If Avi Avital’s intention is to do for the mandolin what Andrés Segovia did for the classical guitar, he’s already well on the way. Appropriate then that this, his third and possibly best release to date, should feature three Vivaldi concertos popular with guitarists. This homage to Venice’s favourite musical son in many ways picks up where Avital’s terrific debut recording of JS Bach concertos left off. This time, the mandolin’s on home turf, not only returning to its Italian roots but in one case rejoicing in a concerto actually written for it.
Avital and the superb Venice Baroque Orchestra make the C major Mandolin Concerto, RV425, their own, the pizzicato strings and organ continuo the rich clay into which Avital carves his crisp, fluid lines. But even better is the utterly thrilling account of ‘Summer’ from The Four Seasons. Here, as throughout, Avital’s astonishingly smooth legato playing is broken up by rapid détaché passages and propulsive strums that sweep through the music like electrical storms, perfectly complementing the orchestra’s crisp, light string-playing and spooky sul ponticello effects in the slow movement.
As a respite from the concertos’ high drama, there’s an exquisite account of the C major Trio Sonata, originally for violin and lute with continuo. Avital again takes the violin’s part, while harpsichord duties fall to the brilliant Mahan Esfahani, recently signed to DG. The gentle final track, where Avital and friends accompany tenor Juan Diego Flórez in the charming gondolier’s song ‘La biondina in gondoleta’, feels just right. (Gramophone)