thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Le Quattro Stagioni
(The Four Seasons, 1725)
Concerto No.1 in E, La Primavera – Spring, Op.8/1, RV269 [9:53]
Concerto No.2 in g minor, L’Estate – Summer, Op.8/2, RV315 [10:08]
Concerto No.3 in F, L’Autunno – Autumn, Op.8/3, RV293 [10:41]
Concerto No.4 in f minor, L’Inverno – Winter, Op.8/4, RV297 [9:12]
Il Riposo per Il S.S. Natale
, in E, RV270 [7:38]
Concerto L’Amoroso, in E, RV271 [10:35]
Concerto Il Grosso Mogul, in D, RV208 [17:10]
Brecon Baroque [Johannes Pramsohler (violin), Sabine Stoffer (violin), Jane
Rogers (viola), Alison McGillivray (cello), Jan Spencer (violone), Daniele
Caminiti (theorbo), Marcin Świątkiewicz (harpsichord/chamber organ)]/Rachel
rec. St Jude’s Church, London, 9-12 October 2017. DSD.
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download.
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA40318 SACD
This could have been the shortest review I ever wrote, even in my regular Second Thoughts and Short Reviews round-ups. Quite simply put, this
is now one of the top recommendations in a very competitive field, among
the top two or three on period instruments and at least equal with my top
choice on modern instruments.
Those other top recommendations are listed in my
of the 2-CD complete recording of the complete Op.8 by L’Arte dell’Arco and
Federico Guglielmo (Brilliant Classics 95045: Recording of the Month).
That offers almost two hours of wonderful performances for around £9
(currently on offer for £7.40). It’s even better value as part of a box
offering the complete concertos, Op.1 to Op.12 –
– and better still as part of a bumper 60-CD Vivaldi box –
That recording rivals and, in some respects, even outdoes my other
favourite period-instrument performance, from Concerto Italiano and Fabio
Biondi, also at super-budget price and offering even more music, currently
available for less than £10 (Erato 6484082, complete Op.3 and Op.8 –
Both of those recordings offer the Four Seasons in the context of
the other Op.8 concertos, as does an inexpensive recording on modern
instruments which is well worth considering, from the Bournemouth
Sinfonietta (Chandos CHAN6697, download only for £4.99 –
All of these remain of great value for completeness. I’m somewhat
disappointed that Channel Classics didn’t push the boat out and give us a
2-SACD set of all twelve. Apparently Rachel Podger ‘got cold feet’, but it
would have been good to have had the complete set, as with her recordings
of Op.3 (CCSSA36515 –
review), Op.4 (CCSSA19503, with Arte dei Suonatori –
and Op.9 (CCSSA33412, with Holland Baroque Society –
Recording of the Month
review). Any Vivaldi lovers who don’t yet have those earlier recordings should
put that right: they are all on special offer at the moment from Presto, as
is the new recording.
The new recording comes into direct competition with two other versions
which offer just the Seasons and a few extra concertos. Of these
the Academy of Saint Martin-in-the Fields and Neville Marriner remain
unassailable on modern instruments with period awareness (Decca Originals
4757531, with RV498, 535 and 443) while on period instruments the English
Consort with Simon Standage and Trevor Pinnock is still competitive (DG
Archiv Originals 4746162, with RV548 and 516). The Seasons alone in
these performances can be downloaded for around £2 (DG The Works 4791087).
Those who invest in one of these or the new Channel Classics and wish to
have the other Op.8 concertos without duplicating The Seasons will
find an enjoyable account of Nos. 5-8 and 10-12 on a budget-price Naxos
recording made in the early days of that label by Béla Bánfalvi and
Budapest Strings (8.550189).
A recent Berlin Classics recording from Concerto Köln is also worth
considering, although at full price and running to just 51 minutes, with
RV156 and 169 as couplings, it’s rather short on value, especially if you
are looking for a version on vinyl –
. I have to wonder, as someone who could not get shot of LPs fast enough,
why anyone would be prepared to pay twice the price of the CD, around £30,
In any good performance of the Seasons, there are always one or two
novel features: a touch of ornamentation here or an emphasis there.
Occasionally, some of these revelations take some getting used to – as
of the Berlin Classics recording.
In the case of the new recording, right from the opening movement of Spring the birdsong shines through as if it were a composition by
Messiaen. Though other recordings of the slow movement of Spring
bring out the contrast between the goat-herd drowsing in the gentle sun and
his barking dog from the viola, reminding the flock that someone is awake 1, Rachel Podger and her team bring this off more convincingly
even than Biondi and his team.
Take the opening movement of Autumn, which would be well illustrated
by Brueghel’s painting of harvesters quaffing wine from a stone bottle.
Concerto Köln on Berlin Classics achieve this effect by slurring some of
the notes but Podger and her team need no such gimmicks to achieve their
Having said that it’s somewhat disappointing not to be offered the complete
Op.8, the three extras on the new recordings are not to be sniffed at.
After the repose of the Christmas concerto, RV270, the programme is rounded
off by two of Vivaldi’s finest, Il Grosso Mogul and L’Amoroso
, in performances to rival the very best of these from the likes of Adrian
Chandler’s La Serenissima (Mogul on Avie AV2287 –
– L’Amoroso on AV2201 –
The clarity of the music throughout is due partly to the small forces
employed by Brecon Baroque – one instrument to a part, like the Brilliant
Classics – and also to the recording quality, even in 16-bit stereo.
The notes are helpful, especially in setting the scene for listeners new to The Seasons, but it should be mandatory for all booklets to carry
Vivaldi’s explanatory poetry. Admittedly, it’s now known that each of the
concertos was conceived separately, hence the range of RV catalogue
numbers, but the poems became an integral part when they were collected as
the first concertos of Op.8. For those who don’t know them the texts are here.
Overall, then, while I still recommend Guglielmo and Biondi for the
complete Op.8 – and Op.3 from Biondi – the new recording is also strongly
recommended, especially if you already have Podger’s Op.3.
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