The thought of listening to yet another recording of
the Four Seasons did not immediately appeal to me. To show my
age, I remember a musical world in which the Four Seasons did
not exist, and I remember hearing and buying the very first LP recording
(there had been an earlier recording on 78s which I have never heard.)
with violinist Louis Kaufman and the "Concert Hall Society Chamber
Orchestra" which was, for its time, a marvel of original instrument/original
performance practice. In some ways it is still the best version ever
done, because these musicians were presenting this music for the very
first time in their lives and nothing can equal that sense of novelty
and discovery that informed their performance. No-one has ever brought
the third movement of ‘Spring’ so joyously to life as Louis Kaufman.
I also bought the very first stereo LP recording, with violinist Jan
Tomasow and I Solisti di Zagreb. That also remains one of my very favourite
recordings. No one ever played the aria from ‘Winter’ as affectingly
or as richly beautiful in tone as Jan Tomasow. This was also Igor Stravinsky’s
favourite performance. For a while there I tried to buy every version
that came out, but quickly became overwhelmed and gave most of them
Listening to this version was an uncomplicated pleasure
which seemed to be over too soon. This version is every bit as good
as any I’ve heard on CD. The violinist plays excellently, adding just
a little ornamentation to the slow movements to enliven them but not
in any way distort the comely melodic lines. The recording is unusually
reverberant but since the surround sound perspective is precise, there
is no illusion of distance — quite the contrary, one does feel surrounded.
This recording is also available as a multi channel SACD which I have
not had the pleasure of auditioning but which should be a wonderful
Because this reduction for 44/16 is a little harsh
and clouded in sound the orchestra tend to merge into a single voice,
like a ‘patch’ on a synthesiser, rather than to resolve into individual
instruments. That said, the solo violin is generally clearly in front,
and the melodic lines remain clear overall. My advice is to wait until
you convert to whichever of the new high resolution multi-channel formats
survives and then buy this disk as your demonstration recording.
The ‘Tempesta’ and ‘Piacere’ concerti here receive
excellent performances in the same style as the first four concerti.
Since here we have just half of the concerti from Opus 8, it is hoped
that the producers’ motivation for putting out such a short-timed CD
is that they soon intend to release the second half to comprise a complete
recording of Opus 8. That would be another good reason to wait. Complete
Opus 8s are rare and this one is starting out to be the best ever.