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CD Review

Antonio Vivaldi

The Four Seasons, Op. 8 #1-4 (1725)

  • Concerto for Violin in E Major "La primavera", RV 269
  • Concerto for Violin in G minor "L'estate", RV 315
  • Concerto for Violin in F Major "L'autunno", RV 293
  • Concerto for Violin in F minor "L'inverno", RV 297
Alan Loveday, violin
Simon Preston, keyboards
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner
Decca (Penguin Classics) 460613-2
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There are many reasons why Universal's Penguin Classics line was less than successful, but there were many wonderful recordings that appeared there. Bernstein's late Mozart,. Curzon's Schubert, Dutoit's Holst…they all were made available in this fashion. This album certainly is worthy to stand with those classics, but for whatever reason, this excellent recording is less than generously packaged. Still, Alan Loveday's very traditional reading will appeal to those looking for something outside of the period-instrument movement.

I've read reviews that state that this particular disc can't stand up to more modern versions, but I don't see why not. Certainly, we've come a long way from these old-fashioned efforts, and certainly there are artists who make more authentic sounds. So let's talk about what this recording does have. Compared to the other two "traditional" versions listed on Classical Net, namely Perlman and Mutter, Loveday's overall results are at once more impressive and more musical. Perlman's disc on EMI Encore is a little heavy for my tastes – I confess I don't like him in Bach, either – and the couplings are (as noted in the original review) a tad lumpy and disinterested. Mutter's disc suffers from trying to be too cool, and too unique; I love and own it, but I wouldn't hand it off to a beginner. Marriner and Loveday know exactly what they are capable of. They don't try to show off (a la Perlman), or break new ground like Mutter. Rather, they are content to rely on great playing and let the music speak for itself.

Simon Preston provides sensitive support on whatever keyboard he's required to play, and the Academy sounds as fresh and lively as you could hope for. No, they don't match the finest period ensembles, or bring anything especially new to the dance. They didn't have to. Loveday's tone is exquisite and I find no idiosyncrasies or mannerisms that get in the way. I know people who swear by Perlman and Mutter; they were and are tremendous musicians. But I can't think of a reading of this music that I find more beautiful or sincere than this one, and I hope that counts for something.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman