Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerti Grossi, Op.8, Nos.1-4, Le quattro stagioni (1725) (Concerto No.1 in E, RV269, la Primavera [10:07]; Concerto No.2 in g minor, RV315, l’Estate [9:56]; Concerto No.3 in F, RV293, l’Autunno [11:37]; Concerto No.4 in f minor, l’Inverno [8:28])
Concerti Grossi, Op.4, La Stravaganza (excerpts): (Concerto No.10 for four violins, cello and strings, in c minor, RV196 [7:45]; Concerto No.3 for violin and strings, in G, RV301 [9:15]; Concerto No.4 for four violins and strings, in a minor, RV550 [9:09])
John Holloway (violin)
Taverner Players/Andrew Parrott (Four Seasons)
Andrew Manze (violin and direction)
La Stravaganza Köln (La Stravaganza)
rec. 1983 (Four Seasons) and 1991 (La Stravaganza), Rosslyn Hill Chapel, London
DAL SEGNO DSPRCD058 [64.17] 

Brian Wilson has already provided a comprehensive comparative review involving this recording, and I am pretty much in agreement with his comments. The Four Seasons is one of those pieces with which you could build a substantial library just of the one piece, so the question is; where does this one fit in amongst the rest?
To be honest I’m not quite sure in such a vast field, but from where I sit it doesn’t seem to come very high on the list of desirables. The recording is rather thin and glassy sounding, which might once upon a time have suited our impression of ‘authentic instrument’ recordings, but many more recent baroque recordings have proved this need not be the case. I have huge respect for John Holloway and Andrew Parrott, but looking back through a historical perspective of twenty years and this begins to sound less and less like their finest hour. There are patchy intonation issues throughout The Four Seasons, and where we now expect excitement and energy there is frequently flaccidity and lack of crispness. Take the opening movement of L’Estate of ‘Summer’: the solo entry at 1:03 is rather soggy, as are some of the lines around four minutes in. Rhythmic articulation is somewhat sapped by note durations at the ends of phrases, which frequently fall somewhere between tightly curtailed or pointedly emphasised. The real pictorial character of the concerti also doesn’t really come vividly to life for me either. There is character in the playing, but not a huge amount of daring.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an essentially bad recording or by any means a poor performance and there are plenty of nice moments, but ‘nice’ just isn’t enough these days. If I was in salesman mode and pushing alternatives under your nose in a shop I think Simon Standage and Trevor Pinnock on Archiv beat this recording at just about every turn, and as a period performance from the same period or near enough - 1981 to be exact, I would say at mid-price this would be well worth the investment. For a price-no-object version you could do worse than that with soloist Stefano Montanari and the Accademia Bizantina directed by Ottavio Dantone on the Arts label (see review). The coupling of a selection from the concertos from La Stravaganza doesn’t really tip the balance either way with this disc. Perhaps unencumbered by an expectation of descriptive power the performances seem that much more relaxed and urbane, and Andrew Manze’s solo playing, with the occasional touch of vibrato here and there and a greater sense of integration with the rest of the ensemble provides a more enjoyable experience. Anyone wanting these concerti is more likely to want a complete set however, so at bargain price-range the Academy of St Martin in the Field/Neville Marriner Double Decca is likely to be high amongst the preferred choices.
This is the kind of CD it’s nice to have kicking around in the car, but as a first choice for serious listening it has had its day.  

Dominy Clements

see also review by Brian Wilson

Nice enough, but no longer really competitive.