The Four Seasons [Violin Concertos 1-4 from Il Cimento dellArmonia e dellInvenzione, Op.8]
Janine Jansen (violin)
Candida Thompson & Henk Rubingh (violins), Julian Rachlin (viola), Maarten Jansen (cello), Stacey Watton (double bass), Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo) & Jan Jansen (harpsichord & box organ)
Reviewed by: Ying Chang
Reviewed: May 2005
CD No: Decca 475 6188
Duration: 39 minutes
Do you like popular classics? Well, you’ll need a recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Do you follow rising young violinists? Janine Jansen is an assured virtuoso with impeccable musical credentials. If you prefer Baroque music in authentic performance, here’s a slimmed-down version. Within the ensemble of seven are Jansen-family members (her father and brother), the superb Elizabeth Kenny, and violinist Julian Rachlin (here on viola) who is a soloist in his own right. In search of a ‘crossover’ audience, there are seven posed photos of Jansen as a Venetian beauty. Nor are audiophiles ignored; this release is both CD and SACD.
Jansen is, without doubt, technically assured and musically sensitive. The opening movement of ‘Spring’, with its admirable balance between energy and lilting lightness, is an excellent taster. There is, though, a musical incongruity between the bounce and rhythmical edge fashionable in current ‘authentic’ thinking, and the lushness of the solo part – the slow movement of ‘Winter’, for example, feels as if extracted from more romantic repertoire. The recording has great presence and brilliance, but may equally sound relentless rather than sweet.
In trying to tap every market, I doubt this release will top the list in any one. Historically informed versions such as the Standage/Pinnock are not displaced. The manic energy that characterises small ‘Early Music’ ensembles will not be to every taste, and those to whom the violin appeals as an instrument may wish for a more relaxed disc than Jansen provides. The photographs of her as a femme fatale are not entirely convincing, particularly the ones where the violin is apparently being treated as a fetish object.
I doubt if Jansen will displace the original Nigel Kennedy ‘Four Seasons’ in terms of catching the popular imagination. Her release is being heavily marketed (I have lost count of how often I have heard a Classic FM presenter quoting from the booklet notes…) and it is also a short-measure release. Very good, then, but not exceptional.