This cycle of seasons was written by the Italian composer Giovanni Antonio Guido (born approx. 1675; deceased after 1728), who was serving as ‚maître de la musique‘ for the duke of Orléans. His suites about the four seasons are unmistakably based on Vivaldi’s unreachable standard and jumped on the bandwagon of excitement which was sparked in France by ‘Le quattro stagioni’. ***
Guido’s concertos place less emphasis on the melodic element as compared to Vivaldi and differ fundamentally in form. Guido’s seasons are divided in 8-12 episodes each, instead of only three in Vivaldi’s.
The Band of Instruments conducted by Roger Hamilton plays the spring time coming to an end in a cheerful and swinging way and also includes disturbing nuances of the dark night, clearly played out by the contrabass. Spring is characterized as daring. Good spirit, busy streets, a sea of lights, colorful and happy gatherings is the framework for the 10 episodes of summer. The dynamic differentiation is conspicuous in ‘Descente de ceres. Spiritoso’. Each musician succeeds to control their own interpretation in such a way as to benefit the ensemble. But not in the fiery Prestissimo-Finale. Imitations and continuing motives are covered and blurred. It creates the impression that the musician’s drive took over. The violin fragments in ‘Menuet des nimfes’ are full of charm and grace. Caroline Balding, Matthew Truscott and Sarah Moffatt play perfectly synchronized in timbre and expression.
Fall comes along with at a rapid pace as if remembering remaining energy from summer. Alison McGillivray’s well-sounding cello moans and groans in ‘Sommeil. Adagio’. It convinces the listener with tender consistency to let go and tumble into sounds of fall and let go of the familiar summer sounds. The ensemble plays in a superior way and sounds convincing in ‘Les cris et ris des baccantes. Allegro assai’. The dominating violin solo sounds fascinating and is accompanied by the ensemble with detailed nuances.
Trembling due to winter’s cold is realized by the six instrumentalists in an outstanding manner. The sophisticated and virtuous figures in ‘Vivace‘ are reproduced very precisely. Overall we experience a balanced interpretation, which does not strive for big sound, but prefers the search for small details.
*** with respect to the reviewer, it is now thought by many scholars that the Guido ‘stagioni’ were composed before Vivaldi’s and it is in fact this work which inspired Vivaldi to write his grander, more extrovert and Italaniate work.
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