The Avison Ensemble - Vivaldi: Concerti Opus 8 - MusicWeb International

It's hard to believe that until the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra recording directed by Karl Münchinger was reduced from full price Decca to the Ace of Clubs label in the late 1950s, the Four Seasons were hardly known. Now we have a wealth of choice, not just for those first four concertos but for the whole Op.8 set, on period instruments and their modern equivalents, though usually, in the latter case, with a greater sense of baroque style than shown by Münchinger and his team. To deal with that latter category first, my admiration for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields team under Neville Marriner remains undiminished.

I recently compared two inexpensive period-instrument performances of The Seasons (John Holloway and Andrew Parrott, Dal Segno DSPRCD058), the complete Op.3 and Op.8 concertos (Fabio Biondi, Virgin Classics 6484082, 4 CDs) and a number of other recordings I set one benchmark there, which only Biondi observes to the letter, the barking dog in the slow movement of Spring, represented by the viola, which should sound insistent against the background of the sleeping herdsman: sempre forte: si deve suonare sempre molto forte e strappato. The Avison Ensemble also pass this test, if not quite as effectively as Biondi. In fact, if you're looking for something just a tad less overtly dramatic overall than Biondi or Dantone (Op.8/1-6 Arts 47564-8 and Op.8/7-12 Arts 47565-8 - see review), this new Linn recording will do very nicely. The Biondi set offers superb value - a 4-CD set for around the price of a single CD - as do the Taverner Players and Andrew Parrott on a super-budget 2-CD Virgin Classics Veritas recording* - but the new Linn is also something of a bargain in that the complete Op.12 set, on two rather short CDs, is offered for the price of one, from £8 for mp3 up to £18.00 for Studio Master. I chose the 16-bit lossless (wma) which comes at £10 and found it excellent. This is another excellent recording to add to the distinguished list of the best available recordings; I shall certainly be returning to it frequently.

MusicWeb International
01 October 2011