The Philharmonia Baroque, under music director Nicholas McGegan, is a period-practice ensemble based in San Francisco that plays on a combination of period and modern reproduction instruments. Since its founding in 1981, the orchestra has produced an abundance of recordings. Not surprisingly, the group eventually decided to take on its own rendition of Vivaldi's oft-performed Four Seasons. The difficulty, of course, with such perennially enjoyed music is coming up with something unique to say without venturing into absurd antics just for the sake of being different. In its 2010 recording (on its own label), the orchestra is joined by violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, an artist whose playing and vision for these concertos is certainly individualistic in its conversational, demonstrative style. Blumenstock goes out of her way to accentuate the scenes Vivaldi describes in his explanatory sonnets(thankfully included in the liner notes). Is it so vastly different from other offerings available on the market? Perhaps not. But it is more than sufficiently entertaining and enjoyable for a first or even second addition to a library. The best part of the album is saved for last with the virtuosic, dynamic performances of the far less often heard "Il favorito" and "L'amoroso" concertos along with the much later, mature B flat Concerto, RV 375.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Le quattro stagioni, Op. 8|
|Concerto in B-flat major, RV 375|
|Concerto in E minor, RV 277 "Il favorito"|
|Concerto in E major, RV 271 "L'amoroso"|