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Biondi: Vivaldi – Le Quattro Stagioni (APE)

Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni (APE)
Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni (APE)

Performer: Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi
Composer: Antonio Vivaldi
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Opus 111
Size: 255 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Spring, in E: Allegro
02. Spring, in E: Largo E Pianissimo
03. Spring, in E: Danza Pastorale. Allegro
04. Summer, in g: Allegro
05. Summer, in g: Adagio
06. Summer, in g: Tempo Impetuoso D’Estate
07. Autumn, in F: Allegro
08. Autumn, in F: Adagio
09. Autumn, in F: La Caccia
10. Winter, in f: Allegro Non Molto
11. Winter, in f: Largo
12. Winter, in f: Allegro
13. Con in Do Maggiore, RV 171 in C: Allegro
14. Con in Do Maggiore, RV 171 in C: Largo
15. Con in Do Maggiore, RV 171 in C: Allegro Non Molto
16. Con Per Archi, RV 163 in B Flat: Allegro Molto Marcato
17. Con Per Archi, RV 163 in B Flat: Andante
18. Con Per Archi, RV 163 in B Flat: Allegro Molto

Confident & Inventive

To begin, my taste runs more toward historical accuracy than grandeur. Too often, the Four Seasons is slowed down and interpreted by Romanticists with an oversized orchestra. I bought this recording because it is played on Baroque instruments, by a Barqoue-sized orchestra, at Baroque tempi. (If you prefer a slower rendition, the EMI recording with Itzhak Perlman and the London Philharmonic is an excellent choice.)

Biondi’s musicianship on the violin, while idiosyncratic, is in line with what one might have heard in early 18th century Italy- florid cadenzas, sudden tempo changes, deeply controlled vibrato, and he brings some of the strangest sounds out of the violin I have ever heard. He’s good and he knows it.

The Europa Galante is steeped in Baroque architecturalism; there is a structure and order to their playing and they bring out the symmetrical logic in Vivaldi’s music while breathing new life into the often abused work. Their playing is crisp, bright, and tenacious, especially the harpsichord. The orchestra is good… and, like Biondi, they know it.

To be clear, this is not a perfect recording: the performers are so confident that they are reckless. There are sour notes, places where Biondi loses the orchestra, and an excess of liberties taken with the score. But Vivaldi wrote the Four Seasons to showcase a virtuoso violinist and orchestra… both of whom would have arrogantly pushed the limits of the score to show off their talent. To that end, Biondi and his orchestra have succeeded, meanwhile creating a fresh, involved, and energized rendition of the Four Seasons that puts most (if not all) of the other recordings to shame for not tackling Vivaldi with more confidence. Even if it’s not your favorite, it belongs in your collection.

The sound quality is excellent: there is no static or hiss on the high notes and the dynamic range of the sound is incredibly high. As a warning to those who might prefer more backspace in the sound, the orchestra is recorded VERY closely and you can occasionally hear breathing and/or pages being turned.

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