Deutsche Grammophon, 2015
On this album Avi Avital, probably the greatest living mandolin player (who else comes close?), is accompanied by the musicians of the Venice Baroque Orchestra.
Avital gives us a vibrant and very contemporary interpretation of Vivaldi together with a beautiful display of mandolin playing. At certain moments his playing is gentle, a silvery tinkle, meditative and slow. While at other times there is flow and exuberant delight. A surfeit of exquisite, undulating rhythms. Mandolin music so joyful you could dance to it.
The works by Vivaldi consist of four concertos, one sonata and one movement from a further concerto. There is also a traditional Venetian song, La biondina in gondoleta, sung by the tenor Juan Diego Florez. This is a tender love song, whose melody one might liken to the motion of a gondola through water. Gentle and swaying. In the song it is night and a couple are in a gondola, the man looking on as moonlight falls on his beloved as she sleeps…
It is interesting to note that only one of these works by Vivaldi, the Mandolin Concerto In C Major, was specifically written for Avi Avital’s instrument. The others were originally written for flautino, lute and of course violin and have been transcribed for mandolin by Avital himself.
The best known work on the album is probably the Concerto In G Minor, or ‘Summer’, part of The Four Seasons. It is a well known, even hackneyed work, yet in Avital’s hands it still has the capacity to surprise. Something to do with the way he builds it slow, so that the melody seems to shimmer on the edge, like a bird perched on a branch. Then a majestic flight, building higher and higher still. Ending with a riot of colour as all life is let loose. Splendid stuff.
Further details of the album can be found at the Deutsche Grammophon website, here.
Avi Avital’s tour dates can be seen here.