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Reviews: Bellezza Crudel - Tone Wik & Barokkanerne

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Reviews: 3
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Site review by Castor November 30, 2008
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is a marvellous disc and a real feast of delights for lovers of Vivaldi’s vocal and instrumental music.

The four short Cantatas recorded here are interspersed with two of Vivaldi’s many concertos, one for bassoon (RV484) and the other for flute, played here on the alto recorder (RV441).

The soloist in the Cantatas is the soprano Tone Wik who specialises in music of this period. She possesses an ideal vocal timbre for these pieces. Her pure, bright tone and even production across the whole range is combined with appealing warmth. In addition, her voice has ‘personality’, something that is often missing from other singers in this repertoire, where character is replaced by a sterile ‘whiteness’ that robs the music of vibrancy and life.

Each of the Cantatas is a gem. The texts are full of wonderful 18th century ‘conceits’, while Vivaldi’s often florid music presents huge challenges to even the most gifted performer. Whilst Tone Wik negotiates these challenges with ease, for example in the rapid second aria of Cantata RV697 (Track 4), very occasionally elsewhere some of her diction was slightly vague. The excellent Barokkanerne, a Norwegian ensemble formed in 1989 comprising a group of musicians who have a specialist interest in Baroque music, plays all the accompaniments with unfailing alertness and style.

In the concertos, the woody sounding bassoon of Per Hannisdal gives much pleasure, while Alexandra Opsahl’s virtuoso playing of the recorder in the outer movements of RV441 is quite astonishing.

It seems almost unnecessary to add that 2L’s DXD 5.1 recording is state-of-the-art. The sense of the listener being present with the musicians is almost uncanny, particularly when listening to the surround sound layer. The recording venue of Jar Church provides an intimate yet warm acoustic, one in which every vocal and instrumental line is crystal clear. Presentation is of the usual uniformly high standard, with the Italian texts and translations in English and Norwegian provided, as well as detailed notes on the music and the performers.

An unqualified top recommendation.

Copyright © 2008 Graham Williams and

Site review by ramesh January 7, 2009
Performance:   Sonics:  
This well-programmed SACD intersperses two instrumental concertos amongst four attractive, concise soprano cantatas, all accorded the 2L label's exemplary sound.
In an inspired analogy, the liner notes suggest that Vivaldi's 'cantatas can be seen as the short story of the vocal arts- a distillation of the opera, which in its simplicity may have been suitable for tours, for use at concerts at court or musical soirées in the homes of affluent citizens.'
The young soprano Tone Wik sings vibrantly in these works, with a touch more vibrato than some others utilise in period performances. These cantatas are scarcely religious, as quotes from the opening lines demonstrate : 'What joy is longing, wretched heart'; 'The little butterfly flutters around the light, the bee flies round the flowers, and Clizia, in love follows her sun'; 'Though the forest, field and brook thrive without soul, My tears have the power to move them to pity'; 'In the shadow of doubt, The constancy of my love loses some faith, and does not believe in beauty's flattery'.
For whatever occasion Vivaldi composed these rousing and arousing works, the lyrics are clearly superior to those used by a modern chanteuse such as Carla Bruni-- and doubtless Vivaldi's torch singer was assumed to have great vocal dexterity, to compensate for any lack of skills in the social climbing domain.

The concerto RV441 also appears on a PentaTone SACD of Vivaldi flute concertos [ PTC 5186108 ], including two from the famous Op10 set. In the 2L disc, the soloist plays an alto recorder. This work was originally composed for a recorder before its later adaptation for flute. 2L's soloist, Alexandra Opsahl, is every bit as nimble as the recorder virtuoso Dan Laurin who stars in the innovative BIS SACD of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'. Comparing Opsahl's interpretation to the early 1970's performances on the PentaTone SACD and William Bennett's recording with the ASMF on Decca, one hears the general tendency of modern performances of this repertory to have slightly brisker tempi, especially in slow movements, allied to greater dynamic contrasts within the phrase.

The DXD recording [ 32 bit floating point @ 352.8 kHz ] is of demonstration standard. Comparisons to the beautifully balanced 1973 analogue Philips tape on the PentaTone SACD show a glorious richness in the modern 2L recording which outshines any competition. Taken by itself the PentaTone disc is outstanding, outshining the relatively good CD sound Decca achieved in their transfers of the vintage Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. How much this is due to 2L's DXD recording process, or the use of state-of-the-art microphones and cabling is a moot point, one that most music lovers would be grateful for yet set aside when listening to the beautiful sounds captured on this release.

Copyright © 2009 Ramesh Nair and

Site review by Polly Nomial January 28, 2009
Performance:   Sonics:  
An enchanting disc of relatively rare Vivaldi vocal works with a couple of much more familiar concertos.

All the participants on this disc are first rate, from Tone Wik (soprano) and the guest leader of Barokkanerne (Rodolfo Richter of The Palladians) to the ensemble string players and all in between (such as bassoonist Per Hannisdal, alto recordist Alexandra Opsahl who star in their respective concertos and the harpsichordist Christian Kjos). Throughout, all these Baroque specialists phrase and give delight to the listeners that would be hard to match let alone better. Tone Wik possesses the ideal sound for this repertoire, a light refreshing voice that just floats into the room.

All the accompaniments are sensitively played and whilst they never threaten to overwhelm any soloists phrase, nor do they merely plod away in the background - this is a genuine collaboration. Most of the music is sparsely scored, with only the "flute" concerto given more than solo string backing (much of the content of the cantatas is just accompanied by basso continuo).

2L's sound is as crystal clear as one has come to expect although some may find the positioning of the microphones a little too close for comfort - there is no getting away from the fact that we are either on stage or in the very front row (not everyone's first choice!) This apart, there is absolutely nothing to quibble at whatsoever.

Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2009 John Broggio and