The Four Seasons; Sinfonia in B minor, RV 169 (Al Santo Sepolcro); Concerto for 4 Violins, Cello and Strings in B minor Op. 3/10 RV 580
Jeanne Lamon (violin); Tafelmusik
Sony Vivarte SK 48251 DDD
Recordings of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons tend to fall into one of two categories. There are the star soloist versions, which spotlight the virtuosic, and highly marketable, talents of the big name violinists. And then there are the period instrument versions, in which greater emphasis is put on unusual textures and more authentic performance practice.
This new disc from the Canadian group Tafelmusik is an excellent example of the latter, and a distinctive feature of their recording is their adoption of a pitch roughly a semitone higher than usual with period groups in line with recent research into common practice in 18th-century Venice. They also make use of an archlute to add variety to the continuo, and the result is a bright, distinctive sound which brings freshness, clarity and variety of texture to the music.
The playing itself is incisive but free of the hard-driven tempi which sometimes mar authentic performances, and is imaginatively allied to the seasonal pictures painted in the sonnets on which the concertos are based (which are included in the CD booklet).
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Lamon’s relatively small tone means that her instrument blends in with the ensemble rather than dominating it, highlighting the concerto grosso aspects of the works. Her playing puts expressiveness before virtuosity and is quite beautiful in the slow movements, which she ornaments freely adding a refreshing touch of spontaneity to music which is after all very familiar. In a hugely overcrowded field, Tafelmusik has come up with a winner in these highly satisfying and well-recorded performances, and the Sinfonia and Concerto for Four Violins are pleasing bonuses.
Read more reviews of the latest Vivaldi recordings