Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons)
Janine Jansen, Candida Thompson, Henk Rubingh (violin), Julian Rachlin (viola), Maarten Jansen (cello), Stacey Watton (bass), Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo), Jan Jansen (organ, harpsichord)
Decca 475 6188
With well over 100 recordings to choose from, such are the musical possibilities thrown up by Vivaldi’s vibrant pictograms that no two versions sound remotely alike. Of the old-school versions, Henryk Szeryng directing the English Chamber Orchestra on Philips (now sadly deleted) still holds sway, although finest of recent accounts on modern instruments is Anne-Sophie Mutter’s second DG outing with the Trondheim Soloists, an exhilarating musical rollercoaster ride that surprises at every dive and swerve, without resorting to the grating eccentricity and puerile shock tactics of several period-instrument versions.
If Mutter turns Romantic semantic sensibilities on their head, Janine Jensen might be said to marry traditional expressive values with the textural vitality and bracing inventiveness of authenticity. Jansen possesses the ideal combination of intonational purity and tonal allure, and is beguilingly responsive to the music’s shifting moods, creating the uncanny impression of a series of vividly drawn characters passing before our eyes as we listen. The all-star ensemble responds to her every whim and caprice with a ravishing sequence of captivating sonorities that grow naturally out of the music rather than merely being superimposed on it. The recording possesses a seductive autumnal glow that bathes the listener in a stream of golden surround sound when the SACD track is activated. Forget the meagre playing time: with this exemplary release, the benchmark has been raised just that bit higher.
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