WORKS: The Four Seasons; Violin Concerto in the Style of Vivaldi
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham (violin); Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 439 933-2 DDD
I must say that my heart sank when I saw yet another Vivaldi Four Seasons to review: who buys these hundreds of Seasons recordings? But there are distinct advantages to this brilliantly recorded performance. The first is the incredible technical control over his instrument that Gil Shaham reveals, and his intonation is astonishingly true, as well. Purists may not admire the very razzle-dazzle performance, vigorous and rather muscular in the quick movements but soulful in the slow sections (I don’t think the sound of the dog barking should be that smooth: my Ricordi score says ‘si deve suonare sempre molto forte e strappato’ – ‘ought to be played very loudly the whole time and roughly’ – which is certainly not what the violas do in this recording). In some respects this new version sounds stylistically like the famous old recordings of the Virtuosi di Roma or I Musici of the Fifties and Sixties. The continuo is often inaudible (but not at the beginning: it is clearly an organ).
The fake Vivaldi Concerto by Fritz Kreisler is amazing: how could anyone have been taken in by this stylistically impossible piece? It sounds as dated as a Valentino film. It is played lusciously. I don’t think that fifty minutes is enough for a CD nowadays. HC Robbins Landon