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Vivaldi: Le quattro stagioni

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
Biondi_Vivaldi

Vivaldi
Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons)
Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi (violin)
Virgin Veritas VMD 5 61980 2

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If you thought Nigel Kennedy’s version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos outrageously liberal, then give ear to Fabio Biondi’s swaggeringly improvisatory account with Europa Galante, which also has the considerable advantages of Biondi’s impeccable ‘historically informed’ credentials and of including the other eight concertos in Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione. Not only is Biondi every bit as much the extrovert showman as Kennedy (and a real Italian to boot), his continuo players are of the same ilk, ever ready to add to the potent mix. Biondi also thinks and rethinks, and for his text he has considered manuscript sources in Manchester (whose version of The Four Seasons, full of surprising little variants, he prefers), Dresden and Turin rather than relying on the music as published in the 1720s. It’s exciting, imaginative music-making of the first order, and even if matters sober up for the less well-known concertos, this release displaces my previous benchmark, the lively readings by Il Giardino Armonico (Italians again…) on Teldec.

David Juritz’s playing on a conventional instrument with the London Mozart Players is also exciting and imaginative, and indeed one of the best I have heard using such resources, but cannot hold a candle to Biondi. The DVD-Audio disc offers little more beside improved sound for those with the equipment to match than a conventional CD besides a sequence of still photographs – one for each movement – and a modicum of information on the artists, the technology, and so on.

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Stephen Pettitt