If listeners had to commit to a single version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons for the rest of their lives, this 1984 BIS recording would be thoroughly satisfying choice. Superbly played, brilliantly recorded period instrument performances of this perennial masterpiece are all but a dime a dozen, and the differences between Hogwood's and Pinnock's and Harnoncourt's readings don't begin to make up for the fatal boredom of their performances. This version with Nils-Erik Sparf and the Drottningholm Court Baroque Ensemble would be an ideal choice because theirs is the freshest performance of the piece. Beyond their excellent technique and impeccable sense of style, Sparf and the Swedish musicians bring joy and enthusiasm to the music, and sound like they are in turn receiving happiness and energy from the music. There's real pleasure here, and real affection, as if the concertos were newly composed and these were their world premieres. Filled out with witty accounts of Vivaldi's F major Concerto for Bassoon and his G minor Concerto for Flute and Bassoon, this disc is a delight.
What can anyone add to the praise that has deservedly been heaped on Robert King and the King's Consort's 11 discs of the complete sacred music of Vivaldi? Can one add that every single performance is first class – wonderfully musical, deeply dedicated, and profoundly spiritual?
…Mullova and Carmignola provide one of the most consummate displays of period instrument playing that I have heard. True masters of their instruments.
Anyone seeking a respectable Vivaldi collection by dependable performers will find this seven-disc set from Decca more than suitable for everyday needs and quite rewarding on repeated listening.
Mackintosh, on top form, acts her role with the utmost virtuosity, lovely tone, unimpeachable intonation, and fine style - with some elegant embroidery. The OAE rise to the occasion, making this splendidly engineered recording one to treasure. […] It has all the advantages that the passing of time can (but does not always) bring in this field in relation to the development of both period performance and of recording technique. (gramophone.net, April 1996)
Karajan could be so expressive, with the big sound of the Berlin Philharmonic, in Vivaldi's very famous Magnum Opus. Solo violinist Michel Schwalbe is also terrific, quiet and bold alternately, as needed.