English Concert - Vivaldi's Four Seasons
Back in my school days, after discovering Bach and Vivaldi (the harpsichord concertos, L’Estro Armonico), my interest eventually led me to the Four Seasons. My first recording was by the Raglan Baroque, with Monica Huggett. My school chum who I’d pulled along with me into baroque music had purchased the Simon Standage version with the English Concert. Up until now, I’d never owned that rendition and only had a very distant memory of hearing it at his house (1990?). It’s a recording that has remained at full price in the DG-Archiv catalog.
All around, it maintains that certain kind of mid-1980s British reserve to baroque music, not unlike all the other recordings I own by Pinnock and his band from the period. Yet, as a recording, it is remarkably clear and pristine. Unlike their later peers (say, Il Giardino Armonico), there’s not any dramatic punches. That’s not to say it’s boring; Pinnock and Standage support orchestral fortes and pianos. They aren’t shy about pushing the tempo in spots, where others might linger for more dramatic effect. The overall presentation is clean and satisfying.
Standage applies vibrato in spots, especially so in the longer notes, which today I find a little unsatisfying. It’s a compromise, I feel, between not applying it all, and feeling it’s necessary as a type of performance practice. The fact it is not consistently applied, however, makes me relish the non-vibrated notes even more.
The harpsichord’s sound is very prominent in the mix, probably amplified by in post=production, but I find it satisfying. I’m satisfied to finally owning this recording and am glad it lacks the academic leanness that plagued some recordings from this era. The ensemble, it’s director, and solo violinist were in top form. The recording survives well from 1982.