VIVALDI The Four Seasons
Having recently reviewed Erik Bosgraaf’s recorder version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in these pages (Brilliant Classics, 4/14), two more are now on offer, one using modern forces, the other period instruments. William Yeoman surveyed nearly 50 recordings spanning 1947-2009 in the August 2011 issue of Gramophone, concluding that it wasn’t so much which recording as how many to buy.
One of the things that makes a new recording interesting is the story behind it. For the American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, the impetus for her latest recording seems to have been the desire to create a showcase for her recently acquired 1741 ‘Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri del Gesù, considered one of the finest violins ever made and yet never before recorded. As well as The Four Seasons, she performs all three solo parts of Vivaldi’s F major Triple Concerto, RV551, and a four-minute Pärt Passacaglia (2003), arranged by the composer for violin and orchestra.
Partnered by the English Chamber Orchestra (as was Nigel Kennedy), Meyers has produced a polished, mainstream performance that will appeal to non-specialists for the Romantic portamentos with which she inflects the slow movements (listen especially to that of ‘Summer’) and to string players for the exquisite beauty of the sound she draws from the ‘Vieuxtemps’. While it is a novelty to hear the same person playing three parts at once (thanks to the eOne engineers), perversely I would prefer the Triple Concerto played by three different people in order to enjoy their interaction. The Pärt is undoubtedly a collector’s item, its exotic timbres compelling repeated listening to appreciate.
The Capella Savaria Four Seasons, coupled with two additional Vivaldi violin concertos, will attract a different listener. Founded in 1981, the Hungarian band have made more than 70 recordings. Not surprisingly, because the leader, Zsolt Kalló, is the soloist, an easy rapport between the players is palpable; the sound of his violin seamlessly emerges and merges with that of the orchestra. Because Capella Savaria specialise in Baroque repertoire, they know well how to balance the solo and tutti, the treble and bass elements – elements consistently skewed in favour of the soloist in the eOne recording. If the sound on the Hungaroton disc isn’t as beautiful as on the former, it is at least more stylish and in the spirit Vivaldi intended.