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CD Review

Antonio Vivaldi

Violin Concertos

  • Violin Concertos, Op. 8, #1-4 "The Four Seasons" *
  • Violin Concerto in C minor, RV 199 "Il sospetto"
  • Violin Concerto in A minor, RV 356
  • Violin Concerto in A Major, RV 347
Itzhak Perlman, violin
* London Philharmonic Orchestra/Itzhak Perlman
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Itzhak Perlman
EMI Classics 74761 ADD/DDD 73:03
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This disc is from EMI Classics' "Encore" series, in which older recordings are reissued at a budget price. There are brief essays about the composer, the music, and the performer, and the series is given a unified "Old Masters" look through the inclusion of painting reproductions in faux "frames." (I must say that the angel, the label's old trademark, is starting to look seedy and irrelevant in this setting. The 1960s era LP angel was a lot classier, and, well…. Angelic.)

Perlman's Four Seasons was recorded in 1976 in London's Abbey Road Studios. This was before the period instruments craze had gotten up to full steam. Perlman and the London Philharmonic play unrepentantly on modern instruments and in a modern style, albeit not without Baroque savvy. Expansive tempos and rich, vibrato-generous sonorities make this recording a good choice for listeners who don't seek the astringencies of period performance, or who simply want to take a musical bubble bath in this repertoire. Opportunities to characterize (barking dogs, snoring peasants, etc.) are neither ignored nor taken as far as they can be. All in all, this is a good middle of the road recording whose flavoring is more sweet than piquant, and whose intention is more to please than to inspire.

The three concertos added as makeweight were recorded in 1982-83. The Israel Philharmonic plays with less personality than the London Philharmonic, and Perlman sounds marginally less involved. The early digital recording, lacking in weight, is somewhat inferior to the late analog techniques used in the Four Seasons sessions.

At the price asked, this is a good bargain.

Copyright © 2002, Raymond Tuttle