CD Review: Vivaldi by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons.
Elizabeth Blumenstock,
Nicholas McGegan,
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Philharmonia Baroque Productions.
ASIN:B005HO1WAG, [2011]

July 2012
Review by: Robert Levine

Spring starts crisply, with nice accents; bird calls are amazingly bright and rich, the trills impeccable. The second movement’s languid melancholy is underlined by small, unwritten embellishments, and this is carried into the finale as well, which is amazingly sweet and contains many surprises. You can feel the breezes. Summer is sweaty until it begins to really blaze; the s-l-o-w downward portamenti are weird and evocative; the alternating lyrical and stormy moments of the second movement startle; the Presto is a dangerous storm, the lightening almost visible, with soloist and tutti ferocious. Autumn is mellow; the harpsichord in the second movement is nice and shadowy; the peasants stump in the third movement and the hunt is on for game-attacks are fierce. The contrast between dances and lulls are very specific. Winter is simply staggering and reason enough to own this CD. As it begins, it sounds like a rusty hinge and you get the quintessence of freezing just from chords; the insane violin part becomes desperate chattering. Even in the smoother Largo, the underlying strings are played bowed staccato, and our soloist again adds variations to the line that are as original as they are exquisite. The trills throughout are almost dreadful in their chill. You’ve never heard anything like it.

The other three concertos, rarely recorded, are jewels, as well.

Elizabeth Blumenstock is the soloist, and she’s as fearless as she is accomplished. Sonics are perfect. Wow-another Four Seasons. I mean it: Wow.

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