Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin

Antonio Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni; Rebel: Les Éléments

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First-rate recordings of Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons are never in short supply, and this 2015 Harmonia Mundi release is one of many that offer sparkling performances. However, the companion piece is the sensational 1737 ballet Les Éléments by Jean-Féry Rebel, and this is an uncommon gem that more listeners should discover. Considering that the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin presents both works in exceptionally polished performances, it's only fair to distribute the praise evenly and accord the Four Seasons points for the brilliant playing by violinist Midori Seiler, and for the creative treatment of the orchestral parts. But the Rebel work is still something of a rarity in comparison with the Vivaldi, and with only a handful of fine performances of this masterpiece available, this one warrants serious attention from fans of vibrant and colorful Baroque music. Rebel's daring score depicts nothing less than the separation of the elements from primordial chaos, and his opening (track 1) features the most shocking dissonance in Baroque music. But the work progresses through several charming dances and inventive displays of orchestration that are singular for the era. Harmonia Mundi's recording is marvelous in capturing the details of the performances, though the prominent use of a bass drum in the Rebel performance may be a little disconcerting to listeners who like to boost their bass. Don't miss this recording.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Les Éléments
1 6:52
2 1:59
3 3:13
4 1:06
5 1:43
6 1:47
7 2:25
8 1:13
9 1:23
10 2:39
11 3:13
Le quattro stagioni
12 3:27
13 1:57
14 3:55
15 4:47
16 1:48
17 2:47
18 5:02
19 2:45
20 3:04
21 3:21
22 1:47
23 2:56
blue highlight denotes track pick