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Vivaldi: The Four Seasons; Piazzolla: The Four Seasons Of Buenos Aires / St John, Marturet, Et Al

Release Date: 04/14/2009 
Label:  Ancalagon   Catalog #: 134   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Antonio VivaldiAstor Piazzolla
Performer:  Lara St. John
Conductor:  Eduardo Marturet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


VIVALDI Four Seasons. PIAZZOLLA (arr. Desyatnikov) Las estaciones porteñas Lara St. John (vn); Eduardo Marturet, cond; Símon Bolívar Youth O of Venezuela ANCALAGON 134 Read more (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 64:19)

So many recordings have been made of Vivaldi’s Seasons since the earliest integral one by Louis Kaufman that it’s now necessary to place each new one in a group that by itself has almost as many members as the complete catalog of less popular works. So where does Lara St. John’s (with the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra) fall? The buoyant, sharply articulated rhythms of the first and third movements of “Spring” already suggest a modern-instrument performance that owes something, though not everything, to period practice; and St. John’s ornamentation in the slow movement suggests the same thing—she enhances and underlines the melody without obscuring it. Tempos seem brisk, perhaps principally because of the lightness of the orchestra’s approach, but partly, too, because of the tart crispness of the soloist’s articulation. An even greater starchiness marks the first movement of “Summer,” especially in the slower bird calls (turtledove), about as pungent as they can sound on a modern instrument. St. John raises the movement’s alternation of briskness and lethargy to a level of high drama; and in the finale, she accomplishes the same, hissing and spitting high entries during the storm. The first movement and third movements of “Autumn” sound lustily energetic; they offer a quirky representation of the drunkard’s stagger. On the other hand, the first and third movements of “Winter” skulk mysteriously (especially the first) before the winds blow.

St. John’s performances of these staples may be highly personal, although, since she almost invariably pounces, for example, on entries, some may feel that her individuality descends into mannerism, carrying Nigel Kennedy’s idiosyncratic gestures to a higher (lower?) level. Still, her performances exhibit an unmistakable stamp, and that in itself ought to be considered accomplishment of sorts in music that’s been viewed from such a dizzying, individuality-blurring plethora of angles. The orchestral parts don’t, perhaps, demand a great deal of virtuosity; but the Orchestra, despite its youth, has plenty to spare, coupled with a personality comparable in strength to that of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in its early recording with Alan Loveday. The performances will appeal most strongly to those willing to trade the ultimate refinement, such as they might encounter in performances by Anne-Sophie Mutter or Kyung-Wha Chung, for increased vigor.

Astor Piazzolla’s Estaciones , beginning with “Autumn” (remember that going south of the equator starts the sequence at a diametrically opposite point), explore a world as bracing and tangy as Vivaldi’s, though sultrier. Gidon Kremer, a champion of Piazzolla’s music, recorded them (“Eight Seasons,” with the Kremerata Baltica, on Nonesuch 79568, 23:6) after Leonid Desyatnikov arranged them for violin and strings. As do Vivaldi’s works, these show off the violinist in brilliant, idiomatic passages. St. John plays them to the hilt, taking no stylistic prisoners and combining entertainment and amazement (as in the spiky cadenza in “Autumn”) in almost equal proportions. And with their allusion to Vivaldi’s work in “Summer,” these compositions seem like a sort of modern response.

In vivid recorded sound (I listened to the release in its CD format), these equally vivid performances should appeal especially to those in search of novelty in Vivaldi and sulky eroticism in Piazzolla. Recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concertos (4) for Violin, Op. 8 no 1-4 "Four seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Lara St. John (Violin)
Conductor:  Eduardo Marturet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 
Las estaciones porteñas (4) by Astor Piazzolla
Performer:  Lara St. John (Violin)
Conductor:  Eduardo Marturet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967-1970; Argentina 

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