Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr, Rachel Podger

Live from The Barbican
First broadcast 27 June 2021. Available on-line until 29 June
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Corelli: Concerto Grosso No 1 in D major, Op 6
Maria Grimani: Sinfonia to Pallade e Marte
Corelli: Concerto Grosso No 2 in F major, Op 6
VivaldiThe Four Seasons

Vivaldi’s Four Season’s is an inevitable war-horse guaranteed to attract audiences – in this case, a reduced socially-distanced audience for the live performance together with on-line viewers who have the option to view, for a modest fee, until 8pm on Tuesday 29 June. There are limits as to what performers can do with the Four Seasons, one being musical taste. But there is no limit as to the context in which a performance is set. And that is what makes this airing interesting, with its rare performance of the Sinfonia to Pallade e Marte by Maria Grimani, alongside two of Corelli’s well-known Concerto Grossi.

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Vivaldi: Four Seasons & String Concerti – European Union Baroque Orchestra

Vivaldi The Four Seasons & String Concerti  European Union Baroque Orchestra, Huw Daniel, Bojan Čičič, Johannes Pramsohler, Zefire Valova violins. Lars Ulrich Mortensen. 52’50.
Obsidian CCL CD713

Not another Four Seasons, you might think.  But this is different, in several ways.  Firstly it is from the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO) who regular readers will know I am a fan of.  Secondly the four violinists are all ex-members, and later concertmasters, of EUBO. And thirdly because this not only also includes the charmingly inoffensive little Concerto RV124, but also Vivaldi’s sonnets, read in Italian by another EUBO alumnus, Antonio de Sarlo (the CD booklet includes the texts).  And finally, although not obvious from the CD, this whole project was accompanied by a commissioned puppet show for children using Vivaldi’s music – hopefully this will be released on DVD in the future, but a video can be found on the EUBO website.

The Concerto RV124 introduces the first of the spoken Sonnets.  The four soloists then take their turns at portraying the various seasons with Huw Daniel as Spring, Bojan Čičič, Summer, Johannes Pramsohler, Autumn, and Zefire Valova as Winter.  All four excel throughout, but particularly in the slow movements when their collective ability to play on the edge of their tone with such musical conviction is outstanding.

For some reason, the recording balance of director Lars Ulrich Mortensen’s harpsichord is frequently far too prominent, becoming a distractingly percussive intrusion.  Currently shorn of their usually EU funding, EUBO is trying to survive on the occasional concert and on the sale of CDs like this until stable financial support can be found.  Anybody who has ever heard the talented young players of EUBO (who reform each year – or did, until their recent financial problems) will know how excellent they are, and how important a training experience it is for its members, many of whom go on to distinguished careers.  The CD can be ordered from http://www.eubo.eu/shop/CD713.

Andrew Benson-Wilson
First published in Early Music Review, December 2014

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