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Concertos Op. 8 Incl 4 Seasons

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Product Details

  • Composer: Vivaldi
  • Audio CD (Jan. 18 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Nh
  • ASIN: B0006OJPOC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #249,713 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By J Scott Morrison - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Who can imagine a world without Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons'? And yet until Louis Kaufman made this recording back in 1947, that set of violin concertos was barely known except to the cognoscenti and Vivaldi himself was barely better known; the first recording EVER of music by Vivaldi was made in 1942! This 2CD set preserves the Kaufman recording, the first ever made of the Op. 8 'Four Seasons' concertos as well as, from 1950, the other eight Op. 8 concertos (known collectively as 'Il Cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione,' roughly 'Experiment in Harmony and Invention'), and the two-violin concerto, with Peter Rybar playing the second violin. Kaufman himself reckons this recording put him on the map; his memoir 'A Fiddler's Tale,' published in 2002, has a telling subtitle: 'How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me.' Kaufman was indeed the violinistic voice of Hollywood movies for a matter of decades. When you hear a solo violin in a movie sound track (e.g. Casablanca, Gone with the Wind ['Tara's Theme'], Wuthering Heights, Modern Times, Intermezzo, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) from the '30s and '40s, chances are you're hearing Louis Kaufman. He was the original violist in the Fine Arts Quartet, having studied with the doyen of American chamber music violinists, Franz Kneisel, at what was to later become the Juilliard School. But he and his pianist wife, Annette, landed in Hollywood and stayed there the rest of his life. His widow, Dr. Annette Kaufman, was apparently very helpful in supplying materials for this release. This is the first authorized release of these recordings on CD.

When this first-ever set of 'Four Seasons' recordings came out - on 78s and then quickly on LPs as they took over the market - they were a phenomenon. Indeed, this recording has recently been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. And, of course, it was partially instrumental in setting off the whole baroque music boom that began in the 1950s and which still seems to be gaining steam. These performances were recorded with two different orchestras and two different conductors: 'The Four Seasons,' with the 'Concert Hall Chamber Orchestra' under Henry Swoboda, and, for the other concerti, the Winterthur Symphony under Clemens Dahinden. (The 'Concert Hall Chamber Orchestra' was made up of New York Philharmonic strings, and the recording was mostly made late on New Year's Eve 1947 to avoid a musicians' strike set to start the next day. Edith Weiss-Mann, a pioneering harpsichordist, played continuo, but I can rarely hear her contribution. The excellent Winterthur orchestra sounds larger than the 'Concert Hall' orchestra and was actually made up of Zurich orchestral musicians that recorded frequently under this name. )

What of these performances? I am no specialist in baroque performance practice, but I can hear that the orchestras are probably larger than would be used for present day recordings, and the tuning is modern concert A=440. And I suppose there are some aspects of Kaufman's and the orchestras' playing that are more romantic than baroque--for instance there are occasional portamenti, however, slight, and use of tasteful vibrato that would be abjured by modern-day baroquists. But for me, they are simply lovely. There is no questioning Kaufman's sweet tone or technique or, for its time, style. I first heard these 'Seasons' recordings in the 1950s, just as I was entering college, and can remember sitting up half the night with a classmate marveling at not only the music, which was new to us, but at the playing. For the time, I might add, the recorded sound was pretty darn good, and in this restoration by Victor and Marina Ledin, it is really quite good. One hears a slight amount of surface noise, but this is quickly forgotten.

And in case you don't know the other eight concerti from Op. 8, they are of a piece with their more familiar named siblings, as is the two-violin concerto. The name of Peter Rybar, the other violinist in that concerto, brings back many fond memories for me as he was frequently featured on el cheapo, but very good, classical LPs in the 1950s, the only ones I could afford in my college days. I remember with particular fondness his recording of the Bach Double Concerto with, if memory serves, Henryk Szeryng. He died in 2002 after a long and illustrious career.

At this price, the glories of this set are simply asking to be snapped up by veteran collectors and neophytes alike. This is really just too good to pass up.

2 CDs: 126:34mins

Scott Morrison
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Historically important recording of now famous Baroque music June 7 2005
By klavierspiel - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Louis Kaufman's recording of Vivaldi's Op. 8, which includes the now ubiquitous Four Seasons concerti, was made in 1947-50, at a time when Vivaldi was much less well-known than now. In fact, according to the very informative notes that accompany this Naxos CD, Kaufman's original intentions were to record just the recently published "Seasons," and it was not until after the disc of the four concerti was released in early 1948 that Kaufman realized that Op. 8 contained eight more concerti, sending him to Europe in search of more manuscripts. The integral recording of the set of twelve concerti was completed several years later in Switzerland.

The undoubted influence of this pioneering recording in sparking the revival of interest in Baroque music in general and "The Four Seasons" in particular gives it an undeniable importance. Any present-day music lover even vaguely aware of historically informed performance, however, will not be able to overlook the frequently anachronistic practices: heavy continuo (utilizing both organ and a largely inaudible harpsichord), uniform vibrato, and, in the slow movements and even some quicker passages, obvious portamenti that sound especially out of place today. Curiously enough, these features are less apparent in the later Swiss recordings, suggesting either Kaufman's increasing sensitivity to the idiom, or that historically informed performance was already gaining a foothold in Europe. All that being said, Kaufman, whose credentials as a violinist are beyond reproach, plays with beautiful tone, accurate intonation and sensitive musicianship. Whether that is enough to overcome the now-dated performance practice is really up to the individual listener. The period mono sound has been excellently remastered, with the solo violin sounding especially clear and vivid.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
No it isn't! (the first recording of The Four Seasons) June 12 2009
By Oliver W. Bedford - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I'm afraid Naxos (and others) are pulling our leg!

The first recording of the Four Seasons was by the Orchestra Stabile dell' Accademia di Santa Cecilia, conducted by Bernardino Molinari, Rome, 1942. It is available on an Aura CD (Italian).

Having said that, the Kaufman recording of these concerti is excellent (better than some modern "early music" straight-up-and-down recordings) and the Naxos edition is very good value.
Older is Better Nov. 21 2014
By Vlad B. - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I discovered Vivaldi in a new light. The recording sounds initially old but as upon careful audition it actually proves itself closer to what the original works were intended to be. But the classical music fans will certainly not be surprised by discovering new beauty upon closer inspection.
Great shape. Oct. 12 2015
By classicalmusiclover - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
First ever recording of the Four Seasons. Get to have it. Great shape.