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‘The ghost of the scandalously neglected Alessandro Scarlatti must be deeply envious of Vivaldi,’ remarks Michael Talbot. He attributes his revival to a variety of factors, from the advent of the LP to the rise of the early music movement, but modestly refrains from mentioning himself. Yet, his writings on Vivaldi, like those of Winton Dean on Handel or H. C. Robbins Landon on Haydn, have helped to galvanize both popular and scholarly interest in a composer whose reputation, until fairly recently, rested almost entirely on a handful of works (Le quattro stagioni, the Gloria, RV 589).

This fact-packed reference book incorporates the latest research on Vivaldi’s life and music and is written in a terse, yet engaging, style. Talbot opts for an A–Z format, supplemented by a biographical essay, a detailed list of works and a bibliography. Regrettably, there is no thematic overview, but overall this is an impressively wide-ranging guide, that in fewer than 300 pages, covers Vivaldi’s family and colleagues, the places he worked, the genres and forms he employed, and much more – including individual, albeit brief, entries on the operas, oratorios and selected instrumental works. Talbot even finds room for fascinating esoterica, from ‘acephalic reprise’ to ‘rastrology’; yet his academic bias can become a problem, so there are entries on several musicologists but none on modern performers or significant recordings. Nevertheless, Scarlatti’s ghost must feel especially envious that his rival has such a knowledgeable and dedicated advocate.

Graham Locke Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing