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Vivaldi: Four Seasons; Bach / Sporcl, Prague Philharmonia

Release Date: 02/26/2008 
Label:  Supraphon   Catalog #: 3931   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachAntonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Pavel Sporcl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Philharmonia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The reason so many violinists record Vivaldi's Four Seasons is not because, as some jaded listeners may assume, they're looking for a sure-fire commercial hit. Take it from this critic, who has been working in record retail for more than 20 years: the vast percentage of new Four Seasons recordings don't sell all that well no matter how aggressively they're promoted. The truth is, fiddlers know that these four concertos are not only on par with the greatest music ever composed, but they also are simply a joy to play. An ideal case in point is this sensational new Supraphon recording featuring the young Czech violinist Pavel Sporcl and the Prague Philharmonia.

To put it simply, Sporcl and his colleagues deliver a lively account
Read more that rivals the best available versions in a very crowded field. In the faster movements, tempos are noticeably quicker than the norm, though they never seem rushed or out of sync with the spirit of the music. The slower movements are equally well considered. Moments such as Summer's second-movement Adagio and the treacherously slow opening of Autumn--Adagio molto--are stunning in their delicacy and refinement.

Especially brilliant is Sporcl's stylish articulation that consistently complements Vivaldi's numerous programatic allusions. For instance, Spring's first-movement Allegro, where Sporcl's fiddling alludes to twittering birds, is as delightfully convincing as the version heard on my reference recording with Enrico Onofri and Il Giardino Armonico. Listen also to the way Sporcl renders Autumn's final hunting Allegro. Few violinists or ensembles have so humorously and evocatively portrayed Vivaldi's sly take on peasant dancing.

Sporcl concludes the program with a performance of Bach's Concerto for two violins and strings that's certainly good enough but nevertheless seems too small of scale and conception for Bach. Supraphon's sound exhibits exceptional clarity and realistic presence. The lavish digi-pac presentation and generous notes are also impressive. Listeners looking for a thoroughly 21st-century take on Vivaldi's timeless masterpiece would do well to consider this fine achievement.

--John Greene, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Pavel Sporcl (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Philharmonia
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Concertos (4) for Violin, Op. 8 no 1-4 "Four seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Pavel Sporcl (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Philharmonia
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 

Featured Sound Samples

Violin Concerto in E, op 8 no 1 "Spring" (Vivaldi): II. Largo
Violin Concerto in F, op 8 no 3 "Autumn" (Vivaldi): III. Allegro

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