Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Vivaldi - New Philharmonia Orchestra - Leopold Stokowski ‎– Le Quattro Stagioni

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

This month. Vinyl’s Revenge returns with a somewhat nostalgic look (or should I say listen) at a “guilty pleasure” recording that has been part of my vinyl collection for years.

An Amazon reviewer says it best:

Stokowski's performance of The Four Seasons made me enjoy this work as no other performance has […] If you already love this music, please listen to it as conducted by this great artist.

Indeed, as teased in my recent post on Leopold Stokowski, we are of course talking about Stokowski’s “Phase 4 Stereo” recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the “New” Philharmonia Orchestra featuring its then-concertmaster (leader) Hugh Bean as soloist.

Why is it a guilty pleasure? I guess it's the unashamedly "big band" sound... For the record, this recording was displaced in my music collection by the 1982 original instrument version by Simon Standage and the English Concert conducted by Trevor Pinnock. 

Perhaps the finest "big band" Seasons comes from this oft-reissued Phase 4 recording which brims with the conductor's characteristic and highly personal tonal color, rescoring and inflection, but it's deeply heartfelt and thoroughly delightful. Indeed, the dynamic continuo and vivid recording even render it highly stylish. 

At 45 1/2 minutes it's seductively slow, but as our soloist Hugh Bean once said of Stokowski's generation,” they made time vanish”.

And Bean would know a thing or two about that generation of conductors, having served as co-leader, and later leader of the “old” Philharmonia under the great Otto Klemperer. Hugh Bean was, by all accounts, one of the finest British violoinists of his day, a tenured teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Music and an accomplished chamber and orchestral performer. Bean is also well-known for performances of great British violin works: the Elgar Violin Concerto and Vaughan-Williams’ The Lark Ascending, which he both recorded at around the same time as these Vivaldi concerti.

Happy Listening!

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons from "Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione" op. 8 (nos 1-4)
Hugh Bean violin
Charles Spinks, Harpsichord
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski, conducting
Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, 11 June 1966 
AAA, London VIVA Series, VIV 3