March 2009

Vivaldi - The Four Seasons; Geminiani - Concerti grossi Nos. 4 and 12, after Corelli
Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman cond.
Telarc CD-80698
Format: CD
Released: 2009

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***

Boston Baroque’s recordings -- whether in such familiar fare as Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and Handel’s Messiah or in recently unearthed Mozart rarities -- have been at once so enlivening and so fastidious, so refreshing and so deeply satisfying that they have probably created an unrealistic level of expectation, which in any event is not quite met by the period-instrument group’s latest offering.

There is vigor, there is polish, there is proper style, and there is as always the most realistic and attractive sonic frame from Telarc. Missing, however, from both the soloist and the ensemble in the Vivaldi favorite, is that level of infectious vitality that is as challenging to define as it is to manufacture in performance. It simply happens or it doesn’t; while it usually does happen with Pearlman’s group, what we have here doesn’t measure up to the standards established in all those earlier recordings.

One of the attractive ideas here is the inclusion of two of the concerti grossi Geminiani arranged from Corelli’s violin sonatas, but, perhaps even more conspicuously than in The Four Seasons, these come off as missing that last degree of all-out conviction. The last of these fascinating works is not a multi-movement sonata but an elaborate set of variations on the old Spanish tune "La Folía," in which Corelli demonstrated for the ages how much intensity could be produced with his modest forces. Mr. Pearlman, perhaps cautiously avoiding excess in that direction, has in this instance given us something that might be regarded as merely tidy. There may be listeners for whom tidiness on this level is enjoyable in its own right, but I’d say this is strictly for devoted fans.