Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (CD review)
Maybe it's a woman's touch. These Four Seasons are among the sweetest, most gracious, most sensitive I've heard. That doesn't make them the best I've heard or my personal favorites by any means, but it makes them different in a most pleasant way.
Especially after hearing so many period-instruments groups galumphing through the Seasons at breakneck speeds, it's nice to hear Ms. Chang taking her time and smelling the flowers along the way. Not that there is anything slow or lugubrious about the interpretations, either; they are full, vigorous readings. The performances, accompanied by members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, always a plus, just tend to put things into perspective better than some other competing versions, Ms. Chang going out of her way to portray each little tone painting--each bird flutter, each horse whinny, each dog yelp, each raindrop--as vividly as possible.
The results may not be as imaginative as the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble on BIS, as exciting as the English Concert on DG Archiv or La Petite Bande on Sony, as pleasingly surreal as the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Decca, as straight ahead as I Solisti Italiani on Denon, or as familiar as any of a dozen other top contenders. Yet Chang and company have their own charms, and grace and refinement are but two of them.
EMI's sound also helps win the day. While it is slightly thin, the delicacy of the reproduction tends to reinforce the cordial friendliness of Ms. Chang's renderings, and the recording's smooth reproduction helps as well. In all, a recording most easy to live with.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.