Concerto Grosso No. 4 in F Major; Cncerto Grosso No. 12 in D. minor, "Variations on La Folia"
Christina Day Martinson, violin; Martin Pearlman conducting The Boston Baroque
Of the various ensembles in the Telarc stable, none is more consistently exciting than the Boston Baroque. This is no polite, circumspect period-instrument band; they believe, rightly, that music of the 18th century and before needs the same kind of intense commitment we expect in Beethoven or Tchaikovsky, rooted of course in scholarship and understanding of the performance norms, individual composers and works.
That approach pays big dividends here. The Four Seasons, Vivaldi's best-known work, has been recorded countless times, and many of those performances are quite worthy. My own favorite over the years has been the lovely 1982 recording, in digital sound that is quite good for its day, by harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock leading the English Chamber Orchestra on DG Archiv. But almost every violin virtuoso apparently feels the need to "go on record" with his/her views on this music. (Of that group the Gil Shaham-led performance strikes me as particularly charming.)
But Martin Pearlman leads his Boston players out of the gate with tremendous panache and energy. To my ears their take-no-prisoners approach to this well-traveled score brings it wonderful freshness and impact. Over and over as I went through this disc, I was struck by a particularly felicitous phrase here, a skin-tingling crescendo there. I am inclined to rank this recording right at the top of the heap; in any case, I can promise that you won't be bored.
The press release that accompanied this disc makes much of violin soloist Christina Martinson, and it is easy to hear why. She plays with enlivening spirit and vitality, and the generic slight tartness of her baroque violin is touched with just a bit of sweetness -- most impressive! The two Geminiani concerti grossi that fill out the disc are "after" the Opus 5 of Arcangelo Corelli. They too receive vigorous, wholly engaging performances. I would love to see a recording by these forces of the complete set -- and of their inspiration as well — by this band.I listened to this disc in two-channel SACD, as I do not have a multichannel playback system. I do not recall ever hearing a better-sounding disc from this label. The perspective is fairly close-up, and clearly renders inner details. The vitality of the recording seems a perfect match to the vitality of the performance — both are absolutely demo quality!