Nigel Kennedy + Berliner Philharmoniker – Vivaldi (2003)

FrontCover1Not content with having produced one wildly successful recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in 1989, Nigel Kennedy, irrepressible enfant terrible of the violin world, apparently decided it was time for another version to display the new insights and ideas he had gained during those years. And indeed the differences are far-reaching and fundamental. The old version was relatively conventional, faithful to the score in text and spirit, with moderate tempi and no exaggerations. The new version’s motto might be “everything to excess”: tempi, tempo changes, dynamics. The sound effects are realistic to nature, but unnatural to string instruments, and there is a lot of scratching in the loud, vigorous sections. Perhaps in a nod to baroque practice, there are swells on the long notes, crescendos and decrescendos on ascending and descending lines, unvibrated passage, and long pauses before final notes.

NigelKennedyThis is the first of a multi-disc collaboration between Kennedy and the musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic, called “The Vivaldi Project,” and it is interesting that these famously tradition-conscious, staid players seem quite comfortable with his iconoclastic approach. Phrasing, articulation, and spirit are remarkably unanimous; the balance is fine with very strong cellos and basses. In the two double concertos–one famous, one unknown, both delightful–whose fast movements are taken at break-neck speed, the concertmaster matches Kennedy in verve and virtuosity, no mean feat. In spite of all his excesses, Kennedy’s playing is superb; his technique is brilliant, his tone has a beguiling, aching sweetness. He is in his element in the improvisations; indeed they sometimes take on a life of their own. The most convincing, satisfying parts are the slow movements: played with unspoiled simplicity, deep expressiveness, and repose, they speak straight to the heart. Here, one feels, is where the real Kennedy comes out. (by Edith Eisler)

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Nigel Kennedy, if you didn’t know it already, has done more for Vivaldi than any other musician alive – according to these sleeve notes, that is. Here he continues his intrepid crusade by recording the Four Seasons for a second time, now with the Berlin Philharmonic, and issued on CD and DVD. Kennedy’s performance is perfectly decent and musical – all that designer stubble and estuary English can’t disguise the high-class violinist he is – but it is unremarkable, with only a few eccentric tempo changes to distinguish it from any one of a number of modern-instrument performances of the past 30 years. The two-violin concertos with which the Four Seasons are framed are marginally more interesting, seem more spontaneous, perhaps because Kennedy hasn’t been playing them ad nauseam for the past 10 years. (The Guardian)

VivaldiPersonnel:
Nigel Kennedy (violin)
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Berliner Philharmoniker
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Bogumila Gizbert-Studnicka (harpsichord)
Olaf Maninger (cello)
Daniel Stabrawa (violin)
Taro Takeuchi (lute)

Booklet10ATracklist:

Concerto For 2 Violins, Strings & Continuo In A Minor, Op.3 No.8, RV522     9.36
01. Allegro 2.54
02. Larghetto E Spirituoso 4.11
03. Allegro  2.31

Il Cimento Dell’Armonia E Dell’Inventione, Op.8 Nos.1-4: Le Quattro Stagioni La Primavera, RV269     9.36
04. Allegro  3.05
05. Largo 2.30
06. Allegro 4.01

L’Estate, RV315     10.21
07. Allegro Non Molto – Allegro – (Allegro Non Molto) 5.16
08. Adagio 2.26
09. Presto 2.39

L’Autunno, RV293     8.33
10. Allegro – Larghetto – Allegro Assai 2.08
11. Adagio Molto 2.52
12. Allegro 3.33

L’Inverno, RV297     8.06
13. Allegro Non Molto 3.02
14. Largo 1.39
15. Allegro – Lento – (Allegro) 3.25

Concerto For 2 Violins In D Major, RV511     12:07
16. Allegro Molto – Adagio – Allegro 4.37
17. Largo 3.52
18. Allegro 3.38

Composed by Antonio Vivaldi

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