Gli Incogniti / Amandine Beyer (above, photo Clara Honorato)
Wigmore Hall, London, 13 June 2016
written by Ben Hogwood
Audio (open in a new window)
Available until 12 July
What’s the music?
Vivaldi Sinfonia from L’Olimpiade, RV725 (1733) (6 minutes)
Violin Concerto in F, RV282 () (11 minutes)
Violin Concerto in G minor, RV322 (1728) (10 minutes)
Concerto in G for violin ‘in tromba marina’, RV313 () (7 minutes)
Ballo Primo from Arsilda, regina di Ponto, RV700, & Giga, RV316 (1716) (4 minutes)
Violin Concerto in D, RV228 (c1720-30) (9 minutes)
In case you cannot hear the broadcast, Gli Incogniti have recorded all the Vivaldi music played in this concert, and it can be heard here:
About the music
Vivaldi wrote a vast amount of music, a lot of it functional. Yet through the duty of being a court composer there was always the spirit of invention in his music, especially when certain restrictions were imposed, such as for the concerto written for a violin ‘in tromba marina’, where Amandine Beyer plays an instrument where she has virtually destroyed the bridge to give an unusually distorted sound.
The G minor violin concerto, RV322, has been reconstructed by Beyer herself, while the Ballo Primo and Giga is a nice combination of three movements that effectively make up a concerto. The third of these is actually by Bach, but based on a work of Vivaldi.
Finally the group and Beyer play one of the composer’s ‘Dresden’ concertos, which Vivaldi wrote for the Dresden Hofkapelle, whose army of forty or more players made it one of the largest orchestras at the time.
Gli Incogniti exhibit pure enjoyment when they play the music of Vivaldi, and the concert here was full of the enthusiasm they bring to his music. Because of this there was plenty of energy on display, with the solo violinist and conductor Amandine Beyer responsible for some gravity defying solo virtuosity.
She also had to battle against the elements, for her instruments seemed determine to go out of tune – a hazard for all period instrument groups – but she battled with the elements with impressive ease.
What should I listen out for?
1:38 – the Sinfonia starts like the wind in the branches of a tree, with repeated notes (tremolandi) on the strings creating momentum. The music is lively and quite ceremonial.
3:49 – for the bittersweet slow movement Vivaldi turns to a minor key, and the violins take a reflective tone.
6:25 – a perky fast movement to complete a typical three-movement format. The lower parts are much more active than the upper this time.
Violin Concerto in F major RV282
8:37 – quite a cheeky start to the first movement concerto, with a breezy main theme. Eventually the music winds up so the soloist can show their mettle, and the violin’s bright tone dominates proceedings from here on.
13:12 – as is customary for a concerto in a major key (F major in this case) Vivaldi uses what is known as the ‘relative minor’, that is the minor key closest related to F major – which is D minor. It is suited for the sombre and relatively stern mood that the music takes. Again the violin leads proceedings.
15:28 – the carefree mood is resumed with another bright and breezy tune from the strings, the violin taking over at 16:07.
Violin Concerto in G minor, RV322
20:28 – the serious tones of the opening lessen a little as the music becomes more energetic, but there is still a darker atmosphere around this music. The violin takes over early on, and you may be able to hear the metallic glint of the harpsichord behind it.
24:49 – staying in G minor, Vivaldi slows the tempo almost to a complete stop. This is an especially poignant movement, the textures quite sparse with a searching melody given to the solo violinist.
27:47 – the third movement feels like a statement of defiance after the sorrow of the slow movement. It has the characteristic Vivaldi energy, whether in the bold strings or the tricky solo part. It ends with impressive gusto.
Concerto in G for violin ‘in tromba marina’, RV313
The violin for this has been adapted by Amandine Beyer so that it rattles when she plays the strings, so it might sound a bit unconventional!
32:07 – the rasp of Beyer’s instrument can be heard as part of the powerful thrust that begins this piece. At times the distortion sounds almost electronic, but is put in context by the steady accompaniment by bass section and harpsichord.
34:50 – a rather beautiful but stark tone from Beyer’s instrument as the music moves into the slow movement.
37:05 – a vigorous, scrubbing motion brings in the music of the third movement, after which we hear Beyer in a solo capacity again, with what sounds like some really tricky passage work!
Ballo Primo and Giga
41:15 – quite a gentle, lilting piece of dance music in triple time, with an attractive colour to the violins.
43:08 – staying in triple time, the next movement is a quicker one, harder on the hips I suspect!
44:07 – the tempo is even faster for the ‘giga’, the violins playing a distinctive three-note motif that takes over the whole dance.
Violin Concerto in D major RV228
47:20 – a brisk theme begins the violin concerto with a sense of purpose on the part of the ensemble, which the solo violin takes up at 47:48.
50:13 – the textures change for the slow movement, as the violins adopt use plucking in the background. The soloist becomes really elaborate in her playing, with some emotive trills and turns to the melody, complemented by some colourful harmonies from the cello and harpsichord. This all takes place in B minor, the ‘relative’ minor key of the concerto’s key of D major.
52:21 – a rush of melodies from the violins return the mood back to one of optimism. There is a highly virtuosic cadenza for the soloist from 54:40.
58:45 – as fresh as a spring day, this encore (the slow movement from a Violin Concerto in B flat major, RV372a) again uses plucked violins before the solo violin arrives with an expressive and endearing simple melody over the top.
As a complement to their Vivaldi, here is another album from Gli Incogniti and Amandine Beyer, concentrating on his French contemporary François Couperin: