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Johan van Veen
MusicWeb International, November 2011

Ronn McFarlane gives very fine performances of the solo parts. The violin and viola d’amore parts are also nicely played. Jennifer Ellis Kampani’s skills are considerable as she convicingly deals with the many coloraturas…She has a pleasant voice which is perfectly suited to this repertoire.

…a programme which is varied and entertaining, and gives a good impression of Vivaldi’s writing for the lute. The performances generally focus on the more intimate and graceful side of Vivaldi’s oeuvre. There are no exaggerations as one meets them now and then in Italian performances of this repertoire. Read complete review

Peter Loewen
American Record Guide, November 2011

The level of virtuosity for the soprano soloist reflects contemporary taste for dazzling vocal passages. The motet is highly technical, and Jennifer Ellis Kampani handles its demands well…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Donald Rosenberg
Gramophone, October 2011

Ronn McFarlane’s lute is ever present in this varied and pleasurable programme

Vivaldi’s output is so vast that listeners have opportunities to hear only a fraction of the composer’s creative gifts. So this new disc by the Bach Sinfonia, which is based near Washington DC, provides pleasurable engagement with music beyond famed climatic concertos and other works that have raised the composer to such a high status. The recording’s title, The Art of Vivaldi’s Lute, may be a bit misleading, since that delicate instrument comes to the fore only in a portion of the programme. But the lute is present throughout the music-making, both in solo and secondary roles, and it can have no better champion than Ronn McFarlane, whose playing is the epitome of grace and rhythmic animation.

McFarlane is very much the protagonist in the Concerto in D major for two violins and lute, RV93, in which the lute weaves lilting material in conversation with the other soloists. It’s possible for the dulcet-voiced lute to get lost amid string textures but conductor Daniel Abraham and his ensemble maintain balances that promote articulate interplay. Each work receives distinctive treatment, among them the Concerto in D minor for viola d’amore, lute, strings and continuo, RV540, in which William Bauer’s invigorating viola d’amore artistry meshes vibrantly with McFarlane’s elegance.

There’s also a chance to hear Vivaldi in motet mode. Soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani is the expressive, nimble soloist in In turbato mare irato in tandem with the Bach Sinfonia’s refined flexibility.

WETA, June 2011

the collegial musicality of all the musicians shines through in each selection…Equally pleasing is the music scholarship of director Daniel Abraham, as articulate and engaging in his role as program annotator as he is when directing the ensemble.

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, June 2011

In “The Art of Vivaldi’s Lute,” famed lutenist Ronn McFarlane joins the Washington area based Bach Sinfonia under its director Daniel Abraham to forge an unbeatable combination. The works for lute and ensemble heard on this disc feature Vivaldi’s characteristic melodiousness and high energy, together with his ability to continually alter a ritornello (refrain) upon each repetition, qualities which prove quite attractive. In the very middle of the program, we have a glowing account of a motet for soprano voice and strings.

The seven selections unfold in neat symmetry: sinfonia – concerto – trio – motet – trio – concerto – sinfonia. As the program annotation tells us, we should really consider the brief but stirring Sinfonias RV 127 and 157 as ensemble concertos (concerti ripieni) to distinguish them from operatic curtainraisers. The Trios RV 82 and 85 have a compact structure (fastslowfast), more like concertos than the usual notion of a Baroque trio sonata. Soulful Larghettos distinguish both works, especially the latter.

The Concerto for Two Violins and Lute, RV 93 is one of Vivaldi’s bestloved, thanks to the flowing lute passagework over accompaniment by violins and bass. This enchanting musical moment has become a rival for Bach’s Aria for G String and Pachelbel’s Canon as a favorite “purple patch” of Baroque fans. Concerto RV 540 for Viola d’Amore and Lute gives both players the opportunity to shine. McFarlane’s lute engages in dialogue with William Bauer’s unique instrument, in which sympathetic strings resonate with those actually bowed, in the fast movements, and he accompanies it with graceful light arpeggios in the Largo movement.

Soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani has the spotlight in the motet In Turbato mare irato (my own rough translation: “I don’t mind if the storm is scary / As long as I’ve got my Virgin Mary”). She contends with, and successfully penetrates through, an evocation by the strings of a storm at sea in the opening aria, and gives eloquent accounts of the pathosladen recitative “Splende serena”, the joyous aria “Resplende bella / divina stella” (Shine, beautiful, divine star) and the florid concluding “Alleluia” that invites comparison with that in Mozart’s famed Exsultate, jubilate, K165., May 2011

Much quieter and more reserved string playing is the order of the day in The Art of Vivaldi’s Lute, which is neatly constructed in an “arch” shape: the CD opens and closes with a sinfonia; the second and second-to-last works are concertos; the third and third-to-last are trios; and the central work is the aria In Turbato mare irato, RV627. Lutenist Ronn McFarlane brings out the gentleness as well as the virtuosity of his instrument throughout this disc, showing that Vivaldi, although a famed (and somewhat controversial) violinist, had an excellent sense of the lute’s capabilities as well. The Concerto in D minor for Lute and Viola d’amore is particularly captivating here, with the tones of the two solo instruments intermingling beautifully and their different methods of sound production complementing each other very effectively. Vivaldi certainly had an ear for the sound of stringed instruments—and so do McFarlane and the players of the Bach Sinfonia under Daniel Abraham.

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