Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Violin Concertos Op.8 Il Cimento dellíArmonia e dellí invenzione (1725)
Violin Concerto No.1 in E major La Primavera RV269 [12.18]
Violin Concerto No.2 in G minor LíEstate RV315 [11.38]
Violin Concerto No.3 in F major líAutunno RV293 [10.24]
Violin Concerto No.4 in F minor LíInverno RV297 [11.23]
Gloria RV589 [32:01]
Mimi Coertse (soprano), Ina Dressel (soprano), Sonja Draxler (contralto)
Julian Olevsky (violin)
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Hermann Scherchen
rec. June.1958 (Four Seasons) and November 1960 (Gloria)
TAHRA TAH 697 [77:30]

Record companies are slowly getting to grips with the history of the Four Seasons on disc. Molinariís pioneering account, re-clothed for string orchestra sans soloist, has appeared on an Italian label, and the first ever recording of the "real deal" by the sumptuous Louis Kaufman has recently been issued by Naxos. An off-air Campoli performance with Boyd Neel has come out on Pearl. To these the inquisitive fiddle-fancier can now add Doremiís restoration of Berlin-born Julian Olevskyís recording of the entire cycle of twelve concertos that make up Op.8 [Doremi DHR 7837/38]. Set down circa 1954 with no less than Hermann Scherchen on the podium this is a rare opportunity to hear a most impressive talent, one whose career never really breached the upper echelons of the performing circuit and whose recordings have never achieved wide recognition. Yet thanks to Doremi we can now experience the complete cycle of Mozart sonatas for piano and violin and the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. In the release under question Tahra has chosen The Four Seasons from the Op.8 set, coupling it with the Gloria.

Olevsky was of Russian origin but was born in Berlin in 1926 moving to Argentina in 1935. There he studied with a violinist of distinction, if somewhat retrogressive technical equipment by then, Alexander Petschnikoff. Moving to America after a debut with Fritz Busch he made a number of discs for Westminster, had a good if unspectacular career and proved a good teacher. He died aged only fifty-nine in 1985.

He was about twenty-eight when he went to Vienna to record the Vivaldi, accompanied by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Scherchen.

Itís an uneven set. Olevsky was a fine player, elegant, warm if not opulently toned, and one who seldom had recourse to portamenti though he certainly did to expressive diminuendi. His contribution is fine if not especially personalised; I donít think youíd note any distinguishing characteristics. Which is not to say that his playing is cool or uninteresting; on the contrary. The dominant force however is Scherchen. He makes sure the harpsichord is prominent throughout and certainly brings out some "interesting" harmonies in the slow movement of Spring Ė see-sawing strings, desolate middle voicings. His finale is also relatively slow and the tuttis donít really register, which may be a fault of the recording. The conductor insists on quite a bit of rubato in the opening of Summer and devitalised speeds for the slow movements of this and Autumn, albeit Scherchen explores the melodic and harmonic implications of Autumnís slow movement with real sagacity. Thereís good bass pointing in the same concertoís finale with fine instrumental exchanges but the opening of Winter now sounds merely dogged. Its slow movement must be one of the most heroically badly recorded in history. What possessed the engineers, or Scherchen, or Olevsky to allow the orchestral string pizzicatos almost entirely to obliterate Olevskyís solo line? So a very uneven listening experience. Olevsky is a pleasing soloist, well mannered, technically eloquent, tonally accomplished, just without being able to assert much personality on the proceedings.

The Gloria shows Scherchenís strengths in vocal music. Though by this time the weight of the choral contribution was coming to be seen to be a little ripe, nevertheless the sense of commitment is palpable. Scherchen encourages brisk punctuating brass in the opening movement, and an expressive slow tempo for Et in terra pax hominibus, the strings bringing a relatively lightly burnished colour to the musicís texture. Laudamus te is taken at a stately tempo, whilst thereís lovely phrasing in the Domine Deus. The vitality of the jog-trotting Domine Fili is also fine, the organ contribution especially in the Qui tollis also notable. The three soloists make a notably fine contribution.

This is a good example of Scherchenís sensitive exploration of the repertory and is heard in a fine transfer. Tahraís work is decidedly better than Doremiís in The Four Seasons, being possessed of greater definition and clarity.

Jonathan Woolf

A good example of Scherchenís sensitive exploration of the repertory and is heard in a fine transfer.