Vivaldi: Four Seasons / Pina Carmirelli, I Musici
Number of Discs:
0 Hours 46 Mins.
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Package includes audio CD with additional DVD video disc.
The headnote above cites the catalog numbers given in the booklet, while the jewel box bears the designation CD+DVD B0006775S-10—important information because almost everyone who reads this review should order the set at once. As David Hogarth’s notes make clear, I Musici has been associated with The Four Seasons for half a century. The two performances reissued by Philips in its combination set, however, come from 1982 (CD) and 1988 (DVD)—a mere sliver of the ensemble’s lifetime with the work. But I Musici’s approach to its signature repertoire maintained its vivacious yet elegant solidity throughout its history. Its performances, which antedated the
period-performance movement (it might be contended that they constituted its first explorations), didn’t follow its own followers: the group remained dedicated to modern instruments, emphasizing beauty of tone and stylistic élan with relative freedom from special effects (but listen to that dog bark in the CD and to the sul ponticello icicles in the DVD) and outré timbres. It’s Ormandy’s Philadelphia strings microminiaturized, with all the tonal opulence of the giant-sized prototype. Neither of these performances will be new to long-time listeners (the video, by Anton von Munster, appeared in 1990), but the opportunity to have them together in a single digital document should awaken nostalgia for the dawning consciousness of Vivaldi and our first experiences of his strength and vigor. Carmirelli may be the more bracing soloist of the two, but the opportunity to watch the Agostini should be more than ample compensation. The DVD intersperses footage of I Musici, caught in various locations on the Grand Canal and in Venetian campi, with paintings, photographs, and filmed scenes of Venetian life. At once, a viewer should notice that although the ensemble appears to be playing on the Canal, there’s plenty of reverberation (though perhaps not so much as in the CD) yet no background noise—at least until the end credits. Further observation will reveal that although Maria Teresa Garatti variously plays harpsichord and organ, she appears with only one instrument. Then, too, there’s the slight discrepancy between the visual and auditory images that crops up from time to time. If I Musici “bow-synched,” they did it very well—much of the time, they’re spot-on. Whatever the case may be, though it’s interesting and entertaining to watch the legendary ensemble, the emphasis on Venice and its art may grow, especially on repeated viewings, somewhat irksome. That’s especially true when the images seem only peripherally related to even the mood set in the original tone-portraits of the changing seasons (old photographs and, finally, a cemetery, for example, during the slow movement of “Autumn”). Sometimes, as when carnival figures appear during the brittle, icy opening of “Winter,” those images actually enhance the performance. In the later performance on DVD, Agostini realizes some of Vivaldi’s shorthand for arpeggios that Carmirelli simply plays as double stops (imagine performing Bach’s Chaconne in block chords!); on the other hand, Garatti’s organ continuo in Autumn doesn’t allow the languid harpsichord arpeggiation of the earlier version to propel the slow movement’s viscous chord changes.
Enough recordings of the Four Seasons have passed under the bridge in the last half century to flood the lowlands and highlands as well. Many recent ones have experimented with special effects (Il Giardino Armonico or the Venetian Baroque Orchestra), breathtaking tempos, and realistic imitations of natural sounds. Yet few, on repeated listening, retain the interest that I Musici seemed to generate almost effortlessly. Nigel Kennedy (or was it Kennedy) made a first-rate visceral video of Vivaldi’s masterpiece for EMI, re-released on DVD as 7243 4 92499 (25:1); this one stands alongside it in interest, more engaging than those by Anne-Sophie Mutter (Sony DVD—SVD 46380) and I Solisti Veneti (TDK COFS, 28:4). But the double whammy that Philips has packed into its jewel box makes it perhaps an even better choice, as well as a sentimental favorite. Urgently recommended—although, because of the visual effects and the modern instruments, not to purists.
-- Robert Maxham, Fanfare [11-12/2006]
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Great Performances and Value August 16, 2014
By W. Wilborn (Richwood, TX) See All My Reviews
"A CD and DVD with good performances and sound. Very entertaining. Great price. A no-risk investment."
The definitive recording July 5, 2014
By Cynthia C. (Philadelphia, PA) See All My Reviews
"This is my idea of the perfect sound for Vivaldi. Bright, brisk. Great recording!"