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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Le Quattro Stagioni, Op.8 (The Four Seasons, 1725) [43:22]
Oboe Concerto RV 455, reconstr. Fernand Oubradous [8:40]
Concerto in A major RV158, reconstr. Fernand Oubradous [7:10]
Concerto in G minor RV 577 per l’Orchestra di Dresda, reconstr. Fernand Oubradous [8:20]
Cello Concerto in C minor, RV401 reconstr. Fernand Oubradous (1723-29) [11:12]
Robert Gendre (violin)
Pierre Pierlot (oboe)
Robert Bex (cello)
Orchestre de Chambre/Fernand Oubradous
rec. 1957-58

In the rediscovery on disc of the Four Seasons, following the all-orchestral Molinari 78 set and Louis Kaufman’s ultra-romanticised and glamorous recording, this 1958 version has been overlooked. The Orchestra de Chambre Fernand Oubradous was a fine ensemble and its eponymous director, himself a distinguished bassoonist and arranger, made a distinctive contribution both to scholarship and to extending the LP catalogue. Furthermore, he worked with some of the best players in the Baroque field, such as Maurice André, Veyron-Lacroix, Rampal, Pierre Pierlot (a soloist in this disc) and others.

His violin soloist in this traversal of the Vivaldi is Robert Gendre, a bright-toned and technically accomplished player. Though the orchestral backing is just a touch jog-trotting in the opening of Spring and its slow movement’s canine is more dozy than barking, there is nothing point-making about this traversal. With an audible though not prominent harpsichord and sensitively shaped solo line this is an attractively thoughtful reading only occasionally let down by orchestrally monochrome support. Sometimes, too, there is a slight lack of tension in the orchestral playing though it’s by no means pervasive. Set against that is the confidence and security of the soloist, whose fanfare figures in Autumn’s finale are a sprightly call to arms and who is eloquent in Winter’s slow movement above the rather drizzly orchestral pizzicati.

This attractive restoration, originally released on RCA, is augmented by other Oubradous-directed performances from the same label but a different LP. Pierlot is a peerless phrase-maker in his Oboe concerto, and tonally exemplary as always. The string concerto RV158 is played with flowing elegance whilst RV577 with its spare, brief slow movement is notable for the piping winds in the finale, buoyed up by plenty of rhythmic vitality. In the Cello Concerto the soloist is Robert Bex who was a colleague and chamber partner of Gendre and, like him, little remembered. They made a number of trio records together; perhaps they could be reissued too. He’s an attractive player and doesn’t over-project.

I suppose in the great welter of Vivaldi recordings these late 50s LPs are not highest on the agenda. Crudely speaking, they fall between the great romantic pioneers of the repertoire and the later arrival of codified historically informed playing. Nevertheless, they enshrine estimable virtues of their own.

Jonathan Woolf


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