Part of a Sony reissue series reproducing and combining notable releases from the Columbia Masterworks LP catalog, with original artwork and packaging, this album takes the listener back to a time when Antonio Vivaldi's music, even the ubiquitous Four Seasons violin concertos, was quite new even for the general run of classical music buyers. The notes spend a lot of time laboriously explaining, without much success, how Vivaldi's conception of program music differed from that of, say, Richard Strauss. Plainly Vivaldi did not have the string section of the Philadelphia Orchestra in mind when he wrote the music heard here, and there have been several generations of increased understanding of what his music is about since these recordings were made in 1959 and 1960. Nevertheless, the primary impression conveyed here is how clearly true musicianship will show itself. Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Eugene Ormandy had a feel for Vivaldi, perhaps partly because his predecessor, Leopold Stokowski, had directly inculcated into the orchestra a capacity for dealing with his own idiosyncratic visions of the Baroque, but also simply because he was unusually sensitive to the pictorial world of the Four Seasons. His readings are full of attractive small details, and a few of his original ideas, created as he worked interpretively pretty much from scratch, would be worth emulating today. Consider his quick tempo in the opening movement of the "Summer" concerto, letting it take its place in the traditional three-movement concerto structure without losing any of the pictorial vividness. The music here is more successful, in fact, in the Four Seasons, where Philadelphia Orchestra principal violinist Anshel Brusilow let Ormandy call the shots, than in the four attached two-violin concertos, despite the presence of famed soloists Isaac Stern and David Oistrakh. Digital remastering lends a crisp edge to this strong historical reissue.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Four Seasons|
|Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings & Continuo in C minor, RV 509|
|Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings & Continuo in D major, RV 512|
|Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings & Continuo in D minor, RV 514|
|Concerto for 2 Violins, Strings & Continuo in G minor, RV 517|