Does the very name of Vivaldi trigger a sort of Pavlovian response in string players/conductors?

It seems almost de rigueur to do an awful lot of energetic scrubbing (violins) and violent percussiveness (’cellos). Just because he was Italian (therefore testosterone-charged even though in holy orders) and just because his name begins “viv” (as in vivacious) it does not mean all his works have to be played like that. Remember he composed largely for a girls’ convent orphanage. No doubt there were some feisty females there, but might we not suppose that in 18th century Venice there were some gentle and sensitive souls too?

My reason for this post is that, sometime during the past week one of Vivaldi’s (many) string concertos was played on BBC Radio 3 (I can’t remember where or when). It struck me that this particular piece did not need the blood and guts treatment, and would indeed have been more eloquent had it been allowed to unfold in a more measured fashion.

I must admit that my favourite Vivaldi concertos are generally speaking NOT for string soloists.


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