WORKS: Le quattro stagioni
PERFORMER: Kyung-Wha Chung (violin); St Luke’s Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57015 2
This is a Four Seasons by someone who sounds as if she prefers to stay indoors all year. In Kyung-Wha Chung’s hands ‘The Contest between Harmony and Invention’ is no contest; musical ‘good taste’ wins out, and Vivaldi’s vivid scene-painting is reduced to discreet decoration. So the dog’s barking becomes an apologetic whimper and the peasants’ autumn dance is so tame and orderly it’s more like ‘Ring-a-ring-a-roses’ than a drunken revel.
The use of modern instruments doesn’t help. They tend to lack the zip and sparkle that period instruments can bring to the music. And while Chung plays with great facility, her sweet-toned elegance is not best suited to works that Vivaldi surely intended to be vibrant, dramatic and played with both great gusto and a palpable sense of fun. These performances are refined, self-contained, lacking in rhythmic vigour and that necessary spark of extravagance.
The most thrillingly graphic Four Seasons is by Enrico Onofri and Il Giardino Armonico (Teldec), though there are also feisty, exuberant versions by Jeanne Lamon (Sony Vivarte), Andrew Manze (Erato) and Giuliano Carmignola (Sony). These discs include additional concertos too, so they all offer more generous playing times than Chung’s meagre 41 minutes. Graham Lock