‘Vivaldi x2’ presents a medley of double concertos for hunting horns, oboes, bassoon, violin and cello, and it’s a feast of pleasures right from its RV539 kick-off: the most glittering of Vivaldi’s two double horn concertos, featuring some of the highest-tessitura horn-writing in the entire Baroque and headed up here by soloists Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot with some fantastically nimble, neat, exuberant period horn playing.
Recording of the month: “Fruitily incisive, the horn playing of Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot is jaw-droppingly to the point, (especially in RV539 whose high tessitura throws down a particularly challenging gauntlet).
Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine, September 2018.
With eight concerti on the album, the fair thing to do would be to give equal space to each one. However, pride of place has to go to the incredible talent of the two horn soloists Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot. The two concerti on this album for paired horns are some of the first concertante works ever written for the horn, newly ‘tamed’ and brought from the hunt indoors to the concert hall, and they really put this newcomer of an instrument through its paces. The first concerto (RV539, which opens the album) sits in an exceptionally high tessitura throughout – so much so that I couldn’t help but smirk upon hearing the strings smoothly take over one particular rising sequence, which ascends so high that Vivaldi must have been begged by his players to show mercy!
Adrian ChandlerThere’s some indication that in eighteenth-century Italy the horn was sometimes viewed as a doubling instrument for trumpeters (much as the cor anglais is for modern oboists), and these stratospheric parts certainly bear this theory out. Anneke Scott’s prodigious technique scales these heights with ease, negotiating with clarity and assurance clarino pitches which would be terrifyingly insecure even on a modern horn, let alone the specially-commissioned period replica she plays here. It’s noticeable that she errs on the side of caution, daintily pointing these high notes with a light touch rather than tempting fate by giving them too much weight.
The second double horn concerto, RV538, involves less outright mountaineering but if anything more breathtaking agility than the first – nimble arpeggio motifs dashed off left, right and centre by both soloists as if they were the easiest thing in the world.
David Smith, Presto Classical Recording of the week, 20th July 2018.
“The Concerto in F for 2 horns, RV 539, features eye-wateringly high solo lines that are unrivalled in the Baroque era (and equalled later only by some of the more stratospherically demanding Haydn symphonies). Probably composed for soloists who were primarily trumpeters, this work exploits an exceptionally wide tessitura, enabling the horns to play expressive lines in the slow movement – a most unusual feature for the period. The outer movements contain the customary hunting calls, but coupled with exceptionally agile and exciting passagework. Both here and in the earthier Concerto RV 538 (a lower-lying but hugely enjoyable work), soloists Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot wear their virtuosity lightly, aided by some stylishly vivid continuo playing.”
“Of Vivaldi's 500 or so surviving concertos, over 50 are for pairs of instruments. Eight of them are squeezed onto this effervescent disc – easy enough when they last around nine minutes each. Wind players will already know several of them, but few of us can hope to reach the heights scaled here. Literally so in the case of the RV 539 Concerto for two horns. Fiendish enough on a modern horn, here we get Anneke Scott and Jocelyn Lightfoot squeezing out volleys of impossibly high notes with gleeful abandon. The period instruments’ limitations reduce what can written in terms of accompaniment, so there's a fair bit of static F major noodling. But it never gets dull: Vivaldi's rhythmic ingenuity and lithe, springy backing from Adrian Chandler’s La Serenissima keep things buoyant.”