| ANTONIO VIVALDI,
QUATTRO STAGIONI, THE FOUR SEASONS,"
THE ENGLISH CONCERT
WITH SIMON STAGE AND TREVOR PINNOCK
[ARCHIV PRODUKTION, POLYDOR
INTERNATIONAL, CD-400045-2 1982]
CREATING FLESH FROM BONE:
October 30, 2003
Here in New England, the change of
seasons is in full view as I take a moment to cue up
another audiophile recording and reminisce over what
might have been with the rest of Red Sox nation here.
The change of seasons (and the official end to
baseball for this year) brings immediately to mind the
classic autumnal "Dance of the Country Folk" followed
by the solace of the "Sleeping
Drunkard" of Vivaldi's
"the Four Seasons."
Not another review of a Four Seasons disc you
probably are thinking. Well, wait just one palpable
minute, please. "Palpable"
you say? Yes. Palpability is exactly what this superb
recording is all about. "Palpability"
is defined as "capable of
being handled, touched or felt."
(American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.)
In this 1982 recording by the
English Concert, on original period instruments and
led by the expressive Trevor Pinnock on harpsichord,
Vivaldi's vision is brilliantly achieved in a
recording which should test every ounce of your
system's ability to communicate palpability and the
edges of the performance space. The dynamics and
presentation of this recording is laid out before you
in accurate and precise detail,
without any loss of emotional impact. Lead
violinist and soloist Simon Standage performs with a
deftness and fluidness that I have not heard on any
other recording of this piece, and the melding of
rosin, bow and string is a marvel to behold. In
several places, you should be able to discern and
enjoy the unusual tone of the Tiorba, an Italian
string instrument from the XVI and XVII centuries, a
member of the lute family. In Vivaldi's
Winter scene, the Tiorba introduces itself as a
delicate, harp like reflection to the strong staccato
notes of Standage's violin as the whole scene builds
to a swell of familiar tension, which in Vivaldi's
own notes, depicts "running
and foot stomping because of the cold."
The Tiorba appears again in the depiction of
in the Winter Largo scene, as delicate plucks of the
period string instruments are accurately defined in a
wide and airy soundstage, opposite the beautiful
flowing theme played by Standage. It is also worthy to
note that this recording gem represents a unique
performance of an earlier and more accurate manuscript
of "the Four Seasons,"
taken from the "Manchester
originated 14 years earlier than the manuscript from
which most modern performances of this piece
originate. I was fortunate enough to visit Venice this
summer, the milieu in which Vivaldi lived and worked.
If you go, you too can have the opportunity to hear
Vivaldi performed in the original church and hall
spaces in which this music was first performed. When I
listen to this recording now, it brings me back to
those same acoustic spaces, with a palpable sense of
the music's intimacy and
dynamics. Find this gem and let your system test its
ability to create flesh from bone.
I would love to hear from readers on their own
favorite recording gems in any genre to be shared in
possible future reviews at Stereo Times . Please send
any comments or suggestions to: