Pizzicato

The Italian violinist and composer Giovanni Antonio Guido was born about 1675-1680, probably in Genoa, and died after 17 September 1729, the date on which his name appears for the last time in ‘Mercure de France’ about the performance of his ‘Te Deum’. He lived in Paris from 1702 until 1729 at least, the service of the Duke of Orléans, and his son, Louis d’Orléans.

He was not a flutist, despite the statement to that effect in the translation of the inscription, written on the back of his portrait drawn by Watteau (original in the Louvre and included in the Divine Art CD booklet. His composition “Scherzi armonici sopra Staggioni dell’anno quattro : four Concertos for 3 violins, flutes, oboe, harpsichord, bass viol and cello” is now his most famous work.

The German label cpo released a recording with extracts of four concertos and the Divine Art label seems to be the first to publish the full composition – it lasts more than an hour! Without reaching the quality of melodic invention Vivaldi, Guido still realized a beautiful Baroque work in a mixture of French and Italian styles.

The subtitles are suggestive, with for Spring: Time Flies – The Night – Song of the cuckoo – Streams – Birds – Air for trumpet Musette – Dance of the shepherds.

Summer : the air ignites – Zephyr disappears – cuckoos sing – Fly to the rescue, sweet Ceres – Descent of Ceres: Dance of reapers – Dance of fauns – Menuet of nymphs – Serenade: The respectful Lover – a violent storm.

Autumn: Celebrating the return of Autumn – shouting and laughing of the revellers – Sleep – Hunting – Flight of deer – Death of deer.

Winter: season of frosts – The Cruel Aquillon declared war on us – Take care of your day – March of the Warriors – The happy festivals – banishment of sadness.

Here is a beautiful work, vigorously played by ‘The Band of Instruments’, a group based in Oxford that accompanies Caroline Balding who shows herself to be a great violin virtuoso.

Giovanni Antonio Guido’s ‘Four Seasons’ might not show the musical richness of Vivaldi’s work, but this is nevertheless music extremely pleasant to listen to, in a fresh and sharp reading by ‘The Band of Instruments’.

—Remy Franck