"This set is really represents an outstanding bargain for anybody wanting to acquire the majority of Vivaldi's (1678-1741) cello concerti.
The playing by the cellist, Ofra Harnoy, is quite fine. The accompaniment by the Toronto Chamber Orchestra is full-bodied, yet not overpowering. The sound engineering (these recordings date from the late eighties and early nineties) is also very good.
But are these concerti worth getting to know? Well, I definitely think so. In my opinion, the argument that Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 600 items has been debunked by recent recordings of his lesser-known works. Each cello concerto is expertly crafted, and each concerto contains its own distinctive themes. The opening the movement ritornelli are delightful (the energetic, ascending opening of RV 404 is a personal favorite), the central movements are lovely (the deeply rich second movement of RV 420 is startlingly novel) and the closing movements are filled with inexhaustible virtuosity (the mischievous third movement of RV 424 and the lilting, compound-meter melody of RV 404 are particularly entertaining).
I will mention that while the playing, by both the ensemble and the soloist, is good, I would characterize this set as a 'conservative' interpretation of Vivaldi's works. In recent years, there has been a movement to infuse Vivaldi's concerti with more pronounced dynamic and tempo contrasts. In these more recent performances, the accented notes have more punch, color and depth is added to basso continue line through the inclusion of a lute, and the soloist has more interpretive leeway. I personally prefer this more interpretive approach to Vivaldi's concerti, but others may disagree. This approach, as applied to Vivaldi's cello concerti, can be heard in Vivaldi: Concerti per violoncello 1.
You may notice that I used the word 'majority' in the first sentence of this review, which, disappointingly, means that this set does not constitute the Red Priest's 'complete' cello concerti. Missing from this set are RV 398, RV 410, RV 415, RV 421 and the entertaining RV 531 for two cellos. Being a completist, this slightly irks me, but I suspect that this will not be a factor for most people.
So, in conclusion, this is a solid release; and at the current price it does not make sense to give this set anything other than my highest recommendation to those looking to discover Vivaldi's cello concerti.
Total Times: CD 1: 53:53 CD 2: 73:25 CD 3: 59:02 CD 4: 62:43"
Worth Getting to Know
Al Chartreux | Upper West Side, New York, New York United States | 10/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 4-disc set is an RCA Victor reissue of recordings of Vivaldi's cello concertos that Canadian cellist Ofra Harnoy made from 1989-1997. At a bargain price of $23.98, it's an absolute must-have for baroque music lovers, fans of Vivaldi, or just anyone who loves good classical music. Most people are probably familiar with Vivaldi's many violin concertos, including, of course, Le Quattro Stagioni, the famous "Four Seasons." This lesser known music by "the red priest" is just as rewarding. Harnoy's cello has a warm and rich tone, and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra provides excellent accompaniment. Superb in every respect."
A must-have for the cello music collection
ronaldbrian | Quezon City, Philippines | 02/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What immediately surprised me, after happily being borne along by the jouncy first track of this compilation, is why Vivaldi is still a stranger in the classical cello concert hall. Cellists spotlighted as soloists invariably choose the concerti of Dvorak, Saint Saens, Elgar, even Haydn. Perhaps it's because these compositions showcase the cellist's technical skills. However, all are forays into somber tones. In contrast, Vivaldi's cello concerti is loaded with his unmistakable joie de vivre. Yet Vivaldi's soaring notes, caresses, leaps and waves are complemented by his thoughtful forays into melancholia, subtly dipping into sadness without delving too deeply that it can't go back. Ofra Harnoy gratifyingly showcases the composer and these wonderful pieces, not herself; she is a cellist not given to cheap effects for braggadocio. Get this wonderful collection if you love cello and baroque music. It occupies a cherished spot on my classical cd collection. The music never fails to cheer me up."
Playing versus Production
Centerra | NH USA | 07/31/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was given the Naxos edition Vivaldi: Cello Concerti, Vol. 3 of Raphael Wallfisch playing these Vivaldi Concerti. I had not heard these works before, and after hearing this CD I wanted to have the entire set. After reading the reviews for the Harnoy edition, I decided that the RCA complete collection was the way to go instead of buying each Naxos Vol separately. The RCA version a great price for a large collection.
I don't think one can find fault with Harnoy's playing. She is less aggressive than Wallfisch; some like Vivaldi more aggressive, others less so. However, when compared to the Naxos edition, the overall RCA recording seems muffled, with Harnoy's cello blending in with the accompanying instruments. The sound is simply homogenized. Additionally, there are irregularities with the interpretation of the concerti. Although Harnoy is the cellist in all the pieces, the entire set includes two different conductors, two different harpsichordists, and different cello continuos. The differences are slight, but they are there.
This having been said, I like a solo instrument to stand out, whereas others like them to blend in a bit more, to sound less "out there." If the later is your thing, then I'd say the Harnoy version would be a good fit. If you like a more prominent place for the soloist, then try the Wallfisch version."
An absolute must-buy
C. Matheson | Vancouver, Canada | 05/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 4-disc set, neatly packaged in a compact case with cardboard sleeves, is outstanding value. The music is incredible and the performances are masterful. Even if this set were five times more expensive, I'd still consider it a bargain.
In fact, let me be more clear: any serious collector of superior baroque music would be a fool to omit this set. The more I listen to this collection, the more strongly I am convinced that Vivaldi was one of the finest composers of cello music of all time.
I cannot be more emphatic about this recommendation: get this set!!!"