Another Four Seasons
, but this one shoots to the top of the list. Fabio Biondi's imaginative playing is full of spunk and vigor, delineating Vivaldi's scene-painting without overdoing it. His band matches him with rhythmic vitality; this is one Vivaldi set that holds your interest from start to finish.
In his program notes, Biondi explains the use of the "Manchester" manuscript of the Four Seasons, which was closer to the composer's intentions than editions published later, and he discusses the manuscript sources for the other works. The Four Seasons are the first four concertos of Vivaldi's Opus 8 set of a dozen, titled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (The Trial of Harmony and Invention). The others may not share the Seasons' popularity, but they're of comparable excellence, especially in performances as exciting as these. First-rate sound, close-up and immediate, underscores the vibrancy of the performances. Biondi's 1991 Four Seasons on Opus 111 is still in the catalog, but this one scores because Virgin includes the complete Opus 8 on two discs for the price of one. --Dan Davis