Label: Deutsche Grammophon (DG)
Composer: Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Emanuele Barbella (1718-1777), Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816), Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)
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- Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741): Concerto in B Minor, RV 580 (Adapt. for 4 Mandolins, Strings and Continuo):
- 1Vivaldi: Concerto in B Minor, RV 580 (Adapt. for 4 Mandolins, Strings and Continuo): I. Allegro03:37
- 2Vivaldi: Concerto in B Minor, RV 580 (Adapt. for 4 Mandolins, Strings and Continuo): II. Largo - Larghetto - Adagio - Largo01:56
- 3Vivaldi: Concerto in B Minor, RV 580 (Adapt. for 4 Mandolins, Strings and Continuo): III. Allegro03:10
- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750): Concerto in C Minor, BWV 1060R (Adapt. for Mandolin, Recorder, Strings and Continuo):
- 4J.S. Bach: Concerto in C Minor, BWV 1060R (Adapt. for Mandolin, Recorder, Strings and Continuo): I. Allegro04:34
- 5J.S. Bach: Concerto in C Minor, BWV 1060R (Adapt. for Mandolin, Recorder, Strings and Continuo): II. Adagio04:36
- 6J.S. Bach: Concerto in C Minor, BWV 1060R (Adapt. for Mandolin, Recorder, Strings and Continuo): III. Allegro03:18
- Emanuele Barbella (1718 - 1777): Mandolin Concerto in D Major:
- 7Barbella, Avital: Mandolin Concerto in D Major: I. Allegro (Cadenza: A. Avital)02:41
- 8Barbella: Mandolin Concerto in D Major: II. Andantino03:53
- 9Barbella: Mandolin Concerto in D Major: III. Giga. Allegro01:38
- Giovanni Paisiello (1740 - 1816): Mandolin Concerto in E-Flat Major:
- 10Paisiello: Mandolin Concerto in E-Flat Major: I. Allegro maestoso05:10
- 11Paisiello: Mandolin Concerto in E-Flat Major: II. Larghetto grazioso (Cadenza: A. Avital)06:23
- 12Paisiello: Mandolin Concerto in E-Flat Major: III. Allegretto04:21
- Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 - 1837): Mandolin Concerto in G Major, S. 28:
- 13Hummel: Mandolin Concerto in G Major, S. 28: I. Allegro moderato e grazioso07:22
- 14Hummel: Mandolin Concerto in G Major, S. 28: II. Andante con variazioni03:48
- 15Hummel: Mandolin Concerto in G Major, S. 28: III. Rondo. Allegro (Cadenza: A. Avital)04:01
Info for Concertos
"Concertos" by Avi Avital: The Star Mandolinist Fulfils a Long-held Dream by Recording with Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini.
“This is how I want to make music!” That was Avi Avital’s reaction when he first saw Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini play live in Jerusalem. Now famed worldwide for his own charismatic and passionate performances, the mandolinist is delighted to be joined by this exciting period-instrument ensemble and its conductor and co-founder on his latest album, entitled simply Concertos. Together they perform three original concertos for mandolin – by Barbella, Paisiello and Hummel – and Avital’s own adaptations of concertos by J.S. Bach and Vivaldi. Antonini is the recorder soloist in the Bach, while elaborate recording techniques allow Avital to play all four parts in the Vivaldi. Concertos is set for release by Deutsche Grammophon on 17 November.
Avi Avital was a young student at the Jerusalem Music Academy when he was, to use his own word, “dragged” by a Baroque enthusiast friend to an Il Giardino Armonico concert. “It was a truly formative experience,” he recalls. “Everything about them was different – they played Vivaldi with such physical energy and power of expression.” Now, on Concertos, the ensemble partners Avital in what he says is probably his favourite Vivaldi concerto: RV 580 in B minor, originally for four violins.
The mandolinist had long cherished a “clear vision” of how he wanted to perform this work. Given recent technological advances, he and Antonini decided to experiment with multitrack recording to enable him to play all four parts in his adaptation of the concerto. Avital ended up using four different mandolins – and two mandolas – in this showstopping interpretation, enabling each voice to have a different colour and character. “I’m extremely proud of the result,” he says. “I feel we managed to create the feeling of a live performance in which the soloists are communicating with each other.”
Avital’s second adaptation transforms J.S. Bach’s well-known Concerto for violin and oboe, BWV 1060R into a “lighter and brighter” version for mandolin and recorder. Rehearsing and recording the work, notes the artist, led to all the musicians involved reformulating the way they thought about the concerto. His fellow soloist here is none other than Giovanni Antonini – a virtuoso recorder player and flautist. Avital’s inclusion of this work is part of his “lifelong mission” to record as much of the composer’s music as possible, and extends his existing DG Bach discography.
Of this recording’s three original works for Avital’s instrument, two come from Naples, the city synonymous with the sound of the mandolin. As the artist points out, Neapolitan culture was, and is, full of colour, emotion and theatricality, and these qualities are mirrored in the E flat major Concerto attributed to Giovanni Paisiello – stylistically worlds apart from the Vivaldi. “We invented our own dramatic narratives for this concerto during rehearsals,” he says. “You’re invited to imagine your own story when you listen to it.”
Fellow Neapolitan composer Emanuele Barbella, 20 years Paisiello’s senior, also composed vibrant, picturesque music, including incidental works for commedia dell’arte performances. He wrote a number of pieces for mandolin, among them the concise but striking D major Concerto on this album. Its central Andantino, observes Avital, has the feel of a Neapolitan love song.
His fifth and final choice of concerto is a work by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, better known in his day as a brilliant pianist than as a composer. His music is more traditional than that of his friend and rival Beethoven but, notes Avital, was written with the performer and concert experience in mind. Hummel’s G major Concerto is full of humour and drama, based on his knowledge of what would win over Viennese audiences. It was composed for the Italian virtuoso Bartolomeo Bortolazzi, who helped rescue the mandolin from artistic obscurity in the early 19th century.
The parallel between Bortolazzi’s achievements and those of Avi Avital are clear. In Avital’s hands, the mandolin is back at the heart of classical music, its repertoire reinvigorated and expanded thanks to his tireless efforts in reviving neglected pieces, creating adaptations of works originally written for other instruments, and commissioning new music from many of today’s leading composers.
Avi Avital, mandolin
Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini, conductor
Music history proved unkind to the classical mandolin, whose popularity declined during the nineteenth century as tastes changed and more powerful orchestral instruments were developed. In recent years, however, Avi Avital has raised its international profile and revitalised its repertoire, moving it from the margins to the mainstream of concert life. “I see it as my mission to fill the historical gap in the mandolin repertoire, so there will be no shortage of good compositions for the instrument in future,” he says. His eloquent artistry, applied to everything from daredevil transcriptions of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to over 100 new commissions by composers such as David Bruce, Anna Clyne, Avner Dorman and Giovanni Sollima, combines jaw-dropping virtuosity, scintillating musicianship and expressive intensity.
Born in 1978 in the desert city of Beersheba (Be’er Sheva) in southern Israel, Avital began playing mandolin at the age of eight and promptly joined the local youth mandolin orchestra, a remarkable ensemble founded by the Russian-born violinist Simcha Nathanson, whose charismatic teaching and use of transcribed violin pieces left an indelible impression on the young Avi. “He taught me music,” he notes. “The instrument to me is not the point.”
After studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, Avital moved to Italy and absorbed lessons about the mandolin’s historic repertoire from Ugo Orlandi at the Cesare Pollini Conservatory in Padua. He soon broke with tradition, however, in search of a personal artistic identity. Encounters with different musical traditions and genres – from bluegrass and jazz to world music – and collaborations with his mentor, the great klezmer clarinettist Giora Feidman, prepared the way for his emergence as a mandolin pioneer.
Avital’s progress gathered speed in 2007 when he became the first mandolinist to win Israel’s Aviv Competition (for young musicians on the verge of a professional career), and continued with a succession of debut dates at, among other prestigious venues, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing and the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Since then, as well as appearing at the major international festivals and performing with the world’s leading orchestras, he has also forged close partnerships with other artists who share his openness to musical exploration, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, accordionist Ksenija Sidorova and percussionist Itamar Doari among them. In 2010 Avital became the first mandolin player ever to be nominated for a Grammy® Award, when he was included in the “Best Instrumental Soloist” category for his recording of Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto. He signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 2012 and launched his Yellow Label discography soon after with an album of his own arrangements of harpsichord and violin concertos by J.S. Bach. Avital signalled his commitment to new repertoire with his second DG album, Between Worlds (2014), a survey of works inspired by folk-music traditions, complete with compositions by Bartók, Bloch, Falla, Piazzolla, Tsintsadze and Villa-Lobos.
Released in 2015, Vivaldi presented the eponymous composer’s Mandolin Concerto and transcriptions of other concertos, including “Summer” from The Four Seasons, together with the traditional Venetian song “La biondina in gondoleta”, sung by Juan Diego Flórez. Avital Meets Avital, released in 2017, contains the rich fruits of a creative dialogue between Avi Avital and his namesake the Israeli-American jazz bassist, composer and bandleader Omer Avital. Most of the works recorded were specifically composed for the album, drawing on a range of musical traditions, including those of North Africa, the Balkans and Andalucia. Avital’s next album, Art of the Mandolin, released in 2020, was a groundbreaking addition to his discography – his first recording to consist entirely of original mandolin works. With music by Vivaldi, Domenico Scarlatti, Beethoven, Henze and Ben-Haim, as well as world premiere recordings of new commissions by David Bruce and Giovanni Sollima, the album surveys three centuries of the classical mandolin repertoire, reflecting both its quality and its breadth. For his latest album, entitled simply Concertos, Avital is joined by the period-instrument ensemble Il Giardino Armonico and its conductor and co-founder Giovanni Antonini. They have recorded original concertos for mandolin by Barbella, Paisiello and Hummel, together with Avital’s own adaptations of works by J.S. Bach and Vivaldi. Antonini appears as recorder soloist in the Bach and, thanks to technology, Avital plays all four parts in the Vivaldi. The album will be released on 17 November.
Among his recent live highlights are seven concerts in 48 hours with the Zürcher Kammerorchester, as artist in residence at the 2023 ZKO Festival; touring with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, including performances of Anna Clyne’s Three Sisters concerto at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival; and a South American tour with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen, taking in venues in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Lima and Bogotá.
Avital’s forthcoming engagements include an appearance at the George Enescu Festival in Bucharest with the Between Worlds Ensemble, which he founded in 2014, followed by dates with pianist Omer Klein in Cluj and Sibiu (8–10 September 2023); a North American tour with accordionist Hanzhi Wang (October); and concerts with Il Giardino Armonico featuring repertoire from Concertos in Rotterdam, Seoul, Zagreb, Cologne and London (December).