Concerto. Venice: The Golden Age
Vivaldi, Porta, Marcello
Xenia Löffler, oboe
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Harmonia Mundi, 2014
The Golden Age of Venetian Music
Few other cities has inspired so many fine works than Venice. Their liveliness, refinement and quietness so closely remind of the flowing of the water under the Ponte di Rialto, the most famous bridge of La Serenissima, and are so familiar that it is almost impossible to mistake them with those written for another place. It was in the last century of the rule of the Maritime Republic that some of the most significant composers lived and worked, as if they have decided to meet there to end lavishly the golden years of Venice.
The major composers who lived in Venice between the 17th and 18th centuries shed shine on the city on the lagoon with their wonderful concertos, symphonies and overtures. The first name that comes to everyone’s mind is of course that of Antonio Vivaldi, who composed his concertos mainly for the Ospedale della Pietà, where foundling girls were educated and where he worked as maestro de’ concerti. Two other composers of the present collection, Giovanni Porta and Carlo Tessarini, worked at the ospedali too and the only one who considered music just a pastime was the noble, highly cultivated Alessandro Marcello, elder brother of the most famous Benedetto.
The Golden Age: the Performance
Oboist Xenia Löffler is the dedicatee of the first concerto. It is described as a quasi-pasticcio and nicknamed “L’Olimpiade” after Vivaldi’s homonymous opera. Composer Uri Rom wrote it in 2013 to comply with a request of the Akademie für Alte Musik. This nice concerto is the perfect introduction to the entire album as, for its features, it is a summary of the mood and feelings of the next concertos. There, the listener already enjoys the light and carefree atmosphere of the Venetian works that will follow as it imitates la maniera di Vivaldi and Tessarini.
Overall, the album offers wonderful and delightful pieces of music where laziness and enthusiasm, quietness and restlessness are blended together in the typical, bright Italian way. The fine ensemble Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and distinguished solo oboist Xenia Löffler perform the seven delightful works by Vivaldi, Porta, Marcello and Tessarini with skill and taste. Löffler, one of the most acclaimed oboists of our time, has already given several samples of her talent, as in her album Handel: My favourite instrument, and in Concerto she proves to have enviable skill and innate sensitivity, qualities that allows her to identify herself with the spirit of the concertos.
The feelings and emotions she conveys are expressed in a natural and straightforward way and they appear with delicacy, as if Löffler is trying to reveal to the listener a vague profundity without depriving him or her of the pleasure of the lightness of Baroque music.
The last feature to point out is Löffler’s understanding and enthusiasm for the eight works she performs, while her sweetness and grace, which are personal qualities, become a feature of the instrument itself, as if it could not be separated from them.