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Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni
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Audio CD, Import, 2 August 2019
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- Product Dimensions : 13.31 x 13.11 x 1.09 cm; 85.9 Grams
- Manufacturer : HARMONIA MUNDI
- Original Release Date : 2019
- Label : HARMONIA MUNDI
- ASIN : B07QCQPW77
- Number of discs : 1
- Customer Reviews:
In the eighteenth century, in both Italy and France, instrumental music was regarded as devoid of all signification and unable to affect the intellect unless it was accompanied by a literary argument (like 'The Four Seasons') or a choreographic action (like 'Les Éléments'). Long before Franz Liszt's symphonic poems, Vivaldi and Rebel - both of whom owe their claim on posterity to the works recorded here - showed they could create lively and descriptive instrumental music, admirably meeting the ontological, aesthetic and moral requirements of Enlightenment philosophy.
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In the Vivaldi pieces, the group displays a loose, diaphanous sound that is too thin to push some of the more dramatic moments of Vivaldi's most descriptive work. Tempos are pretty quick, for example the Summer really 'moves' but never conveys the heat of a hot day or the incessant pounding of a storm. Putting aside issues of historical accuracy, some of the dynamic shifts simply do not work (i.e. starting Summer III medium loud and then jumping to full blast, the volume in the Autumn's first continuously shifting). Soloist Midori Seiler's hyper-delicate tone and precious phrasing (especially thee Summer I, Winter II, the cadenza in Spring II) come across as overly-mannered, and in slow middle movements she never really seems to "sing" the line or draw much attention to herself. Some of the interpolations were a nice touch, such as dance drones to kick off the Spring III or the lute arpeggios underneath Autumn II's endless whole notes.
At the complete other end of the spectrum is Rebel's dance suite "The Elements", featuring the atmospheric, elevated textures one might find in Rameau and boasting some simply lovely melodies (especially the Louree). The Akademie's plays with a strong, focused and beautiful sound that can turn ominous or cheery as the music requires. Ample woodwinds are also given room to to show off their tone and their chops. Tempos are perfectly judged, and their strong yet flexible beat often inspires a catchy "groove".
I had to give this one 4 stars for the superb Rebel, and I tried very hard to enjoy the 4 Seasons but it wore out its welcome quickly. I'd encourage others to give it a shot though, at the least for a very unique interpretation that made me hear the music differently.