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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine Vivaldi bargain that will be hard to resist, 1 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Vivaldi: Stravaganza 55 Concertos (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
This is an extraordinary bargain and contains all of the Vivaldi discs that Pinnock has made for DGG. Pinnock and his excellent colleagues in The English Consort plus various soloists have been remarkably consistent in delivering performances of impeccable Baroque style throughout the whole series. That is a considerable achievement and the whole collection is brought together here amounting to 55 concertos in all. These include the complete sets of opus 3, opus 4 and opus 10 plus opus 8 nos. 1-4 and a good selection of other miscellaneous concertos.

The recordings in the set appear to have been remastered as they have improved definition within a warmer ambiance when compared A/B with the previous issues. This set was largely bought in order to acquire the opus 4 set which is otherwise not available. The individual disc contents have all been previously reviewed so for the purposes of this reissued collection I am re-issuing the reviews as copy-pasted below.

...............................
Opus 3 L'Estro Armonico

I have owned this set for over 20 years now and have never tired of hearing it - a sure guide to long-lasting quality.

Since 1987 there has been a revolution in Vivaldi playing led by some notably wonderful Italian groups and soloists. Generally they have taken a dramatic, free-wheeling approach to Vivaldi and at markedly up-tempo speeds. The dynamic and emotional range and observation of accenting has become far more acute as a result.

BUT ..............

There is still no real substitute for this relatively plain and level-headed account played and recorded supremely well. If that sounds dull then the first paragraph above should be reassuring. This set oozes sheer musicianship at every level. The solo violin playing by Simon Standage, as always with this player, is a model of restrained display and sensitivity held in perfect balance.

In the concertos for several violins at the end of this set, he is joined by colleagues of the same calibre. This does not inhabit the same world of dramatic imagination and some extravaganza as can be heard in many of the more recent Italian sets, but it remains deeply satisfying and rewarding upon repeat hearing - not that i would wish to be without Biondi either for example.

I would therefore suggest that among the many pearls of Vivaldi's music available on disc today this still holds its metaphorical head up high. If the program appeals I would suggest that this disc warrants very serious consideration indeed.

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Opus 4 La Stravavaganza

This set, well recorded in 1989-90, continues the consistent and high standards of Pinnock's survey of the Vivaldi concertos. These concertos are not so well known as the more familiar opus 3 L'Estro Armonico set and opus 8 set including the Four Seasons. Nevertheless they are of considerable stature and served to promote Vivaldi's growing fame during his life. In effect they are a set of 12 violin concertos, as the opus 3, 4 , 8 and 9 sets.

Simon Standage, once more, takes the solo violin part, playing with utter security and restrained but effective style appropriate to our understanding of good practice Baroque playing. The English Consort play with impeccable skill as we have come to expect. Trevor Pinnock takes a moderate but lively view of tempi and phrasing throughout and this provides consistently satisfying and rewarding musical experiences. There is something very comforting about listening to music performed in the style to which we have become accustomed.

This is a comment that needs to be made in view of the competing set by Rachel Podger. That too, is consummately fine. Her recording has been made in a more resonant acoustic and the balance is also a bit closer. Rachel Podger plays the solo line as well as directing and her view is larger boned and more dramatic than Pinnock's set. This observation is reinforced by the acoustic properties of the recording which makes the whole thing seem to be on a much bigger scale of concept.

There are, in effect. two equally fine but differently emphasised set to choose from here. Either will give complete satisfaction with Pinnock's set showing more restraint in his typical style and with Podger taking a more assertive approach. Choice will be a matter personal preference as both are as good as each other.

.......................................
Opus 8 Four Seasons etc:

When this recording was first issued in 1982 the choice of Four Seasons was very much more limited than it is today. Essentially there were still a few of the largely discredited big band full orchestral versions such as Karajan's and several ground-breaking chamber orchestra versions such as those by I Musici and Marriner with his St Martin's Academy orchestra for example.

Those latter two chamber orchestra versions were considered very exciting in those far off days, seeming daring and the way forward. This disc with authentic instruments played really well, in tune without acerbic string tone, had an amazing effect. Above all, its textures made the music amazingly vivid when considering the literary references of its inspiration.

Since then there has been further revolution and revelation in Vivaldi interpretation with considerable numbers of, frequently Italian, specialist performances on authentic instruments led by performers such as Biondi and Carmignola for example, taking a much freer and more dramatic view of these works. The effect on this earlier performance by Pinnock with Standage is to make them seem quite restrained and straight-laced by comparison with very little of the literary references, so very important to Vivaldi in this work, being made as clearly as in numerous alternative performances.

However, the musical and recording values remain as satisfying as they were when first issued. The difference now being that this disc has now become the voice from the past rather than the new ground-breaking version full of new effects - more a safe reference recording without the danger of some of the more dramatic recent offerings.

The disc originally played for only 38 minutes and that, at barely half full playing time, was an obvious disadvantage. That has been rectified with the addition of two further concertos played in a similar manner to the Four Seasons. Both recording and performance qualities are maintained at the usual high quality expected of this group of talented musicians.

This therefore still remains a very enjoyable disc which gives pleasure every time it is played. Whether it represents the best overall version in today's highly competitive and more dramatic Vivaldi market is another question ... and one that only keen collectors will be able to decide on an individual basis.

........................................
Opus 10 6 flute concertos

These six concertos, well recorded in 1985, feature the tranverse flute expertly played and in very good baroque style by Lisa Beznosiuk. These are not to be confused with the various recorder concertos.
These concertos also appear in other forms with different solo instruments and will therefore be familiar but not necessarily immediately recognised. The first three concertos, La tempesta di mare,' La notte and Il gardellino are the three known in other forms.

All six concertos make a satisfying whole as published and are played and recorded as well as the other discs led by Trevor Pinnock. The English Consort deliver both energetic and sympathetic supports as required. Only the last three of the concertos have claim to be the only versions of these six works but, as flute concertos, these are extremely well delivered by all concerned.

However .......

both 'Il gardellino' (goldfinch) and 'La notte' are also known as recorder concertos and 'il gardellino' in particular suits the recorder particularly well having more of a bird song characteristic about its natural timbre. The tempesta di mare' is also known as a concerto for solo recorder, oboe, bassoon and violin. Those versions can be heard on a disc led by Biondi and also as recorded by Amarillis. There is a further option on a disc by Rebel. All of these alternatives provide superb playing and recording and choice will be matter of personal preference. My suggestion for collectors of multiple versions is to buy them all as they offer different insights of equal value and satisfaction while being different in emphasis.

Once more, Pinnock offers the middle ground done to perfection and ideal for repeat listening but I would suggest that purchasing at least one of the recorded alternatives featuring the solo recorder as above would be a very worthwhile investment.

........................................
Concerto selection - Alla rustica

This collection of miscellaneous concertos, well recorded in 1985, has been grouped together under the name of just one of them - alla rustica.' This seems a somewhat arbitrary title for the collection which may well have been chosen because of the more 'rustic' nature of the solo instruments featured as a whole.

The concertos nevertheless make for an interesting collection, and also make for a refreshing alternative to the many string based solo concertos otherwise available. In this case Philip Pickett and Rachel Becket are the chosen solo recorder players, Colin Lawson and Carlos Riera perform on the two chalumeau(x) and Simon Standage and Micaela Comberti play violin. In addition, mandolins are played by James Tyler and Robin Jeffrey, Anthony Pleeth plays cello and Nigel North and Jakob Lindberg perform on the two theorbos.

The above list has been supplied simply because it vividly demonstrates the sheer variety of sounds to be experienced and enjoyed on this collection of concertos. it will also go towards appreciating that those sounds will be more associated with rustic activities rather than more formal events.

The six concertos themselves are 'alla rustica;' oboe and violin; 'con molti stromenti;' 2 violins; oboe; 2 mandolins.

Every one of these concertos offers music of real interest as well as a cornucopia of sounds not in regular usage today. They also vividly illustrate Vivaldi's enormous imaginative breadth and technical understanding.

There is not a weak moment here and I would suggest that this disc makes a very attractive purchase option.

...........................................
L'amoroso collection of concertos

This well recorded set of six concertos from 1986 makes a companion to the 'alla rustica' set of six concertos from 1985. Once more the selection introduces instruments other than solo strings and this makes for an interesting alternative to the many violin concertos. The disc takes its name from that of the violin concerto.

On this disc the six chosen concertos are a concerti for strings; one for flute; one for bassoon; one for viola d'amore and lute; one for violin (l'amoroso); one for oboe and bassoon. This selection is not as 'rustically' chosen as in the previous disc but nevertheless affords considerable aural variety.

As before, all the instruments are expertly played and Pinnock ensures that all are played with engaging decorum. The English Consort provides its customary excellent support. The uniformally excellent soloists on this occasion are David Reichenberg on oboe, Milan Turkovic on bassoon, Lisa Beznosiuk on transverse flute, Simon Standage on violin, Roy Goodman on Viola d'amore and Nigel North on lute.

The concertos, as a group, are a vivid demonstration of the breadth of Vivaldi's imagination and technical resources and the disc is a further valuable addition to our growing understanding of this prolific and gifted composer.

I would suggest that this is yet another superb disc to tempt potential enthusiasts of Vivaldi's music.

............................................
Concertos for various instruments

This well recorded set of six concertos from 1993 makes a companion to the 'alla rustica' and L'amoroso' sets of six concertos from 1985 and 1986. Once more the selection introduces instruments other than solo strings and this makes for an interesting alternative to the many violin concertos.

On this disc the six chosen concertos are 2 concerti for strings; one for oboe; one for bassoon; one for 2 violins and 2 cellos; one for recorder; one for violin, 2 recorder, and 2 oboes. This selection is not as 'rustically' chosen as in the previous disc but nevertheless affords considerable aural variety.

As before, all the instruments are expertly played and Pinnock ensures that all are played with engaging decorum. The English Consort provides its customary excellent support. The uniformally excellent soloists on this occasion are Paul Goodwin and Lorraine Wood on oboe, Alberto Grazzi on bassoon, Peter Holtslag and Catherine Latham on recorder, Peter Hanson and Walter Reiter on violin and Jane Coe and David Watkin on cello.

The concertos, as a group, are a vivid demonstration of the breadth of Vivaldi's imagination and technical resources and the disc is a further valuable addition to our growing understanding of this prolific and gifted composer.

I would suggest that this is yet another superb disc to tempt potential enthusiasts of Vivaldi's music.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 May 2014 02:35:34 BDT
J.A.W. says:
As far as I can see this set only includes the "Four Seasons" part of Op.8 (concerti Op.8/1-4), not the other concerti Op.8/5-12, so your claim that it does have the complete 12 concerti of Op.8 is not correct.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 May 2014 07:51:45 BDT
Last edited by the author on 15 May 2014 07:52:10 BDT
I. Giles says:
The review makes it clear that only the Four Seasons part of the opus 8 is included (paragraph 4 of the op 8 part of the review and as copied here: ' The disc originally played for only 38 minutes and that, at barely half full playing time, was an obvious disadvantage. That has been rectified with the addition of two further concertos played in a similar manner to the Four Seasons. Both recording and performance qualities are maintained at the usual high quality expected of this group of talented musicians.'
I am unable to explain your impression that I have claimed otherwise after I have checked the whole review of the complete box set. Best wishes, Ian Giles

In reply to an earlier post on 15 May 2014 11:12:17 BDT
J.A.W. says:
Well, in the first paragraph you said "(...) the whole collection is brought together here amounting to 55 concertos in all. These include the complete sets of opus 3, opus 4, opus 8 and opus 10 plus a good selection of other miscellaneous concertos." The complete set of opus 8 means all twelve concerti.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 May 2014 11:57:53 BDT
I. Giles says:
Now adjusted the first paragraph. Thanks for spotting that. Ian Giles

In reply to an earlier post on 15 May 2014 12:00:22 BDT
J.A.W. says:
You're welcome.
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I. Giles
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Location: Argyll, Scotland

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