Anyone seeking a respectable Vivaldi collection by dependable performers will find this seven-disc set from Decca more than suitable for everyday needs and quite rewarding on repeated listening. Bearing in mind that these recordings were made between 1969 and 1977 and have some analog tape hiss, connoisseurs of sparkling digital sound will not be satisfied. But this is still a fine compilation of significant recordings, and Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields turn in remarkably vigorous and expressive readings of Christopher Hogwood's exemplary performing editions. The Four Seasons, L'estro Armonico, La stravaganza, La cetra, and the eight wind concertos presented here are among the most popular of Vivaldi's varied output, and are central to any serious collection of his works. Marriner and his scholarly musicians introduced many period performance practices in their renditions, and though they play modern instruments in most cases, there are several occasions where Baroque originals or modern copies are used. There are many instances where unusual effects are achieved, but one of the most striking is the sul ponticello bowing in the opening of the "Winter" Concerto, a chilling passage rarely matched in other recordings. This set is recommended with only slight reservations over the sound quality.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons; L'Estro Armonico; La Stravaganza; etc. Review
by Blair Sanderson