François Morellon de La Cave, from Michel-Charles Le Cène’s edition of Vivaldi’s Op. Italian composer Antonio Largo – Vivaldi* – I Musici, Felix Ayo* – Le Quattro Stagioni, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi’s works.
Though three of the concerti are wholly original, the first, “Spring”, borrows motifs from a Sinfonia in the first act of Vivaldi’s contemporaneous opera Il Giustino. The inspiration for the concertos was probably the countryside around Mantua, where Vivaldi was living at the time. There is some debate as to whether the four concertos were written to accompany four sonnets or vice versa. Though it is not known who wrote the accompanying sonnets, the theory that Vivaldi wrote them himself is supported by the fact that each sonnet is broken into three sections, each neatly corresponding to a movement in the concerto. Dorme ‘l Caprar col fido can’ à lato. Canta la Tortorella e ‘l gardelino. E de mosche, e mosconi il Stuol furioso!
Tronca il capo alle Spiche e a’ grani alteri. North Wind sweeps them suddenly aside. As gnats and flies buzz furiously around. Cuts the head off the wheat and damages the grain. Finiscono col Sonno il lor godere. D’ un dolcissimo Sonno al bel godere.
Languida di fuggir, mà oppressa muore. The pleasure of a bountiful harvest. Languidly to flee, but harried, dies. Quest’ é ‘l verno, mà tal, che gioja apporte. Contented days while the rain outside pours down. Bernardino Molinari, who made the first electrical recording of The Four Seasons in 1942. The date and personnel on the first recording of The Four Seasons are disputed.
The first American recording was made in 1948 by the violinist Louis Kaufman. The recording was made at Carnegie Hall in advance of a scheduled recording ban effective 1 January 1948. The ensemble I Musici followed in 1955 with the first of several recordings of The Four Seasons with different soloists. I Solisti di Zagreb, under the baton of Antonio Janigro with Jan Tomasow as violin soloist and Anton Heiller on harpsichord, followed in 1957 on the Vanguard label, further reissued under the Philips and other labels.
Wilfrid Howard Mellers, an English music critic, musicologist and composer wrote of this performance, “the soloists phrase their lyricism beautifully. Of all the Vanguard stereo releases, this one is tops! Just like London’s magnificent release of Petronchka. Vivaldi’s “Seasons” is so fine it is almost impossible to single out any element of it and call it “best. Here is matchless ensemble playing, topped by Tomasow’s secure playing. Janigro reveals his talent for conducting, which competes with his considerable talent for cello playing. Le quattro staggioni emerges as a double triumph, that rare joining of all forces, musical and engineering, to produce a topnotch recording, a credit to the industry, a standard to aim for, an issue to be proud of.
I hope Vanguard makes a deal of money with it too, for this is no accident. It took planning and good engineering. The Solomon brothers, who run Vanguard, should be congratulated. I will attempt to convey to you how much this performance means to me, and might mean to you, as well. Janigro’s interpretation must have appealed to him. It was much later that I discovered the excellence of the recording as well. Nothing I have heard changes my view that the best Seasons ever was performed by Jan Tomasow and I Solisti di Zagreb and beautifully recorded by Vanguard at the very beginning of the stereo era.
If you have almost every other version of the Seasons, you’ll want this one, too. If money and space are no obstacle, it might be worth having. By 2011, approximately 1,000 different recorded versions have been made since Campoli’s in 1939. Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? Jean-Jacques Rousseau published his flute version of the “Spring” concerto. Vivaldi’s work with ambient electronics, vocals, and samples of the original concerti.
I Musici performance of Vivaldi’s work. French musician Jacques Loussier composed and recorded, with his trio, jazz-swing interpretations of the concerti. Presto movement from the “Summer” concerto. Vivaldi’s seasons to win the European Figure Skating Championships. Spring” Allegro with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.