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Vivaldi: Le Quattro Stagioni; Concertos, Rv 454 & 332

Vivaldi / Onofri / Grazzi / Antonini
Release Date: 06/25/2013 
Label:  Teldec   Catalog #: 2564647630   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Francesco CeraStefano BarneschiMarco BianchiEnrico Onofri,   ... 
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


When this recording was first issued in 1994 it was fascinating to see how Teldec varied the cover art from country to country. Italy arguably got the most fitting design, with a reproduction of a Canaletto painting of the Piazza San Marco in Venice where Vivaldi resided at the time. Germany got a dramatic photograph of the ensemble standing iconically face forward across the entire width of the bottom quarter of the booklet; the other three quarters were filled with intense storm clouds gathering in the distance. France got the most austere design with three impressionist swashes of predominantly blue, yellow, and gray pastel color below “Les 4 Saisons” scrawled in red above it. In the U.S. we
Read more unfortunately got a rather precise illustration of a speeding bullet that apparently had just passed through a now-destroyed violin (not very helpful to one, like me, working in retail at the time, who tried repeatedly to convince Baroque enthusiasts–or anyone else–to take this wonderful performance seriously).

Twenty years on, potential purchasers of this recent international reissue thankfully needn’t worry about being locally pandered to by such marketing nonsense. Now gracing the booklet cover is a reproduction of a still life painting depicting an alert, cute Papillon puppy standing over a cocked rifle surrounded by an array of fruit, a gourd, and the head of a dead grouse; which taken together can be suggestively likened to Il Giardino’s performance here. Adjectives like colorful, intriguing, edgy, richly detailed, and florid apply to both.

Vivaldi wrote hundreds of concertos, though in only a few, very rare instances did he name them or provide specific instructions as to the “meaning” of a particular work. These first four concertos of his Op. 8 unquestionably count among them, and what makes Il Giardino Armonico’s performance here so special is that, having worked only from the earliest first and second printed period editions as well as from the composer’s manuscript, they’ve painstakingly respected Vivaldi’s instructions just about to the letter.

Their stunning rendering of the opening movement of “L’Estate”, for instance, always has been a favorite case in point. Listen not only to the way the ensemble deftly plays up the variety of contrast between the subjects and settings, but also to the way they carefully articulate the evocative portrayal of them. The subtle string dialogues suggestively allow La tortorella (the turtle-dove) and Il gardellino (the goldfinch) to lightly flutter and soar as rarely heard before. The Zeffiretti dolci (balmy zephyrs) seem to breeze by with uncanny grace, convincingly ebbing and flowing (solo violinist Enrico Onofri’s fiddling during this interlude is absolutely astonishing) before the tempestuous roar of the Venti diversi and Vento Borea (multitude and Boreas) winds set in. The players’ outstanding cohesiveness during this, the longest single movement of the set, is so convincing that it seems like a self-contained mini-concerto.

Other favorite moments include the jubilantly festive singing and dancing peasant sequence in “L’autunno”, particularly in the way it seems to ever-so-gradually devolve into utter drunken collapse. Again, Onofri’s delivery and control is stellar throughout, evoking a sense of initial recklessness followed by eventual sleep-induced inebriation. While plenty of action also occurs within the brief concluding “La caccia” (the hunt), the instrumental allusions of hunting horns, fleeing animals, chasing dogs, and rifle shots (the booklet cover art now seems even more appropriate) are clearly, if not indelibly distinguishable from one another.

I could go on about how wonderfully Onofri evokes the birdsong during the onset of “La primavera”, (second only, and only very slightly, to Alice Harnoncourt with the Concentus Musicus), or how devastatingly chilling the strings are, conjuring up the bitterness of Winter (“L’inverno”); but then, selecting highlights when discussing such a consistently excellent, rewarding performance as Il Giardino Armonico offers here is superfluous. There’s frankly not a single moment that’s less than engaging.

The sound is richly detailed and remarkably life-like. In the booklet Cesare Fertonani’s telling essay, “Representation and Symbolism in Vivaldi’s Seasons”, and ensemble director Giovanni Antonini’s notes on their interpretation, explains everything. There’s certainly no shortage of excellent performances of Le quattro stagioni out there, though if you’re up for arguably the one that best approximates Vivaldi’s ideal–warts and all–look no further. Highest recommendation.

-- John Greene, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin in E major, Op. 8 no 1/RV 269 "Primavera" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Francesco Cera (Organ), Stefano Barneschi (Violin), Marco Bianchi (Violin),
Enrico Onofri (Violin), Francesco Lattuada (Viola), Paolo Beschi (Cello),
Luca Pianca (Theorbo)
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1725; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1993 
Venue:  Studio 1, Swiss-Italian Radio, Lugano 
Length: 10 Minutes 19 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Violin in G minor, Op. 8 no 2/RV 315 "L'estate" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Luca Pianca (Theorbo), Francesco Cera (Organ), Paolo Beschi (Cello),
Enrico Onofri (Violin)
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1993 
Venue:  Studio 1, Swiss-Italian Radio, Lugano 
Length: 10 Minutes 32 Secs. 
3.
Concerto for Violin in F major, Op. 8 no 3/RV 293 "L'autunno" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Francesco Cera (Harpsichord), Paolo Beschi (Cello), Luca Pianca (Theorbo),
Enrico Onofri (Violin)
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1993 
Venue:  Studio 1, Swiss-Italian Radio, Lugano 
Length: 12 Minutes 19 Secs. 
4.
Concerto for Violin in F minor, Op. 8 no 4/RV 297 "L'inverno" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Francesco Cera (Organ), Luca Pianca (Theorbo), Paolo Beschi (Cello),
Enrico Onofri (Violin)
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1993 
Venue:  Studio 1, Swiss-Italian Radio, Lugano 
Length: 8 Minutes 48 Secs. 
5.
Concertos (4) for Violin, Op. 8 no 1-4 "Four seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Enrico Onofri (Violin)
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1993 
Venue:  Studio 1, Swiss-Italian Radio, Lugano 
6.
Concerto for Oboe in D minor, Op. 8 no 9/RV 454 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Alberto Grazzi (Bassoon), Paolo Grazzi (Oboe), Francesco Cera (Harpsichord),
Luca Pianca (Theorbo)
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Period: Baroque 
Written: Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1993 
Venue:  Studio 1, Swiss-Italian Radio, Lugano 
Length: 8 Minutes 28 Secs. 
7.
Concerto for Violin in G minor, Op. 8 no 8/RV 332 by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Enrico Onofri (Violin), Paolo Beschi (Cello), Francesco Cera (Organ),
Luca Pianca (Theorbo)
Conductor:  Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Giardino Armonico
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 09/1993 
Venue:  Studio 1, Swiss-Italian Radio, Lugano 
Length: 10 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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