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Gramophone, August 2011

It’s fitting that the first complete recording of The Four Seasons should have been made by Italians—in 1942 by the Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia of Rome—but the recording that really opened the ears of the public to this then relatively unknown composer’s music was that made by American violinist Louis Kaufman with the Concert Hall Chamber Orchestra (read the strings of the New York Philharmonic) under Henry Swoboda at Carnegie Hall in 1947 (Kaufman went on to record the remaining eight concertos of Op 8 in 1950; the complete set is now available on Naxos).




Penguin Guide, January 2009

This is a very special Four Seasons. Recorded in Carnegie Hall in December 1947 by Louis Kaufmann, a soloist of distinction, very famous in America in his day, and the Concert Hall Chamber Orchestra directed by Henry Swoboda, it was the work’s recording première. Some 3,000 sets were pressed—and so too was re-established the reputation of Antonio Vivaldi. All but forgotten for over two centuries, he was soon to become renowed as the composer of the most familiar and most popular classical piece in the entire concert repertory. Kaufman went on to record the other eight Concertos of Op. 8 on Zurich in 1950 with the Winterthur Symphony Orchestra conducted by Clemens Dahinden, who was a natural Vivaldian and supported him well.

Kaufman was thus a key pioneer in promoting the Vivaldi revival, which cam with the long-playing record. What is astonishing is how like modern-day performances these are, with apt tempi and a style which is athletic and expressive by turns. Indeed, all this music sounds as fresh as ever and, with excellent transfers, the sound too is astonishingly good, the Four Seasons limited in range but well balanced (with even a hint of the continuo now and then) and aurally pleasing. The sound in the remaining Concertos is fresh and brighter, although there is an occasional hint of minor pitch flunctuation, it is brief and not too disturbing, when the overall effect is so pleasing. Kaufman is then joined by Peter Rybar for the Concerto for two Violins, which makes a sprightly and engaging encore, and the continuo comes through well.




Robert Maxham
Fanfare, November 2005

The re-release of Louis Kaufman’s premiere recording of Vivaldi’s Cimento serves as a reminder that the work’s excitement depends more on the performer’s enthusiasm and artistry than on that advocacy’s specific stylistic language.

To read the complete review, please visit Fanfare online.



Fanfare, July 2005

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New York Daily News, March 2005

"Classical gas
Lend an ear to these glorious new CDs

For an industry constantly bemoaning its fate, the classical music recording business is surprisingly lively. Like Mark Twain, news of its death is premature.
In fact, some new CDs reveal that ingenuity and innovation abound.

There is no better proof of this than a new recording of Hector Berlioz's monumental opera "Benvenuto Cellini," in a "live" performance conducted by the eminent Berlioz-ian John Nelson.

"Cellini" was a fiasco when Berlioz himself conducted it in Paris in 1838. Although its overture and the Roman Carnival music have always been popular, the opera itself was little known until the landmark 1972recording by Colin Davis.

Given that it's not a "bread and butter" opera, it's inspiring that Virgin is issuing Nelson's version (in an offer where you get three disks for the price of two). He has recorded the original 1838 score, which is even more demanding than the revised version that Davis conducted.

The results are astonishing. Some of the voices in the older recording were strained. Here the young voices meet the challenges splendidly. The melodramatic finale, in which Cellini melts down all his other work to cast his famous statue of Perseus, is absolutely breathtaking.

Another adventurous choice of repertory is "Brahms: Music for Two Pianos," which features two oft-recorded Brahms pieces, "Variations on a Theme by Haydn," and the "Quintet for Piano and Strings." They have seldom been recorded in the two-piano arrangements Brahms himself made. None of the existing pianistic versions is as powerful as the new ones by Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman. Hearing these pieces in the hands of these masters makes their architecture clearer and more impressive.

Another novelty is Naxos' recording of Shostakovich's "Jazz Suites" (which were partly used in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut"). Despite its hip orchestrations, this music sounds almost like operetta. There's something poignant about the great composer trying to bring Western styles into glacial Stalinist Russia in the '20s. The album includes his delightful orchestral arrangement of "Tea for Two."

To market a stellar recording of Franz Schubert's song cycle "Die Schoene Mullerin" (The Lovely Miller Girl), EMI commissioned Richard Avedon to photograph tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Mitsuko Uchida. The photo session took place just before Avedon's death last September. Rarely has the piano part to this piece seemed as dramatic as it is here. Bostridge can sometimes be a frosty singer, but here he's at his most impassioned.

The great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky has an album of Russian ballads of the Soviet era, "Winter Dreams," a followup to his rousing Delos album of Soviet World War II songs. The last cut, "Motherland Hears," features a short version Hvorostovsky recorded at age 11 that segues into the beautifully orchestrated contemporary version he sings (sumptuously, of course).

Not every new classical album has a novel element. Of the many recordings of Puccini arias, few are as ravishing as "Puccini: Angela Gheorghiu." The Romanian soprano's husband, tenor Roberto Alagna, joins her for the famous "quiz" scene from "Turandot."

Anyone lucky enough to have heard the recital by Mikhail Pletnev that opened Lincoln Center's Great Performers series last fall knows he is the keyboard's reigning mystic. His new album, "Pletnev Plays Schumann," reveals him at his brooding best.

TYPICALLY ENGLISH
Few contemporaries have found as wide an audience as English choral composer John Tavener, whose "The Veil of the Temple" has been given a haunting recording on RCA. English music somehow resisted the modernist urge to be novel, which may account for its continuing appeal. Naxos, by the way, has issued two stunning compilations of "English Choral Music" and "English Vocal Music" of the past century and a half that show the enduring freshness and beauty of this tradition.

Naxos has also released the first-ever recordings of the most beloved of all classical pieces, Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," which remained unknown until 1948, when a Hollywood studio violinist named Louis Kaufman recorded it. Kaufman's version is as exciting as any of the zillions recorded since.

Kaufman played the works of Hollywood composers Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman and Miklos Rosza, as well as the glissando that accompanies Pinocchio down Monstro's throat. A CD with classical works as well as his melting versions of songs by Jerome Kern comes with his charming and informative autobiography, "A Fiddler's Tale."

The packaging of CDs with classical memoirs is a happy new trend. A noteworthy example is the great cellist Janos Starker's "The Musical World According to Janos Starker," which includes the rarely heard Richard Strauss cello sonata. There's also novelist-filmmaker Ib Melchior's "Lauritz Melchior: The Golden Years of Bayreuth," which contains prime cuts by his father, Lauritz, the greatest Wagner singer of the 20th century."



Peter M. Knapp
Patriot Ledger, March 2005

Antonio Vivaldi is certainly a household name. Music of the Venetian priest-composer (1678-1741), especially the overly recorded violin concertos known as ‘‘The Four Seasons,'' seems ubiquitous. Yet most people wouldn't recognize the name of American violinist Louis Kaufman who made the first recording of ‘‘The Four Seasons'' and was instrumental in reviving Vivaldi's music.

Throughout much of the last century, Kaufman (1905-1994) himself seemed to be everywhere as soloist and recording artist. The violinist made more than 150 classical recordings and was concertmaster for more than 500 Hollywood movie soundtracks, including such iconic (I knew someday I'd use that absurdly trendy word) films as ‘‘Gone with the Wind'' and ‘‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.''

Three years ago, Kaufman's recording of Vivaldi's ‘‘Four Seasons'' was enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Now, Naxos has reissued it for the first time on CD, along with the other eight violin concerti from Vivaldi's Opus 8, ‘‘Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Inventione'' (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention), composed in 1725.

Kaufman was instrumental in reviving ‘‘Il Cimento.'' After recording ‘‘The Four Seasons'' in late December 1947 in pre-dawn Carnegie Hall sessions as a recording industry strike loomed, the violinist learned that the work was part of a larger collection whose whereabouts were unknown. Kaufman tracked down the first edition score of all 12 concertos of Vivaldi's Opus 8 in a Brussels library.

Despite the glut of ‘‘Four Seasons'' recordings, Naxos' reissue has artistic as well as historical value. Kaufman's playing has character and flair and he certainly doesn't lack technical prowess.

The recordings of the other eight concerti made in 1950 in Zurich, Switzerland, with the Winterthur Symphony Orchestra sound clearer with lighter, springier ensemble playing. Kaufman's solo flights are especially spectacular in the third movement of the Concerto No. 8 in G minor, RV332 and the first movement of No. 10 in B-flat, ‘‘La Caccia'' (The Hunt), RV 362.

For all their notes, Vivaldi's concerti are remarkably concise - less than 10 minutes long for most of ‘‘Il Cimento.'' By contrast, English composer Edward Elgar's 1910 Violin Concerto in B minor is one of the longest in the repertory, spanning nearly 50 minutes. It constitutes a test of skill, memorization and stamina for the soloist, who also must contend with a robust orchestra.



Jeremy Eichler
The Boston Globe, February 2005

Ah, the timeless masterpiece. The very phrase reveals our unspoken assumptions. With works like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," their merit is so manifest, their greatness so pristinely enshrined that we tend to imagine them existing outside history, as unbounded by time as the genius of their creators.

What a pleasure, then, to come across a new Naxos Historical release: the first American recording of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," performed by Louis Kaufman, a well-traveled soloist and ubiquitous concertmaster during the golden age of Hollywood film scores. (You've probably heard him even if you never knew it.) Kaufman is backed by the Concert Hall Chamber Orchestra, under Henry Swoboda. But the salient detail is the recordings' amazingly late date: 1948. Believe it or not, the timeless Vivaldi had been an obscure composer in America all the way through World War II. He was studied by scholars mostly for what he taught us about Bach. Performances were scarce, and the public knew little of his music.

Fast-forward roughly half a century, and these four Vivaldi concertos are perhaps the single greatest hit of classical music. They have been recorded more than 100 times and by most respectable violinists of recent decades; they have been used in Hollywood movies like "Pretty Woman" and in television commercials to hawk sundry products from cars to credit cards. They grace elevators and hotel lobbies across the land, and in what is perhaps the ultimate test of classical hit status, they have even been transmogrified into ring tones for cellphones. If you're a classical melody, that's when you know you've really made it.

So what exactly happened to "The Four Seasons"? How and why did these concertos take off, and what has been the price of popularity? Answers are elusive, but like most explosions in popularity, this one owes a lot to happy timing. At least in this country, the story began one day late in 1947, when Kaufman received a call from a CBS executive inviting him to perform the "Four Seasons" concertos for radio broadcast.

Kaufman, who was born in 1905 in Portland, Ore., was living in Los Angeles at the time, playing with studio orchestras while maintaining a simultaneous career as a concert soloist. Time was scarce, and shortly after deciding to record the Vivaldi concertos in Carnegie Hall, he left by train for New York along with his wife, Annette. He learned the solo part en route, unraveling the music's mysteries as the landscape streamed by.

"We fell in love with the pieces while he was learning them on that train," Ms. Kaufman said recently from her home in Los Angeles. "They just seemed so fresh and unexpected. We couldn't get over the wonderful melodies."

Once Kaufman arrived in New York, there was little time to linger over details. He was racing to record the pieces before a union recording ban took effect on Jan. 1, 1948. Carnegie Hall was booked solid with other groups also seeking to beat the deadline, so Kaufman, along with Swoboda and a small orchestra made up mostly of New York Philharmonic players, took the hall the last four nights of the year, starting each session at midnight. In his memoirs, "A Fiddler's Tale," Kaufman describes working into the early morning hours in the darkened hall, with the stage brightly lighted. Annette turned pages, and the fatigued musicians, who had been recording with Stokowski in addition to playing their own concerts, stayed attentive, thanks to this new and strangely beguiling music.

The recording that emerged is a fine one, full of high-flown Romantic playing that is enjoyably oblivious to Baroque performance style and peppered with its own version of "period" effects: principally, the swooping portamentos of the mid-20th century.

The Naxos two-disc reissue also includes Kaufman's later recording of the other eight concertos in the Opus 8 set.

Sticklers for accuracy will take issue with Naxos's trumpeted claim that this is the world premiere recording of "The Four Seasons." The Italian conductor Bernardino Molinari recorded the concertos five years earlier, in 1942. The restoration producers defend their claim by explaining that Kaufman used a more accurate edition of the score, whereas Molinari's recordings were based on his own liberal transcriptions.

Whatever the case, there's no doubt that Kaufman's "Four Seasons" was the first complete American recording. It was released by Concert Hall Society and favorably reviewed in The New York Times in October 1948. The Times critic Howard Taubman introduced the piece to his readers as "an early and delightful experiment in program music."

At the same time, Vivaldi's fortunes were buoyed by an event that did wonders for Baroque music: the introduction of the LP. Smaller record companies like Vox and Concert Hall scrambled to record Baroque repertory that had been overlooked by the major labels. The new technology and the smaller orchestras required for Baroque music meant that recordings could be made more cheaply. They sold well, too.

"Sam Goody couldn't keep the records in stock," Peter Munves, a longtime record collector and industry executive, said recently. "It was new stuff. It was exciting."

Gene Bruck, another avid collector, remembers "The Four Seasons" as his first LP: "We thought not only was this sensational music, but you could actually play the whole thing. Everyone bought it, and boom, off it went."

The newly released Baroque music also fell on receptive ears. One could argue that the music's lightness and transparency, its distance from a freshly tainted German Romanticism, made it perfectly suited to American life in the postwar decade of the 1950's. Other violinists soon got into the act, recording their own versions of the "Seasons." Italian ensembles like I Virtuosi di Roma and I Musici spread the word, and did so with a pioneering awareness of historic style.

Of course, timing is only part of the story. At a more basic level, "The Four Seasons" was - and is - extraordinarily original music, full of brilliant and glistening sonorities, ingenious formal innovations and all those vivid solo lines bursting off the page.

And perhaps most important for its popular appeal, "The Four Seasons" has a program that incorporates the most basic human elements: the world of nature, the cycle of the years, the passage of time.

Seasonal sounds and images are inscribed into the music, yet the work's program does not constrain the imagination. Rather, each season provides a ready-made point of departure for a wide range of metaphors. It was no doubt in this spirit that Alan Alda chose the work as a poetic template for his 1981 film "The Four Seasons," about the intertwined lives of three couples and their travels in summer, fall, winter and spring.

On the flip side, the work's instant recognizability, coupled with its classical pedigree, has made it a handy marketing tool. "There is an association with luxury and with elegance that is very clear," said Nick Hahn, the managing director of Vivaldi Partners, a marketing strategy consulting firm.

Classical hits like "The Four Seasons" also loom large in the endless barrage of "lifestyle-oriented" CD releases. A recent search on Amazon.com produced a whopping 794 hits. Of these, the great majority are compilations, some with eminently quotable titles.

Hoping to bring a touch of class to that French toast? Try "CBS Masterworks Dinner Classics: Sunday Brunch, Volume 2." Tired of bathing in silence? Now there's "Baroque at Bathtime: A Relaxing Serenade to Wash Your Cares Away." (I promise, I'm not making this up.) Or finally, a personal favorite that cuts right to the chase: "The Only Classical CD You'll Ever Need."

That last title touches on a more serious problem in the way classical hits can crowd out too much other music. Vivaldi wrote dozens of worthy violin concertos that get barely a nod. Moreover, the heavy rotation of masterpieces tends to numb our ears, making it hard to hear them fresh. If only this music could take a vacation, or if performers could call a moratorium for the sake of Vivaldi's future.

At least there are still bracing contemporary releases like Gidon Kremer's version (on Nonesuch) that blast away habits of complacent listening and open the ears once more to Vivaldi's radical imagination. I like Kaufman's version, too, for the way it can accomplish a similar effect - not through the playing itself, but through the niche it occupies in the past.

Just as historians are challenged to write history as if they didn't know what was coming next, those who approach historic recordings can strive to listen through ears of decades past, forgetting what they know of the intervening years. Yes, of course, it's an illusion, but it can be a productive one.

Imagine: it is 1948. A new set of records has just arrived bearing the curious promise of music for each season. The textures are brilliant, the writing is breathtakingly original and the solo playing sings. You know, this Vivaldi - he just might have some potential.



Lawrence A. Johnson
Miami Herald, February 2005

It's hard to think there was ever a time when The Four Seasons was not hugely popular. But Vivaldi's colorful set of nature-inspired concertos didn't receive its first recording until 1947. Naxos has now reissued that premiere recording by Louis Kaufman in a double-CD set, along with the violinist's performances of the remaining Op.8 concertos.

Even with the ceaseless torrent of recordings in the last half-century, Kaufman's Four Seasons wears its years remarkably well. The violinist's gleaming sheen is recognizable from his years of work in Hollywood studios, yet Kaufman's Baroque playing sounds remarkably fresh and undated. Perhaps some slow movements are fractionally more romanticized than one would hear from today's Italian Baroque ensembles. But Kaufman is a stylish and imaginative player, and it's easy to see why these communicative recordings helped spark the Vivaldi revival. Brisk and buoyant with tasteful vibrato, Kaufman's Four Seasons holds up quite well. The other Op. 8 concertos are even more impressive, lightly sprung and graceful, with alert, properly scaled support by the New York and Swiss chamber groups.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, February 2005


"Comparison Recordings:

Op 8, complete. Liszt Ferenc Chamber Orchestra, Rolla Hungaroton

"Four seasons" Jan Tomasov, I solisti di Zagreb Vanguard

"Four seasons" Julia Fischer, ASMF DVD

Kaufmann’s biography: A Fiddler’s Tale: How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me

Is this very first version of the Vivaldi Four Seasons really the best recording of it ever done? Some people think so, 1947 monophonic sound notwithstanding. Just listen to the opening of the final movement of "La Primavera" and see if it convinces you. One would expect that a 1947 recording would not observe modern sensitivities toward original instrument, original performance practice (OI/OPP) considerations, and one would be right. Kaufmann uses subtle but delicious portamento in his solo part and the shimmering vibrato of the violin section is tickling and sensual. Yet for its time this was the cutting edge of authentic Baroque style. There is no doubt in my mind that Vivaldi would have loved every minute of it as much as I do.

One must also point out that this is one of the best recordings ever done of the other concerti in Op. 8 as well. Listen to #12 and see if you don’t think so. Nobody since has got that particular life and bounce in the phrasing. It is remarkable that the two parts of the recording were by different orchestras and conductors, even on different continents, yet the force of Kaufmann’s musical personality is so strong that the sense of style is continuous and uninterrupted.

Restoration Engineer Anthony Casuccio had access to the Kaufmann Foundation’s private collection of mint condition original disks to work from and is to be congratulated on an excellent job of restoration. If I had restored these disks I would have explored utilising subharmonic synthesis to restore truncated bass notes and increase bass range clarity, dynamic expansion to increase mid-range clarity and transparency, and constructing reverberation tails to avoid abrupt silences at the end of the movements. But what you have here is as perfect a depiction of what is on the original disk as is humanly possible. Overall sound quality is pleasant and very listenable. The violin sound is amazingly realistic, and the wide range of the orchestral accompaniment very satisfying. I know this recording very well, having been listening to it regularly for fifty years, and yet here I heard orchestral details I’d never heard before.

Now, Mr. Casuccio, which of us is going to restore Kaufmann’s 1954 Torelli Opus 8 recording from Oiseau-Lyre?

An advantage of being a studio musician is that Kaufmann recorded every working day. As a consequence he was able to refine his tone production to maximise its effectiveness on recordings. No wonder he sounds so good as he does here. Other violinists who disdained recordings and pleased live audiences may have had bigger reputations then, but they are gone, and Kaufmann now lives with us forever.

Paul Shoemaker

Jonathan Woolf has also listened to this recording

Here’s is a welcome blast of Louis Kaufman, Vivaldi style. This 1947 Four Seasons, here coupled with the 1950 recordings of the remainder of Op.8, has long been unavailable. It’s billed by Naxos as the first ever recording. Well, yes and no. There was an earlier recording made in Rome in 1942 and conducted by Bernardino Molinari which was once on CD on Ermitage. This used the conductor’s own performing edition – essentially rewriting it for mass strings without solo violin. Sound quality, given the prevailing wartime conditions, was rather constricted but it’s an important and pioneering document albeit one very much of its time and which tends by its nature to obscure the soloistic.

This was something that the 1947 Kaufman never did. Given his opulent expressivity, a compound of molten Elman, MGM warmth and quicksilver contemporary athleticism, this is a highly idiosyncratic and personalised reading, even given the prevailing aesthetic. Whilst clearly it may sound anachronistic now it didn’t necessarily at the time. Concert Hall recorded it and employed Kaufman, the Czech conductor Henry Swoboda and a pickup string section composed exclusively of members of the New York Philharmonic. In the ensemble was an organist, Edouard Nies-Berger, and harpsichordist Edith Weiss-Mann. The sound is a bit muddied and with higher frequencies rather dampened down but the recording conditions were not ideal even though the location was none other than Carnegie Hall. The performances are replete with lavish vibrato, multi variegated and full of coiling intensity, and numerous rallentandi. Slow movements, such as that of Spring, are garnished by Kaufman’s intensely vibrated sound, full of lustrous portamenti and tonal splendour. Tempi are more sedate than they were later to become, trills fatter though no less Olympian in accomplishment and Kaufman turns the slow movement of Summer into a positively Bruch-like experience.

The overt pictorialism of the Four Seasons isn’t over-stressed though Svoboda has clearly given thought to the role of the organ (in the Presto finale of Summer) and the harpsichord in Autumn, where it’s attractively heard behind the thrummed strings of the Phil’s players. The violinist’s masculinity is blazingly apparent from the uplifting portamenti of the Largo of Winter, through the pellucid trills of its finale and the constant ear titillating colouristic devices he employs to bring warmth and life to the set. These are devices he employed a few years later when he recorded the balance of the set in Zurich, this time with Clemens Dahinden conducting. Once more there is his ultra romanticised bowing – just listen to the Allegro finale of No.8 in G minor - or the sheer intensity he cultivates over the harpsichord and cello continuo in the slow movement of No.12. The orchestra here is somewhat thicker in sonority. Kaufman makes a startlingly charismatic pairing in the Concerto for two violins alongside another Czech musician, the distinguished Peter Rybar - who is all classical lyricism next to Kaufman’s opulent breadth, though they do focus on bowing and timbral unanimity in their tutti passages.

The entire Op.8 set is contained on two CDs, neatly annotated with a good "in action" shot of the New York recording session. There’s quite a bit of Kaufman on CD now but there’s room for plenty more; let’s hope Naxos has more on the production line."



Paul Shoemaker
MusicWeb International, February 2005

Here’s is a welcome blast of Louis Kaufman, Vivaldi style. This 1947 Four Seasons, here coupled with the 1950 recordings of the remainder of Op.8, has long been unavailable. It’s billed by Naxos as the first ever recording. Well, yes and no. There was an earlier recording made in Rome in 1942 and conducted by Bernardino Molinari which was once on CD on Ermitage. This used the conductor’s own performing edition – essentially rewriting it for mass strings without solo violin. Sound quality, given the prevailing wartime conditions, was rather constricted but it’s an important and pioneering document albeit one very much of its time and which tends by its nature to obscure the soloistic.

This was something that the 1947 Kaufman never did. Given his opulent expressivity, a compound of molten Elman, MGM warmth and quicksilver contemporary athleticism, this is a highly idiosyncratic and personalised reading, even given the prevailing aesthetic. Whilst clearly it may sound anachronistic now it didn’t necessarily at the time. Concert Hall recorded it and employed Kaufman, the Czech conductor Henry Swoboda and a pickup string section composed exclusively of members of the New York Philharmonic. In the ensemble was an organist, Edouard Nies-Berger, and harpsichordist Edith Weiss-Mann. The sound is a bit muddied and with higher frequencies rather dampened down but the recording conditions were not ideal even though the location was none other than Carnegie Hall. The performances are replete with lavish vibrato, multi variegated and full of coiling intensity, and numerous rallentandi. Slow movements, such as that of Spring, are garnished by Kaufman’s intensely vibrated sound, full of lustrous portamenti and tonal splendour. Tempi are more sedate than they were later to become, trills fatter though no less Olympian in accomplishment and Kaufman turns the slow movement of Summer into a positively Bruch-like experience.

The overt pictorialism of the Four Seasons isn’t over-stressed though Svoboda has clearly given thought to the role of the organ (in the Presto finale of Summer) and the harpsichord in Autumn, where it’s attractively heard behind the thrummed strings of the Phil’s players. The violinist’s masculinity is blazingly apparent from the uplifting portamenti of the Largo of Winter, through the pellucid trills of its finale and the constant ear titillating colouristic devices he employs to bring warmth and life to the set. These are devices he employed a few years later when he recorded the balance of the set in Zurich, this time with Clemens Dahinden conducting. Once more there is his ultra romanticised bowing – just listen to the Allegro finale of No.8 in G minor - or the sheer intensity he cultivates over the harpsichord and cello continuo in the slow movement of No.12. The orchestra here is somewhat thicker in sonority. Kaufman makes a startlingly charismatic pairing in the Concerto for two violins alongside another Czech musician, the distinguished Peter Rybar - who is all classical lyricism next to Kaufman’s opulent breadth, though they do focus on bowing and timbral unanimity in their tutti passages.

The entire Op.8 set is contained on two CDs, neatly annotated with a good "in action" shot of the New York recording session. There’s quite a bit of Kaufman on CD now but there’s room for plenty more; let’s hope Naxos has more on the production line."



Marc Shulgold
January 2005

The important word here is "historical," since this set includes the first recording of the inescapable Four Seasons, made in December, 1947. Hard to believe that the Vivaldi craze is a recent phenomenon. While Kaufman is hardly up on authentic styles (there's an abundance of portamento, or sliding into and out of a note), remember that no one was authentic back then. Heck, no one cared that much for Vivaldi. That said, this marvelous player brings brilliant technique, a gracious tone and an obvious affection for the music. The sound is quite acceptable.






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