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Vivaldi: Four Seasons

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 11, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Our familiarity with Vivaldi s music makes it a particular challenge to any soloist not only to measure up to the virtuosity of past performers, but also to bring to the performance something new. In the case of Elizabeth Blumenstock and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, that something new is actually something very old and precious in its authenticity and faithfulness a performance that would, without doubt, have pleased the Red Priest mightily. Blumenstock is widely admired as a performer of compelling verve and eloquence. She has played with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra since 1981 as a regular soloist, concertmaster and leader. Blumenstock plays a 1660 Andrea Guarneri violin on loan from the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Period Instrument Trust.

Review

The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra have indeed become one of the finest American ensembles specializing in authentic Baroque performance. Their tone, flexibility, and precision of ensemble are every bit a match for the Europeans, and they have an infectious enthusiasm for the music that is all their own. --Stereophile

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Allegro Concerto in E major, RV 269 La primavera (The Four Seasons, Op. 8, Nos. 1-4)
  2. Largo
  3. Allegro
  4. Allegro non molto (Concerto in G minor, RV 315, L'estate)
  5. Adagio
  6. Presto
  7. Allegro (Concerto in F major, RV 293, L'autumno)
  8. Adagio molto
  9. Allegro
  10. Allegro non molto (Concerto in F minor, RV 27, L'inverno)
  11. Largo
  12. Allegro
  13. Allegro (Concerto in B-flat major, RV 375)
  14. Largo
  15. Allegro
  16. Allegro (Concerto in E minor, RV 277, Il favorito)
  17. Andante
  18. Allegro
  19. Allegro (Concerto in E major, RV 271, L'amoroso)
  20. Cantabile
  21. Allegro


Product Details

  • Performer: Elizabeth Blumenstock
  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Composer: Antonio Vivaldi
  • Audio CD (October 11, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Philharmonia Baroque Productions
  • ASIN: B005HO1WAG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,556 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

I have to tell you, these Vivaldi Four Seasons interpretations sound more colorful and more imaginative than most I've heard. Indeed, they are some of the most vital, most vigorous, most forceful, most driving, most engaging renderings of the four concertos one could ask for. They are quite special.

So, just what makes McGegan's realizations any different from the 800 other versions you'll find on disc? Well, to begin with, these are not cushy, comfortable renditions, nor are they hell-bent-for-leather speed demons. In fact, McGegan generates fairly conventional tempos and sticks with the correct number of players indicated by the scores. No, the things that make McGegan's Vivaldi performances different and better than most others lie in his phrasing, his emphases, his attack, and his choice of dynamic contrasts. These are not timid readings but enthusiastically thrustful ones. If your idea of a great Four Seasons interpretation lies in its ability to make the listener actually hear and visualize the various times of the year, with all their attendant features, then McGegan's renditions with the Philharmonia Baroque are among the best-characterized ones currently before the public. You'll hear the yelping dogs, you'll feel the icy rain, and you'll be thoroughly entertained. If you're merely looking for another piece of Baroque background music to play at your next dinner party, forgetaboutit.

With all the talk about the works' graphic representations of the changes of the year, we tend sometimes to overlook the fact that each of The Four Seasons concertos is a three-movement piece for solo violin with orchestral accompaniment. In this regard, the various works not only set a pioneering standard for program music but for instrumental concertos as well.
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I have heard the Four Seasons a gazillion times, the four pieces are collectively such a chestnut, and I never thought I would want to listen to them again, but this performance was so fresh, the artists were so good, and the sound quality was so excellent it was like hearing them all for the first time. It was playing on my car radio, and I pulled over and parked the car so I would not miss a note. Five stars.
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While I am not a big fan of Vivaldi, although I do have a few Vivaldi compositions in my classical collection of CDs (classical music makes up about half of my 1000+ disc CD collection that includes many genres of music). I have never been too excited, either, over classical music presented on period instruments --- the few CDs that I have where the music is on period instruments I have enjoyed much less, the sounds from them seem rather dull and oftentimes off-key, probably a condition from the period instruments themselves. This has caused me to avoid purchasing any period instrument classics.

But after reading a recent glowing review of this CD in one of the prominent audiophile magazines, I decided to give it a try. I can only say that the review was right on, this is a splendid CD, produced very well, the music played with a clarity I have not heard from any other Vivaldi, the skills of the musicians superb, and the detail from the period instruments sounds magnificent. If this CD does not get a listener interested in Vivaldi, or classical music, for that matter, no CD can. I know that this CD will be listened to often, it is that good. My recommendation is to anyone -- give this CD a try, put it into your player, turn up the volume, sit back and get comfortable in the sweet spot, prepare yourself for a real concert, and let yourself just get behind the sounds and wrapped into the musical presentation. This is classical music enjoyment at its best. It is how classical music on CDs should be recorded and produced.
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I really resisted buying this CD because I had several versions of the "Four Seasons". However, the review in Stereophile magazine convinced me to give it a try. I am so glad I did. To paraphrase their review, summer really sizzles, the ice of winter cracks and the violins manage to create the feeling of squeaking joints in the cold. The sonics are top-notch and the first violinist interprets the music better than anyone I have heard. The ensemble races right along with quick tempos, without sacrificing interpretation. Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool Romantic, I guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy this recording.
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