The Four Seasons & String Concerti
European Union Baroque Orchestra
Directed by Lars Ulrik Mortensen
Antonio Vivaldi’s collection of twelve concerti opus 8 was published in Amsterdam in 1725; he gave descriptive titles to seven of the twelve, including the four concerti representing the seasons: la primavera, estate, autumno, l’inverno.
For the four seasons, Vivaldi included four sonnets, apparently written by himself, each of which is divided into three ideas, reflecting the three movements (fast-slow-fast) of each concerto. The 1725 publication indicated which musical passages are representative of which verses of the sonnets.
These rarely recorded sonnets are heard on this CD in the original Italian. The youthful musicians of EUBO are joined by a different soloist for each of the seasons.
1-3. Concerto for strings and continuo in D RV124
4. Sonnet La primavera (Spring)
5-7. Violin Concerto in E Spring RV269
8. Sonnet L’estate (Summer)
9-11. Violin Concerto in g minor Summer RV315
12. Sonnet L’autunno (Autumn)
13-15. Violin Concerto in F Autumn RV293
16. Sonnet L’inverno (Winter)
17-19. Violin Concerto in f minor Winter RV297
20-22. Concerto for strings and continuo in g minor RV157
From the booklet notes
The natural world was a playground for Baroque composers. The idea of ‘art as imitation of nature’ was fundamental to the aesthetic outlook of the age, and composers developed a whole vocabulary of colourful, evocative effects with which to conjure up the sights and sounds of the countryside. Birds could be mimicked with charming realism, frosty mornings shi-shi-shivered with cold, and the galloping energy of the hunt was harnessed for dashing Allegros.
Antonio Vivaldi was one of the greatest Baroque naturalists. He produced a delightful variety of descriptive concertos – from cuckoos to storms at sea – but it was his Four Seasons (Op.8, 1725) which really caught the public’s imagination. These novel, cutting-edge concertos took their inspiration from a set of four sonnets – one for each season – which may well have been written by Vivaldi himself. To ensure that the players understood exactly what he was trying to express in the music, he made sure that the relevant verses of each poem were carefully cued into all the performing parts.
But his main ideas were clear for everyone to hear: the turbulent storms of Spring, Summer and Winter; the echoing birdsong in the opening movements of Spring and Summer; the excitement of the hunt at the close of Autumn; and, whatever the season, sleep and relaxation in all four slow movements.
Although it’s the faster outer movements of the Four Seasons which tend to grab our attention immediately, Vivaldi was actually at his most imaginative in the central slow movements. In Spring, Summer and Winter he cleverly builds the music up in layers in order to paint the poetic images simultaneously, one on top of the other. In Winter, for example, the violins’ warm,singing melody illustrates ‘contented resting beside the hearth’, while at the same time the plucking of the lower strings illustrates the less fortunate outside ‘drenched by pouring rain’.
(c) Simon Heighes
In the Press
“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.”
- Andrew Benson Wilson