VIVALDI The Four Seasons. Violin Concertos: in E?, RV 253, “La Tempesta di Mare”; in C, RV 180, “Il Piacere” • Simon Standage (vn); Trevor Pinnock, dir; English Concert (period instruments) • CRD 3325, analog (59:02)
CRD’s re-release in 2009 of an old standard, recorded in the late 1970s, even bears the same number as its earlier appearance on CD as CRD 3325. Simon Standage, a pupil of Ivan Galamian, made a compromise inRead more the best sense between the astringent period sound and manner on one hand and the modern one on the other, while the orchestra, somewhat pinched and nasal, may now sound somewhat dated to those hearing it for the first time. But Standage’s vibrant reading of the solo part, only slightly acidulous, provides a foil for the crisp and sharply focused orchestral playing. For those who decry such things, there’s little thumping and thwacking; the attacks never resemble so many bolts of lightening, and Pinnock never attempts to intimidate listeners with extreme contrasts in dynamics. Compared to performances by Il Giardino Armonico (with Enrico Onofri, on Teldec 4509-97671) or Giuliano Carmignola with either the Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca on Divox CDX 79404-F, 23:5, or with the Venice Baroque Orchestra (Sony SK 51352, 24:4), therefore, these may seem at first somewhat tame. But do they hold up as well as, say, Alan Loveday’s famous reading with the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields (as an LP, Argo ZRG-654, later on Argo 414486-2)? Well they’re still captivatingly dramatic as, for example, at the end of even the first movement of “Summer.” And if the slow movement of that Concerto doesn’t create so urgent a sense of foreboding as might be affected with more exaggerated means, its elegance and tonal attractiveness appeal on their own. And if the last movement’s storm doesn’t sweep listeners out of their chairs, the clarity of the rising and falling orchestral parts and the corresponding quality of the recorded sound still provide interest. Standage adds discreet ornaments here and there, so his performance isn’t really hidebound; yet of real liberties he takes very few. He doesn’t eschew the gradual accelerandos and decelerandos with which Claudio Scimone and I Solisti Veneti (on modern instruments) enlivened their performances of Vivaldi. And he’s not deficient in fancy, as the opening of “Winter” proves. Perhaps one of the best comparisons might be drawn between this set of performances and very similar ones (in timbre and general approach) of the Four Seasons by John Holloway and La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy, recorded (analog) at almost exactly the same time, which Sony re-released on CD (SBK 47662) with two stupendously virtuosic Concertos (RV 212a, written for the Solemnity of the Tongue of St. Anthony, and RV 581, one of two for double orchestra that Vivaldi wrote for Venice’s celebration of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), played with unashamedly and robustly modern-instrument virtuosity by Piero Toso with I Solisti Veneti.
Standage’s collection includes La Tempesta di Mare in a bracing performance that’s more aggressive in its deployment of dynamic effects and more forward looking than the readings of the Seasons, as well as a starchy one of Il Piacere. Recommended—how could it be otherwise?—but listeners may be in for some surprises, finding either unexpected forward- or backward-looking elements.
Superb RecordingApril 30, 2017By M. Bishop (Clackamas, OR)See All My Reviews"Simon Standage does a good of playing solo violin in The English Concerts presentation of Vivaldis The Four Seasons, under the direction of Trevor Pinnock. The characteristic straight tone of the playing of this group comes through on period instruments clearly. On track one, Vivaldis representation of spring, the violin playing by Standage has a slight incursion of vibrato, but is also straight-toned for the most part. My take is that Standage is playing on a period instrument as well. The sound quality by all accounts is superb, with just a hint of reverb. All said, I give this performance an excellent recommendation to those desiring a period instrument performance of Vivaldis The Four Seasons."Report Abuse