Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons Op. 8 nos. 1-4 [38:01]
Concerto in D major for violin and double orchestra The Assumption of the Virgin Mary RV 582 [11:52]
Concerto in C major for violin and double orchestra RV 581 The Assumption of the Virgin Mary [12:14]
The London Mozart Players/David Juritz (violin/director)
rec. St Silas the Martyr, Chalk Farm. London, 1-2 March 1999

We all have our favourites when it comes to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons but, rather than thinking ‘oh no not another one’ I more often than not find I am rather relishing the excuse to have another listen to these masterpieces, and maybe encounter some new insights.
I can happily join in with Johns Whitmore’s very positive review of David Juritz’s Four Seasons. I greatly enjoyed his Bach (see review), and anyone capable of busking their way around the world playing the Sonatas and Partitas is deserving of attention when it comes to Vivaldi. I don’t quite follow the licensing agreements which have gone on with this recording in the past, but I’ve seen both SACD and DVD versions of it from the Naxos label, neither of which are currently in print as far as I know. Peter Quantrill’s review of the DVD audio version covers some different angles of the performance and concludes with one or two reservations. (see footnote)
What I like about this recording is the lightness of articulation, range of dynamics and sense of drama in the music. The emphasis is less on the seeking of utmost refinement, and more in the sense of a ‘live’ and lively account which communicates on many levels. This is nicely pointed out in the booklet, where for each concerto there is a brief timeline with time-indicated descriptions of where certain moments are being described in music. I don’t remember encountering this anywhere before, and so for the uninitiated this can be a very easy way of finding out what the real descriptive intention and significance is behind each über-familiar passage. Most of us will know about the storm and barking dog in Spring, but if you’d never been bothered to find out you might not have realised there are some rather gruesome hunting scenes described in the finale of Autumn.
Not all things to all people of course, but I’m still a big fan of that character in Ottavio Dantone’s Arts recording of The Four Seasons (see review). I have to admit that on occasion Juritz gets as much intensity into the music and at times equal drama. Dantone’s dramatic approach is more flexible and operatic and uses a richer resource of sonorities where Juritz is challenging us to believe the notes can tell their story through thrust and conviction. I know this is a chalk and cheese comparison, but Juritz does achieve an ‘authentic’ feel from his players even though this is a modern instrument recording. Violins haven’t changed so very much since Vivaldi was being feted and reviled as the bad boy of Venetian music, so I don’t feel too much of a lack of legitimacy in picking out an ‘early music’ version by way of comparison.
There is little mention of the filler concertos with the other reviews but I rather like them. The orchestral violins are placed antiphonally either side of the soloist, and this results in a full sound and some striking imitative effects. The punchy finale to the RV 582 is terrific, and the first movement of RV 581 is like something by Handel, but with some remarkable added harmonic wrinkles to relish.
All in all this is a highly recommendable release, and a Four Seasons which may shake up a few preconceptions. The recording is clear and deep, with a bright but believable balance between soloist and orchestra.
Dominy Clements

Footnote from Nimbus

The licencing arrangements were that Naxos took it for SACD and DVD only a few years back, they never had it for CD
because David was happy with the private CD released he had already organised. After issuing his Bach Sonatas & Partitas on Alliance last year he offered the Vivaldi to us ... simple as that.

Highly recommendable – dynamic and dramatic.