Vivaldi’s most famous work readily lends itself to being performed on flute or recorder, the instruments’ pastoral and avian associations making them a natural fit for these bucolic tone poems overflowing with evocations of birdsong, peasant dances and storms.
Jane Rutter and Sinfonia Australis take a hybrid approach, combining modern flute with a small period band under the brilliant Erin Helyard conducting from the harpsichord. Many of the players are Brandenburg Orchestra regulars, including Matt Bruce, Kirsty McCahon and Tommie Andersson on theorbo.
The argument thus becomes less about authenticity per se and more about marrying an appropriate period style to an anachronistic tonal palette. Fortunately, it works a treat. Adopting a flexible approach to pulse and tempo throughout – both qualities can be heard right from the outset in Spring – Rutter steers a middle course between highly articulated declamation and floating lyricism in the midst of Sinfonia Australis’ sharply drawn yet delicately rendered sylvan landscapes.
Of the two works included which Vivaldi actually did write for flute, the ever-popular Concerto in D Minor RV428 “Il gardellino” and the Concerto in G Minor “La notte”, Rutter uses a 19th-century instrument with an ebony joint for the latter. The sound is ravishing and more akin to the sweeter, slightly veiled tone of the wooden baroque flute.