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Robert Maxham
Fanfare, June 2007

The very number of recordings that Vivaldi's unconsciously maligned Four Seasons continues to receive, as well as the enthusiasm of the artists making them—and, of course, the willingness of listeners to purchase them-attest to what Eric Bromberger describes in the notes as their "air of eternal freshness." These myriad recorded performances run the gamut from stodgy ones on modern instruments to period ones with electrifying dynamic and timbral contrasts. Yet, despite this seeming overflow, there always seems to be room for one more interpretation of the ageless text.

Cho-Liang Lin and Sejong fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, along with Gidon Kremer, Nigel Kennedy (any of his performances), and Kyung-Wha Chung—they play with a sound that lovers of the modern violin should love to love, yet exhibit an awareness of scholarly discoveries in performance practice and of the kind of improvisatory freedom that those discoveries facilitate when carried to their logical conclusions. Both Lin and the ensemble ornament lines spontaneously and indulge in dramatic effects reminiscent of Il Giardino Armonico and the Venice Baroque Orchestra. Lin's technical alertness in the violin's solos (played on the 1715 Titian Stradivari with an Etienne Pajeot bow) never allows so much as a 16th note to droop. Anthony Newman varies the continuo, discretely enhancing the textures' interest with harpsichord and portative organ. Occasionally the soloist and ensemble create something fresh, as when the theme in the first movement of "Autumn" returns for its last time with especial declamatory vibrancy.

And since, with recordings of the concertos being so very numerous, opportunities for such insightful innovations have been necessarily pre-empted by decades of experimentation, the number that Lin and his ensemble achieve without resorting to the outré or the mannered seems all the more impressive. But the program also includes the fifth and sixth of the concertos of Vivaldi's op. 8, the musically and violinistically turbulent Tempesta di mare and the more serene Il piacere, into both of which Lin slices with keenly stropped technical knife.

The lively recorded sound favors the solo violin—though the balance never steps too far beyond the boundaries of the natural—and captures the violinist's tonal luster as well as the ensemble's buoyant solidity. For those who wish not only to acquire a durable and unmannered, yet bracing and continuously interesting version of the Four Seasons, but also to set themselves up to explore the entire op. 8, Naxos's recording could hardly be bettered. But specialists should also find it well worth acquiring, not only for local interest, but in its entirety. Strongly and generally recommended, therefore, despite the hordes of robust alternatives.

American Record Guide, April 2007

"This is a fine, middle-of-the-road reading of Vivaldi's evergreen concerto quartet (in reality the first four of a full dozen). Lin is in fine form...Sejong boasts a number of younger players, and they add a sparkle to the proceedings."

Lindsay Kemp
Gramophone, March 2007

An invigorating account of the Seasons - even if New York slyly creeps in

This is a straightforward Seasons, a perfectly good pick from the many available recordings for anyone who wants the music played with skill and commitment, and no funny business. Cho-Liang Lin and the New York-based Sejong play on modern instruments, choose uncontroversial tempi, and produce a sound which combines rich vibrancy with a clean-edged brightness and coursing freshness which recreates something of the inspiriting effect of a dose of mountain air. Comparatively little interest is shown in the music's descriptive qualities but there is plenty of sensible interpretative detail, with textures clear and ensemble tight; rapid repeated notes are not just scrubbed at, you can really hear them!

Thus there is not much to dislike, though I for one found some of the group ornamentation irritating; it is only an occasional twiddle here and there, but without the necessary spontaneity they are more distracting than enhancing. The sudden brief outburst of chamber organ activity in the final movement of "Spring" is another strange intrusion, while the background noise of New York City is also a worry - at times it is almost as if, somewhere a few fields away from where the shepherd sleeps, agricultural machinery is at work.

Two delightful programmatic companion works from Vivaldi's Op 8 make ideal fillers and are dispatched with similar bracing energy.

Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, December 2006

Cho-Liang Lin, while taking the music close to the edge, yet manages to stay within credible bounds and never loses sight of the musical line and thought to speed for its own sake. This recording has to be near the top of the numerous others in the catalogues. Recorded in Holy Trinity Church in New York, the acoustical setting is just right for the music, and the recording engineer did himself proud. I've never heard a better sounding version than this one. Additonally, one of my pet peeves - that of inaudible continuo - is more than addressed in this recording. Anthony Newman's admirable work is clear and present, and blends in beautifully with the enthusiastic playing by soloist and ensemble. All participants easily cope with the breakneck tempos they choose at times. Chalk up another major winner for Naxos!

John Terauds
Toronto Star, November 2006

Korea's Sejong orchestra, using modern instruments, and violinist Cho-Liang Lin inject Vivaldi's virtuoso exercises in depicting mood and colour in music with particular vitality. Vivaldi was a spectacularly inventive composer, and the full breadth of his imagination is laid out on this disc, which includes the "Tempesta di mare" and "Il piacere" concertos as well. The budget price is a bonus

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