Notes and Editorial Reviews
My review of I Musici's recording of the first six concertos of Vivaldi's Op. 8 ((CD) 426 847-2PH, 9/90) treated it as a means of acquiring The Four Seasons, reporting that in the race down the middle of the road there was no clear leader; this release of the remaining six concertos, together with I Solisti Veneti's complete Op. 8 moves the finishing line, now that of a two-horse race since all other integral recordings of Op. 8 on Compact Disc are in the period-instrument category.
The disc containing I Solisti Veneti's version of The Four Seasons is not available separately, but even if it were so it would not be a front-runner in that overcrowded field. That is not to say that it does not have its virtues: the playing is
crisp enough, the harpsichord is well to the fore (and a lute brings occasional variety to the continuo department), and Piero Toso has all the technical attributes of a first-class soloist. However, Scimone despatches at least three movements (''Spring''/II, ''Summer''/I, ''Winter''/III) with almost indecent haste, the harpsichord arpeggios dominate the first half of ''Autumn''/II overly, and Toso, elsewhere monastic in eschewing the worldly luxury of embellishment, buries a slow-motion ''Summer''/II under a self-indulgently florid fantasy, as deeply as any jazz musician does his chord progression.
Scimone has more than once been criticized for setting breakneck tempos (as I have just done) but the hard fact is, that more often than not they are no faster than those of others, and are frequently slower than those adopted in 'authentic' recordings. The lean, transparent sound of period instruments helps in maintaining clarity at speed, but when something sounds fast and pressured there is more to it than that. The oboe is indicated as an alternative soloist in Concertos Nos. 9 and 12, though the music suggests it as being what Vivaldi originally had in mind—maybe relegated to second place for commercial reasons when the whole opus was published. Pierre Pierlot is the excellent oboe soloist in both concertos, but Louise Pellerin (with I Musici) produces the warmer, rounder and more 'appropriate' sound, and adds a little of her own decoration; unfortunately she is entrusted with only No. 9, which seems to me an error of judgement. In the rest Agostini plays with real distinction and embellishes tastefully where appropriate—the Largo of Concerto No. 8 is especially beautiful; he should however cast an ear in Monica Huggett's direction (Virgin Classics)—'hairpins' are utilitarian in fashioning women's hair, but they know no boundaries of gender when used to heighten expressiveness in styling baroque music.
Any contest between middle-of-the-road recordings made in 1971 (Scimone) and 1990 (Agostini) is likely to be uneven, and so it is here: Agostini and I Musici—at full price, however—win this one hands down, and with the support of a first-rate recording.'
John Duarte, Gramophone [2/1991]
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title