Itzhak Perlman, London Philharmonic Orchestra – Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (2015) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons – Itzhak Perlman, London Philharmonic Orchestra (2015)
qFLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 00:44:14 minutes | 817 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital booklet | © Warner Classics
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, 18-20 May 1976

These days, who would ever imagine that the first commercial recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, one of the most popular classical works in the world, had been released as late as 1947? And how many of us would be able to name the soloist on this pioneering release (on the Concert Hall label)? It was in fact American violinist Louis Kaufman (1905-1994) who was the first to unearth, in its entirety, Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Inventione, the set of twelve violin concertos of which the Four Seasons makes up the first four. Since Kaufman, countless other violinists have left their mark on this masterpiece of the Italian Baroque, developing its treasure trove of invention in line with the trends of the day. Itzhak Perlman himself has made two recordings of it, on both occasions directing from the violin. His first version, featured here, was made with the London Philharmonic in 1976, while the second, with the Israel Philharmonic, dates from seven years later (see volume 32).
Everything there is to say or write has already been said and written about these four concertos, whose main tunes we can all hum, so omnipresent are they in our everyday lives. And yet, generation after generation, virtuosos the world over continue to delve into the poetic and harmonic substance of these phenomenal works. Technically extremely demanding, they showcase not only a soloist’s musicianship, but also his or her taste — and that of the orchestra — with regard to colour and pulse. For rarely has a fully composed work allowed its performers so much freedom of expression. It’s worth remembering that Baroque composers often used a kind of shorthand, understood by contemporary instrumentalists, and expected performers to improvise and incorporate their own ornamentations. As always, it’s the actor that brings the printed page to life, whether in a Shakespeare play or a Vivaldi concerto.

Since this first, unquestionably conventional, Perlman recording, violinists vying to outdo one another for innovation, have sought to perform these works in increasingly theatrical manner, in the way they believe they would have been performed in eighteenth-century Venice, Vienna or Prague. There is still plenty to be said for a more conventional interpretation, however, when it comes to understanding these four programmatic concertos. In the original edition, published in Amsterdam in 1725 and dedicated to Count von Morzin, each Season is headed by an explanatory Italian sonnet — by an anonymous author, possibly Vivaldi himself – the events mentioned in which are then cross-referenced at the relevant points within the score. Vivaldi used the strings with boundless invention and creativity to depict everything from thunder and lightning, hailstorms and shiver-inducing cold to the call of a cuckoo. These four concertos tell a story in sound, and Brueghel’s paintings dance before our eyes as we listen. -Jean-Michel Molkhou


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons)
Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Inventione, Op.8 nos.1-4

Concerto No.1 in E major, RV 269 “La primavera” (“Spring”)
1 I Allegro 3.28
2 II Largo 2.43
3 III Allegro 4.46

Concerto No.2 in G minor, RV 315 “L’estate” (“Summer”)
4 I Allegro non molto 6.15
5 II Adagio 2.44
6 III Presto 3.05

Concerto No.3 in F major, RV 293 “L’autunno” (“Autumn”)
7 I Allegro 5.24
8 II Adagio molto 3.06
9 III Allegro 3.20

Concerto No.4 in F minor, RV 297 “L’inverno” (“Winter”)
10 I Allegro non molto 3.37
11 II Largo 2.31
12 III Allegro 3.21

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Itzhak Perlman, violin, conductor



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