Spring arrived at the Kennedy Center last night, and it could scarcely have been more welcome. Ushered in with elegant style by I Nuovi Virtuosi di Roma, it was, of course, the first part of Vivaldi's famed set of concertos titled the "Four Seasons." The twittering of the birds written into the violin solos filled the Terrace Theater with sounds glorious enough to make the listener expect to find cherry trees in bloom outside.
I Virtuosi di Roma -- the "Nuovi" presumably is a recognition of the younger generation now holding the bows -- has been delighting American audiences with its interpretations of Italian baroque music since the '50s. All the expected virtues were in this concert, including the richness of tone, the perfection of ensemble and the interpretive precision. Though the "Four Seasons" has been performed and recorded enough to be almost a classical cliche', I Virtuosi managed to infuse it with a fresh energy. The inner strength of the slower movements proved a special pleasure, especially in the "Autumn" concerto where the strings quietly sustained long legato lines over the harpsichord's accompaniment of broken chords.
Cellist Rocco Filippini capped the evening's virtuosity with the graceful brilliance of his playing in Haydn's C-Major Cello Concerto. Skipping up and down the fingerboard with an appealing lyricism, even in the heady pace of the final movement, Filippini won not only the audience's heart but also the well-deserved applause of his colleagues.
The program opened with a spirited performance of Vivaldi's Concerto in D Minor, Op. 3, No. 11, one of the composer's more interesting and varied works.