Sarah Chang; Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. EMI 0946 3 94431 2.
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.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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