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Vivaldi: Les Quatre Saisons

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 14, 2008
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Vivaldi: Les Quatre Saisons
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  • Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (25th Anniversary Edition CD and DVD)
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Editorial Reviews

Amandine Beyer, who won the 2001 Vivaldi international competition in Turin, is now set to release her superb recording of Vivaldi s Four Seasons. This is truly a performance that blows any cobwebs from the popular piece, and includes premiere recordings of newly reconstructed Vivaldi concertos.
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Product Details

  • Performer: Gli Incogniti
  • Conductor: Amandine Beyer
  • Composer: Antonio Vivaldi
  • Audio CD (October 14, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Zig Zag
  • ASIN: B001ANZRO0
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,896 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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It is a widely mentioned truism that the most recorded piece of classical music is Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Whether this is actually true or not, the very idea of such excess is off-putting. What Amandine Beyer and Gli Incogniti do with this recording is fight this notion on two fronts. First, they preform and record the Four Seasons in such a way that you realize there may be a reason, other than ego and excess, that there are so many recordings of this work: these concertos are masterpieces and are very hard to capture in an optimal way. Second, seemingly out of guilt for recording Vivaldi's most famous works again, the disc is filled out with works that are almost unknown. Two of them are recorded for the first time here. This album is a total success--it is one of the best recordings of the Four Seasons ever, and the rare works that fill out the album will have you wondering what took so long.

What makes this recording special? The first factor is the orchestra. It is 'one to a part', which is to say, one solo violin, one first violin, one second violin one viola, one cello, one bass plus continuo (usually harpsichord and theorbe). The liner notes argue convincingly that Vivaldi probably composed the Seasons for an orchestra of virtuosi none bigger than this. But, if you aren't convinced by historical conjecture, the sound of 'one to a part' will convince you. The rustic and expressive elements make this small orchestra ideal for the subject matter. For example, Carmignola's Sony recording of the Seasons is one of the best I've heard but there are a few problems. The interpretation is too polite and not rustic enough and the orchestra is too light in the bass and thin sounding. This recording improves on these elements. Amandine Beyer is fantastic as the soloist.
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Format: Audio CD
This excellent new recording, combining four concertos known the world over with others scarcely known outside the recording studio (including 'world premiere' material), reminds me very much of Carmignola's dramatic CD of 2000 boasting much the same world-famous/world-premiere programming mix. The virtuoso of Zig-Zag's new CD, Amandine Beyer, even worked with the man who advised Carmignola - Olivier Fourés, musicologist and Vivaldi expert.

First, let's deflate the hype, however. The world premiere of RV578a is not the coup it might seem. Based on a neglected manuscript (in Manchester!) this version offers a mere handful of variants which distinguish it from the extremely well-known Opus 3 No 2, in g, RV578. It's well presented here, but this is not at all radical and the 'world premiere' label applies in a limited and purely technical sense.

As for The Four Seasons, you may well incline to the view (like me) that this set has been flogged to death and that there is nothing new to say about it. Amandine Beyer and Gli Incogniti try their best and manage to extract some new life thanks to a vibrant sound which, like Carmignola's again, features a wonderfully rich and resonant bass with double bass, theorbo (bass lute) and chamber organ adding plenty of support to the harpsichord. (I'm guessing without the booklet - CD's big win over MP3 - but the recording is so detailed that I'd bet my download money on this instrumentation.) The ensemble's extremely pared-down sound is transparently thin - it's one instrument per part - but solid enough to produce a depth of sound that may be too bass heavy for traditionalists. Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot, on CD Review recently, said that he'd not heard the 4S played any better.
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Worth having in your collection as counterpoint to modern interpretations, modern instruments, and larger ensembles.
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This recording would be on the top of any ones list!
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