This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Every last detail is clearly etched in textures of wonderful clarity, intonation is as nearly perfect as humanly possible, dynamics are arrestingly controlled while never sounding forced. A splendid achievement.
This marvellous set of concertos for one, two and four violins calls for a group of well-matched (not cloned) soloists who can also work together in the chamber-musical manner the music calls for—and in Monica Huggett, Catherine Mackintosh, Elizabeth Wilcock and John Holloway that is precisely what you get here. Every last detail is clearly etched in textures of wonderful clarity, intonation is as nearly perfect as humans are wont to achieve, dynamics (and contrasts thereof) are arrestingly controlled, whilst
never sounding forced or unnatural. We can never know how the players of the Pieta sounded but these crisp, alert, sensitive and wholly enchanting performances on period instruments must come close—unless Vivaldi was remarkably fortunate. The sound of the CD version is uncannily realistic and the stereo lends effective breadth and separation. If the sound of period intruments is anathema to you then I Musici (on Philips) offer the best available alternative, albeit played with (surprisingly) greater sobriety and less fantasy, but they no longer have the CD field to themselves (as when JB reviewed them) and the choice is yours. I have made mine and I offer no prize for guessing what it is.
-- Gramophone [1/1986]
Vivaldi's L'estro armonico was the first of his sets of published concertos. It appeared in 1711 though several, if not all of the works contained there had been in circulation previously. What is striking about L'estro armonico ('Harmonic Energy', 'Fancy', 'Whim' or whatever) is the diversity of its contents and indeed the novelty of them. Here are concertos for one, two and four solo violins arranged in symmetrical groups; cello concertante parts make an appearance and, unusually for Vivaldi, several concertos at times call for divided violas. L 'estro artnonico had a great influence on composers in most European countries, ample testimony of which can be found in contemporary comment and, of course, in Bach's five transcriptions for solo keyboard and another for four harpsichords and strings.
Let me say now that these performances are outstanding. Gone are the ponderous, rather exaggerated gestures which dominate so many recordings of these pieces. In their place are commendably transparent textures which, together with lightly-tripping phrases and a generally crisp attack (an admired feature of the orchestra of the Pietã in Venice) restore the spirit of the dance to the music. Above all, I think, it is the intimate nature of the playing, and the recording, too, which provides the greatest contrast with other performances; there is no trace of the 'big band' sound here, thank goodness, but instead a group of single strings whose vitality and sparkle seldom fails. Just occasionally there are patches of shaky intonation and a handful of instances, too, where ritornellos would have benefited from sharper focused rhythms; but these were certainly not enough to qualify my enthusiasm for the performances as a whole. The four violinists, Catherine Mackintosh, Monica Huggett, Elizabeth Wilcock and John Holloway all take their turn separately and collectively in the role of soloist. Each has his or her own distinctive sound and approach to the music and no doubt listeners will devise their own league-table as they become more and more familiar with the performances. I found them all stylish, alert and sensitive in their playing and, if I have any favourites myself, I intend to keep those cards pressed close to my heart!
This is a splendid achievement. I hope we can look forward to a similar approach to Vivaldi's Op. 9, La cetra, using reliable texts. Highly recommended!
-- Gramophone [12/1981, reviewing the original LP release]
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