Biondi and Company release recording with 7 concertos; 6 are from Vivaldi's collection op. 4, La Stravaganza, with the addition of Proteo o sia il Mondo al Rovescio. Will there be a volume 2? I previously purchased the full 12-concerto versions by Monica Huggett with Christopher Hogwood with the AAM on L'oiseau-lyre soon after discovering the better-wrought opus 3 collection. More recently, I've enjoyed the freer, more dynamic version with Rachel Podger on Channel Classics. Of course, Fabio Biondi out-does both predecessors with his energy and the masculinity in playing from his ensemble Europa Galante. The problem with op. 4 has always been the music... it's different than L'estro Armonico, perhaps less inspired, or of a significantly different character. Biondi succeeds here with his normal tricks, emphasizing rhythms with accents, making the solos an athletic event, and at times, by just making loud music we can tap our feet to. While I'm disappointed we don't get the entire collection, there's plenty good to choose from here, including the "bonus" concerto which Biondi and company do well with, "Il Proteo..." It's with this last concerto that we can once again compare IGA's recording on Teldec with EG. Antonini and friends recorded this with a far "crisper" acoustic, with far more clarity to the recording. EG again take a more athletic approach, but not necessarily faster tempi. Both readings are well-done, and in this case, perhaps there's a little more "attitude" in the playing. The more "live" acoustic with this EG recording works better on loudspeakers than headphones, but lends more drama to the work, too. Both IGA and EG under Biondi have been real masters with Vivaldi. Each contributes good things to this composer's output; difficulty ensues if we try to identify a better approach. Each have merits. In the E-minor concerto, RV 279, we can compare this "best" example from op.4 with Huggett and Podger with more differences. Podger actually is more fire and bravura in this example, where Biondi takes a slower tempi, and pays emphasis on clarity in the solos. Biondi's reading is also more transparent, leaving more to notice in the area of detail. I am actually a little surprised Biondi was able to hold back on this one, actually... but what he lacks in energy in this piece he gains in richer sounding solos, paying attention to add shades of color to his tone, and ornamental touches to the line. Both recordings offer something. In most cases, however, Biondi is a racket-maker (a good racket, with style and shape) where as Huggett and Hogwood are less convincing. In some ways, Huggett sounds as if she's trying to keep up, or at least keep on top, and the entire 2-CD set released in the late 1980s is far more careful and measured. In the end, I found many reasons to smile in Fabio Biondi's latest release of Vivaldi. My only criticism might be with the quality the recording; the wet acoustic loses clarity and transparency at times, then again, it's not all awash, it's more detailed than the recording by Podger. A fun recording.