur, le trait d'esprit, la spontanéité, la tendresse, le cocasse, la transe, la poésie, le doute... jailissent de ce(s) petit(s) instrument(s) projeté(s) dans une intimidante envergure orchestrale. Une référence.
Full review HERE
American Record Guide
October 2, 2018
As my colleague, Todd Gorman, has noted, the Vivaldi concertos for recorder are so technically difficult that almost every recording is of very high quality. I fully agree with his recent positive evaluations of Matthias Maute (M/A 2013), Dan Laurin (J/A 2016), and Lucie Horsch (M/A 2017), and would add as a good middle-of-the-road reading, Marion Verbruggen (HM 2907340, N/D 2002). Vincent Lauzer, a student of Maute, faces a great deal of competition, but this is a most enjoyable recording of these works (R 439, 441, 442, 443 for alto recorder; 444 and 445 for sopranino recorder; and 312R, his own arrangement of a violin concerto).
In a number of ways, Lauzer combines some of the best elements and avoids some of the extremes in earlier interpretations. For example, he is as technically adept as Laurin, but doesn’t push the tempos as fast, and has the same lyrical sense as Horsch, but adds a bit more dramatic flair. Lauzer’s ornamentation is both inventive and stylish.
It helps that he has a sensitive accompaniment from the Arion Baroque Orchestra led by Alexander Weimann. This is a larger group than the single strings accompanying Horsch or Erik Bosgraaf (N/D 2010), and offers stronger contrasts. I particularly admire both the flexibility and musicality Lauzer and the orchestra bring to the phrasing. Even the most difficult passagework has a clear musical direction and pacing. A last detail that only adds to my recommendation is Lauzer’s control of the sopranino recorder, which never sounds shrill.
© American Record Guide
May 30, 2018
Vivaldi’s recorder concertos have long been respected – and enjoyed. Enter soloist Vincent Lauzer, who comes with a whole slate of achievement awards. Lauzer tackles his first soprano concerto with relish, meeting the challenge of a demandingly fast Allegro and Allegro molto; in between these two he charms us with a soothing Largo, testing the full gamut of the soprano recorder.
Turn now to the five movements of the treble recorder concerto from the La Notte suite. Once again, a Largo breathes intensity into Vivaldi’s music. Lauzer conducts us through a somewhat sinister composition; as La Notte implies there is indeed something of the night about it.
Of course, this pattern of serious Largos should not be taken as typical, as there is a lightness and pleasure in the Largo movement of Lauzer’s choice of another soprano concerto. This time, too, an Allegro draws on all the soloist’s expertise – it is breathless for both performer and listener. Lauzer absolutely sails through this repertoire, although we should not forget the strings and basso continuo. Listen indeed to the Largo e cantabile of Lauzer’s final choice for treble recorder. It is as though with anything Vivaldi composed, no matter how complex Vivaldi intended it to be, Lauzer performs it with a passion. He enjoys total mastery of his recorders. And we are the highly fortunate listeners.
Michael Schwartz – The WholeNote