Comparing Joshua Bell and Anne Akiko Meyers playing Vivaldi Four Seasons

Edited: July 24, 2019, 9:56 PM · I decided to start listening some of the top violinists playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons, to see whom I prefer. I wanted to check my ear against you folks.

I listened to some snippets from Joshua Bell, and the sound was lush, but he did not stand out from the orchestra as much as I would have liked. He was too.....intertwined or slightly hidden. Slightly.

I listened to Akiko Meyers play, and she definitely stood separate, but the tone sounded brittle, almost harsh, almost as though it was a poor recording or something.

Am I assessing them fairly, or am I off base? I was listening to streaming tracks off of Amazon with some earbuds.

I still like Janine Jansen's version better so far, but willing to be swayed.

Replies (26)

Edited: July 24, 2019, 10:07 PM · Anne Sophie Mutter's version sounded a bit too pristine, produced, and trebly for me.

And Itzhak Perlman is....uh....pretty damned good. Nice flavor, tone, and playfulness to what he's doing, even though he's playing the exact same notes. Perhaps I meant to say nice interpretation.

July 24, 2019, 10:01 PM · That sounds like audio engineering differences rather than the actual player output.
Edited: July 24, 2019, 10:11 PM · This is the link for Meyers:

Meyers 4 seasons

It sounds better through my iPhone than it does through my laptop.

July 24, 2019, 10:13 PM · I grew up listening to Perlman's. Even though I know now it's completely wrong, stylistically, that Perlman sound... wow!
Edited: July 24, 2019, 10:20 PM · Between DVDs and audio recordings I probably own 30 recordings of Vivaldi's Four Seasons acquired over the past 63 years. In my opinion none is the equal of the first recording of the Four Seasons I bought around 1958 (and one of the first LPs I ever had) by Werner Krotzinger soloing with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karl Münchinger. In my opinion the performance is in a class by itself and I think that may be partly because it is played from an Italian edition of sheet music (Carisch S.n.A. Milano) that I was able to get for myself (at least the "Winter" concerto) when I prepared a performance.

I think I am not the only devotee of that performance because it was finally released on CD just 2 or 3 years ago. I had previously transferred my LP recording to CD but the purchased CD is better (I lived in the CA desert for 33 years and the sandy grit in the air infected every disk I owned after first listening)

July 25, 2019, 12:34 AM · Hey, Andrew. I listened to the Werner Krotzinger recording. Lovely! Thank you.
July 25, 2019, 1:05 AM · I have also been comparing recent recordings of the four seasons and my favorite is Federico Guglielmo and L'arte dell'Arco recording. I think it is in another league, but it's up to the listener:
July 25, 2019, 1:39 AM · Andrew, thanks for sharing about the recording. I search it on spotify, and like it so much. The tempo is not too fast is also another plus for me.
July 25, 2019, 3:24 AM · I heard Nigel Kennedy's first and it's my favorite
July 25, 2019, 3:41 AM · Four Seasons was my first audio cassette as a child :-) Soloist was Arthur Grumiaux, with the group "Les Solistes Romands". Beautiful performance and recording.
July 25, 2019, 5:21 AM · Jean and Andrew, you two are showing your age!
Edited: July 25, 2019, 8:23 AM · Julia Fischer’s performance always makes me feel good. She fits the orchestra so well. To me, it at least meets the standard of a modern Vivaldi performance.

Edited: July 27, 2019, 5:04 AM · Menuhin's version of the 4 Seasons was the first CD I ever owned. No idea why. I was probably given it. I can't imagine why I'd have chosen it above all other CDs in a shop. My player was an old, second-hand Denon. It stuck on that CD about 20 seconds from the very end. It took me 10 years to buy a better CD player and hear the end of it, lol.
July 25, 2019, 1:09 PM · I'm not sure we'd be talking so much about Julia Fischer's recording quite so much if it weren't such a beautifully produced video (and starring such a beautiful violinist). I like Nigel Kennedy too.

And how about young Stephen Waarts?

Edited: July 25, 2019, 1:32 PM · I am 51, no secret :-) But I agree that, when I got that cassette as a child, even then it must have already been a somewhat old recording :-)
July 26, 2019, 6:16 AM · I heard Bell do the Four Seasons in 2001 live with Trondheim Soloists and thought it was excellent. He showed then what makes him a great leader for ASMF: his ability to lead a group like that from the first chair or as soloist.

I am also very partial to Gil Shaham's Four Seasons.

July 27, 2019, 12:50 AM · I would still be talking about Julia Fischer’s version - fantastic playing.
July 27, 2019, 12:50 AM · I would still be talking about Julia Fischer’s version - fantastic playing.
Edited: July 28, 2019, 3:14 AM · Giuliano Carmignola with the Venice Baroque Orchestra has done thrilling recordings of 4 Seasons.
Edited: July 27, 2019, 8:26 AM · Mark, listening to Giuliano Carmignolo right now, and I have to agree with you. Just ordered the cd. And, how is he doing that?
Edited: July 27, 2019, 8:40 AM · Mark, how do you think his Bach Sonatas and Partitas compares to other major artists? I'm feeling lazy at the moment and don't feel like finding and playing a bunch of different artists playing this.

There seems to be some excellent sound engineering going on in his version. The tracking of the violin between the left and right channels is great. Great feel of motion and liveliness.

July 27, 2019, 10:06 AM · David, I don't have any insights to offer, except that he's a great player with a great ensemble backing him up. And he seem to be a baroque specialist.
July 27, 2019, 11:19 AM · My "How is he doing that?" was mostly rhetorical, but not completely.
July 27, 2019, 2:52 PM · I really like the Julia Fischer recording. It appears that it's essentially done with just a string octet rather than a full string orchestra?
July 27, 2019, 8:10 PM · I watched the Fischer video on Youtube. Enjoyable. I can't fathom how they got that quality of sound recording in that environment though (glass dome). Unless they were lip-syncing!!! ;-)
July 29, 2019, 8:49 AM · For me, nobody's ever been as good as Alan Loveday with ASM.
A lot of their ideas have become standard.
And most more recent performances seem to start out with "What can I do to be different"

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