The Four Seasons/ The VIVALDI Album – Anne Akiko Meyers – v./ The English Chamber Orch. – E1 Music
VIVALDI: The Four Seasons – Itzak Perlman, v. & cond./ London Philharmonic Orch.– HiQ Records

Anne Akiko Meyers – The Four Seasons/ The VIVALDI Album [TrackList follows] – Anne Akiko Meyers – v./ The English Chamber Orch./ David Lockington – E1 Music EOM-CD 7790, 54:19 [2/4/14] *****:

VIVALDI: The Four Seasons – Itzak Perlman, v. & cond./ London Philharmonic Orch.– HiQ Records xrcd24 HIQXRCD25, 44:21 [11/5/13] (Distr. by Elusive Disc) *****:

Antonio Vivaldi started out as a Catholic priest and outstanding violinist,and became a key architect of Baroque music. He is credited with composing hundreds of instrumental concertos (mainly for violin) and sonatas. Additionally, he wrote dozens of operas. As a composer, he was admired by the public and his counterparts (especially Bach). His style was innovative, infusing the existing templates with contrasting harmonies and melodic themes that displayed exuberant rhythm structures.His most renowned work was the series of violin concertos, The Four Seasons.

Although part of twelve concerti, il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention), the first quartet of concertos, has developed a life of its own. This was a precedent-setting utilization of the concerto featuring solo violin passages. Vivaldi combined the mathematical precision of classical music with descriptive, poetic interpretation. The arrangements reflected the unique, natural complexity of each individual season, interpreted by evocative aural shadings. This masterpiece is among the most recognized music in the world.

Fans of Vivaldi, Baroque or virtuosic instrumentals will be pleased with these two releases showcasing the Four Seasons. Anne Akiko Meyers is accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra on the Four Seasons /The Vivaldi Album, and a vintage Itzhak Perlman 1976 recording with London Philharmonic Orchestra (Vivaldi/Four Seasons) has been re-issued on a high-end extended resolution CD that plays on any CD deck. Both are excellent interpretations of concertos that highlight brilliant violinists in different ensembles.

Meyers is regarded by many to be among the greatest contemporary violinists. She leaps into the opening allegro of Concerto No. 1 (“La primavera”) with considerable verve. She is playing the 1741 “Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesu and the tonal quality is outstanding. The English Chamber Orchestra matches the impeccable rhythm of this movement. Meyers is equally adept at establishing a haunting, lyrical ambiance in the second movement. The third movement is spirited, evoking a dance motif. The rendition of Concerto No.2 (“L’estate”) is enticing. The varied musical, contextual elements of heat, birds, breezes and winds transition flawlessly. The summer storm features dazzling, rapid violin runs and explosive harmonic progressions.

There are some unconventional arrangements. The first allego on Concerto No.3 (“L’autunno”) is noticeably brisker than most versions, underlying the joyful exuberance of this folk dance. Concerto No. 4 (“L’inverno”) captures a varietal moodiness. As a bonus, there are two additional tracks, Concerto in F Major for Three Violins and a Vivaldi-inspired modern opus, Passacaglia. The overall acoustics of this recording are excellent, blending the larger sound of the orchestra, but isolating the precise, colorful violin runs of Meyers. It is not hard to understand why this release opened at No. 1 in the classical chart on Billboard.

For those with a higher budget ($54 at Amazon), Itzhak Perlman and the London Philharmonic’s 1976 album has been re-mastered with excellent results. The full orchestral treatment presents a broader, textured sound. The rhythmic construction is more elaborate than a chamber orchestra. Perlman eases into his solos, beginning with the first movement of “La primavera”. His touch is delicate, but prominent, especially at the :30 mark when he interacts with the other violinists (“The Singing Of Birds”). The solos are exquisite. All of the strings are clear, especially the cello and viola. As the second movement unfolds, the harmonics of the piece are on display. Perlman modulates intensity with finesse. “L’estate” is artistic as Perlman’s dream-like melodic lines are a nice counterpoint to the symphonic accents. In these intricate musical interludes, the added resolution of the mix elevates the performance.

Perlman’s virtuosity is at the core of every concerto. His melodic sensitivities envelop the first allegro of “L’autunno”, while a relentless, stately elegance permeates the second allegro. The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Perlman, is exhilarating throughout ”L’inverno”, sustaining momentum and framing the solo instrumentation. The re-mastering of this recording is superior and displays more extensive soundrange, but at a price and you don’t get the additional concertos.

TrackList: (Anne Akiko Meyers): Concerto No. 1 in E Major, Op. 8 RV 269 (La primavera/Spring); Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 8 RV 315 (L’ estate/Summer); Concerto No. 3 in F Major, Op. 8 (L’autunno/Autumn); Concerto No. 4 in F minor Op. 8 (L’inverno/Winter ); Arvo Part (Passacaglia); Concerto in F Major RV 551 (for Three Violins)

TrackList: (Itzhak Perlman): Concerto No. 1 in E, Op.8 No. 1 (La primavera/Spring); Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 8 No. 2 (L’estate/Summer); Concerto No. 3 in F, Op.8 No. 3 (L’autunno/Autumn); Concerto No. 4 in F Minor (L’inverno/Winter

—Robbie Gerson

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