The variety of available interpretations of Vivaldi's evergreen Four Seasons continues to grow, untrammeled by any supposed overexposure or decline in the CD market. The young Czech violinist Pavel Sporcl, aided by his blue violin and a team of graphic designers treating us to what is apparently a really strange Frisbee lying in the grass, indeed offers a version that stands out from others. He mixes two previous types. First there is his stress on the episodic, programmatic qualities of these four violin concertos, each of which was accompanied by its own sonnet describing the seasons. It is not known who wrote these poems, and it may have been Vivaldi himself. They are included in the booklet here, in English, French, German, and Czech as well as the original Italian (although the rest of the booklet notes lack that language), and Sporcl offers a flamboyant emphasis on individual details. Second, he draws on historical performance practices while using a modern-instrument group, the small (three-to-a-part) Prague Philharmonia, with a very audible and active continuo accompaniment on a replica of a big old German harpsichord. The concertos have an attractive crispness that will put listeners who came to Vivaldi in the 1970s in mind of the Vivaldi concerto recordings of L'Estro Armonico. Sporcl deserves credit for not stepping up in front of a 70-member symphony orchestra, and his claims of long immersion in the work seem justified. But his two strands are hard to weave together. He pushes the tempo into strange territories -- the Largo e pianissimo sempre movement of the "Spring" concerto can in no way be described as Largo here, perhaps because Sporcl is taking his cue from the "leafy branches rustling overhead rather than from the sleeping goat-herd." There are accelerandos and crescendos throughout, never objectionable taken individually, but never quite sitting well with the modest dimensions of the performance. His readings might be compared with those of another hip young violinist, Janine Jansen, and although hers are more outrageous, they also hang together better in terms of taking you into a new world and keeping you there. There are nevertheless compelling moments occurring throughout Sporcl's version -- he has a toe-tapping way with Vivaldi's rustic finales, and his version of the concluding Bach Concerto for two violins and orchestra, BWV 1043 (presumably accompanied by concertmaster Jan Fiser, although this is not specified), is sharp. The disc includes two movements of the Vivaldi in video versions; they can be played only on the Windows operating system and were not viewed here.
Vivaldi: Four Seasons Review
by James Manheim
|The Four Seasons (Il quattro stagione), concertos (4) for violin, strings & continuo ("Il cimento" Nos. 1-4) , Op. 8/1 - 4|
|Concerto for 2 violins, strings & continuo in D minor ("Double"), BWV 1043|