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Vivaldi: The Four Seasons [Lin/Sejong] Blu-ray Audio Review

  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (96kHz/24-bit), dts-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: None
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Naxos
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 1, 2011
  • List Price: $19.95

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

The Performance

[Rating:3.5/5]

Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is one of the classical pieces that many music lovers cut their teeth on.  Each of the  four concerti grossi depict a  season and were originally preceded by poems.  Even minus the verses, this is evocative music with every concerto having 3 movements alternating fast and slow tempi. In each, there is ample opportunity for the solo violin to show off its musical chops. This recording dates from 2005 sessions held at New York’s Church of the Holy Trinity, a good venue for intimate music. A previous CD version has been available for several years, but this is its initial HD surround sound edition.  The violin soloist is accompanied  by a 15 player chamber orchestra, Sejong, led by Adele Anthony, wife of violin virtuoso Gil Shaham and a star player in her own right. Harpsichord/organ continuos are provided by Baroque music veteran, Anthony Newman. Of course, the star of these proceedings is Taiwanese-American violinist, Cho-Liang Lin who has graced most of the major concert stages of the world in a 30-plus year career.

In general, the tempi tend to be quite brisk, which works well in the allegro and presto passages, but seems to rush unduly some of the slower movements.  In spite of the generally fast pace of these pieces, Lin’s violin is still able to sing beautifully. The reduced orchestral forces enable the listener to pick out individual voices very clearly and create balanced interplay with  the soloist.

Two additional concertos from Vivaldi’s  Opus 8 are included:  La tempesta di mare (Storm at Sea) and Il piacere (The Pleasure). Although not as well-known as their seasonal siblings, these concerti are very much in the same class of musical composition, and help to fill out a program that would otherwise clock in at less than 40-minutes playing time.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The recording, originally recorded in 88.2 kHz/24-bit PCM surround and issued in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (96 kHz/24-bit), is full-bodied and clean.  There is  a touch of hall ambience in the surround version, conveying the kind of presence a live performance would be expected to have.  While there are only 4 low strings (3 celli, 1 bass), the low end of this recording is quite ample. Lin’s violin is placed barely ahead of the chamber group, making his contributions seem more those of a colleague than a soloist. This may be a refreshing change from some of the other recorded versions but may disappoint those seeking an exercise in star power.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

None.

The Definitive Word
Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Bringing on another recording of  The  Four Seasons, is like competing on American Idol. There are hundreds of 2-channel recordings, many featuring world class virtuosi like Joshua Bell, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Nigel Kennedy, Itzhak Perlman, and Julia Fischer, to name but a few. But big name violinists don’t always find a spiritual affinity with these pieces or produce satisfying and stylistically appropriate performances. There is also the question of whether to hear these concerti played by small ensembles with period instruments or by modern large orchestras.  If you really love these pieces — and why shouldn’t you? — you will end up, as I have, with several recordings.  What this Lin/Sejong set offers is superb sound with beautiful solo and orchestral playing. What keeps it from my top shelf of Four Seasons recordings are the overly brisk tempi and the somewhat self-effacing nature of the solo playing. To understand what I mean, just take a listen to Nigel Kennedy’s or Itzhak Perlman’s performances. Both are EMI standard red book CDs and offer considerably more excitement in their different solo approaches.

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B004P4I4R8[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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