musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Antonio VIVALDI, Giovanni GUIDO: "Le Quattro Stagioni"

Andrés Gabetta, violin
Orchestre de l'Opéra Royal
Dir: Andrés Gabetta

rec: Dec 18 - 23, 2020, Versailles, Château
Château de Versailles Spectacles - CVS042 (2 CDs; ) (© 2021) (1.33'38" / 1.10')
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list
Scores Guido
Scores Vivaldi

Giovanni Antonio GUIDO (c1675-1729): Scherzi armonici sopra le quattro stagioni dell'anno, op. 3 (Le Printemps; L'Este; L'Automne; L'Hyver)
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Le Quattro Stagioni (Concertos for violin, strings and bc op. 8, 1-4) (Concerto in E, op. 8,1 'La primavera' (RV 269); Concerto in g minor, op. 8,2 'L'estate' (RV 315); Concerto in F, op, 8,3 'L'autunno' (RV 293); Concerto in f minor, op. 8,4 'L'inverno' (RV 297))

Sources: [1] Richard Allison, The Psalmes of David in Meter, 1599 [2] Tobias Hume, The First Part of Ayres, French, Pollish and others together ... with Pavines, Galliards, and Almaines, 1605;

Sébastien Marq, recorder; Diego Nadra, Vincent Blanchard, oboe; Edouard Guittet, Alexandre Fauroux, horn; Andrés Gabetta, Roberto Rutkauskas, Ewa Zolyniak-Adamska, Koji Yoda, Laura Corolla, Juliusz Zurawski, Katarzyna Kalinowska, violin; Marco Massera, Pamela Bernfeld, viola; Claire-Lise Demettre, Jean Lou Loger, cello; Roberto Fernández de Larrinoa, double bass; Stéphane Fuget, hurdy-gurdy; Pierre Rinderknecht, André Henrich, lute; Yoko Najkamura, harpsichord

Musical imitation and description are of all time. Throughout history, composers have been inspired by natural phenomena, the seasons, the times of the day and all other kind of things. From that angle it is neither surprising that Antonio Vivaldi composed concertos devoted to the four seasons nor that another composer did the same. However, Giovanni Antonio Guido is the surprise package of this production. Not that many music lovers may have heard of him. Like Vivaldi, he was Italian and a virtuosic violinist, but otherwise they have little in common.

Guido was born in Genua, and educated on the violin in Naples. For a few years he was in the service of the court of the viceroy of Naples, but he made a name for himself in France. There he was one of a number of performers and composers who took advantage of the growing popularity of Italian music. In 1703 he is documented as having performed as a member of the musical establishment of the Duke of Orléans, a great lover of Italian music. In this capacity he was the colleague of another Italian immigrant, Michele Mascitti, who also came from Naples. Guido also performed in concerts at the home of the financier Crozat, who was the protector of Mascitti. In 1728 he performed one of his concertos at the Concert Spirituel, which was warmly received.

Italian music was frequently performed at the Concert Spirituel, a concert series founded in 1725. Among the most popular pieces were Vivaldi's Four Seasons. From that angle it makes much sense to present the two cycles back to back in this production.

One is inclined to think that Guido may have been inspired by Vivaldi. However, that is not the case. Vivaldi published his concertos around 1725, and although Guido's concertos came from the press around one year later, he had composed them about ten years earlier. They are based on four anonymous poems: Les Caractères des Saisons. They are printed in the booklet, and so are the sonnets (probably from his own pen) on which Vivaldi based his concertos.

In Guido's concertos there are also no references whatsoever to Vivaldi's concertos. Stylistically and in their structure they are very different. Vivaldi's concertos have the in his oeuvre common form: three movements, in which the solo part and ritornellos for the tutti alternate. Guido's concertos have the form of a suite: the number of movements, many of them with a descriptive title, varies from six (L'Hyver) to thirteen (L'Este). Whereas Vivaldi's scoring is for violin, strings and basso continuo, Guido also includes wind instruments, and leaves the line-up to the discretion of the performers.

One may ask whether we need another recording of Vivaldi's concertos. They have been recorded numerous times, probably about as often as Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. That may also have been a consideration of Andrés Gabetta, who also wanted to bring them closer to Guido's concertos. "But I remembered that a certain version adds different wind parts to the tuttis: the Dresden version, played at the Court, known for its excellent wind musicians. It is therefore this version that I have chosen for this programme, thanks to which I can develop a new palette of nuances." The participation of winds is relatively modest, and mostly confines itself to the fast movements. Not having heard those versions before, I wonder whether Gabetta decided to follow them literally or rather took some liberties. He refers to the participation of winds in the tutti, but in this recording the flute can also be heard during the solo in the opening movement of Primavera.

His decision is understandable and the musical result is interesting and a real alternative to what is on the market, but it also compromises a little the historical dimension of this production. Obviously, the wind versions of Vivaldi's concertos were never performed at the Concert Spirituel, and this way the contrast between the two cycles is substantially played down. However, emphasizing that contrast may not have been the purpose of this recording.

As I wrote, Guido leaves the line-up to the performers. That is nice, but also risky. Too often performers fall into the trap of trying to do too much. Unfortunately, Gabetta and his ensemble have fallen into this trap. Especially in the first two concertos, Le Printemps and L'Este, the line-up constantly changes, not only between movements - many of which are very short - but also within movements. It makes the performances rather flashy, which does not do these pieces much good. The remaining two concertos are more satisfying in this regard. I also find the use of an organ in these pieces rather odd.

The playing style is as we have come to expect from Italian ensembles. That is often refreshing, but sometimes lacks refinement. That is also the case here. Moreover, I doubt whether Italian music was played this way in France at the time.

All that said, one does not need to fear any dull moments here. This is an entertaining set of discs, and especially the concertos by Guido are a welcome addition to the catalogue. Despite some issues, it is well worth being added to any collection of baroque discs.

The physical production comes with a DVD, which includes the same programme as the two discs. It is always nice to watch the spendid rooms of the Versailles castle, but musically speaking it has nothing additional to offer. The fact that the DVD has no chapters is a serious shortcoming.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

Relevant links:

Andrés Gabetta
Orchestre de l'Opéra Royal

CD Reviews