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Il Giardino Armonico Vivaldi Four Seasons

  1. Il Giardino Armonico Vivaldi Four Seasons
  2. Il Giardino Armonico Vivaldi The Four Seasons

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was a virtuoso violinist, a fact borne out by his prolific output for the instrument: of nearly 640 instrumental works, 253 are violin concertos. He pioneered a plethora of colouristic effects for the violin, including pizzicato and muting, and did much to develop the solo concerto, influencing Tartini and Leclair, and aiding the evolution of ritornello form — in which the tuttimaterial recurs, usually four to five times, interspersed with passages in which the soloist can display. For this collection Viktoria Mullova and Giovanni Antonini have drawn together some of the composer’s finest and most demanding concertos for the instrument.

Il Giardino Armonico. Warner Classics:. Buy 11 CDs or download online. Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini. Just as unconventional are its venues: Il Giardino Armonico has even played its bright and brisk interpretation of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in the 19th-century splendor of Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

J. S. Bach was so impressed by Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B minor, Op. 3 No.10 (RV 580), that he transcribed it to produce the Concerto for Four Harpsichords in A minor, BWV 1065. The twelve Op. 3 concertos L’estro armonico (‘Harmonious Inspiration’), published in 1711, represented a turning point in Vivaldi’s style. The works introduce a more individualistic approach, a greater distinction between solo and accompaniment. In Marc Pincherle’s words: ‘He glorified a personal feeling, a new lyricism, the vogue for which was as widespread as it was sudden’. This concerto demonstrates Vivaldi’s innovation in exploring the violin’s colouristic potential, articulating a range of techniques. The commanding opening movement is followed by a Largo, which features stately, rather French material pervaded by dotted rhythms, preceding an effervescent finale.

The title of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major, ‘ll Grosso Mogul’, RV 208, alludes to the Indian court of the Grand Mughal, Akbar, whose reign saw the Mughal Empire grow considerably. Both the fiery opening movement and the jovial finale demand great dexterity from the soloist, in particular during the scintillating and exceptional cadenzas. The central movement is an elaborate, mysterious recitative for the violin, the ending of which is surprisingly ambiguous for a work of the era; the final Allegro consequently becomes a real necessity in order to provide resolution.

‘ll Grosso Mogul’ also inspired Bach’s Organ Concerto in C, BWV 594, a modified transcription of the work. According to musicologist Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749-1818): ‘Vivaldi’s violin concertos, just then being published, gave [Bach] the guidance he needed. He so often heard them cited as outstanding compositions that he thereby hit upon the happy idea of transcribing them as a group for the keyboard. Hence he studied the progression of the ideas and their relations, variety in modulating and many other things’.

The C major Concerto, RV 187, opens with a sunny Allegro of Handelian charm. The movement’s harmonic progressions are charted by arpeggiac sequences in the violin, whose graceful virtuosity is written as though to sound effortless. The stalking rhythm with which the ensemble begins the slow movement gives way to a melancholic violin line; Vivaldi imparts the soloist’s material with the quality of one unfolding a tale of woe. In the finale Vivaldi reconciles the conflicting aspects of the preceding movements, fusing the darker moments of the slow movement with the joie de vivre of the first. Energetic rhythms in the ensemble underpin the mercurial solo role, which displays an array of techniques, including double-stopping, sustained notes that demand accurate intonation, and dexterous flourishes.

`L’Inquietudine’ CRestlessness’) is the apt title attached to the D major Concerto, RV 234. This work of terse brevity opens with a palpitating string texture; boisterous tuttis are interspersed with the relatively smooth lines of the solo part, and the movement ends as abruptly as it begins. The Largo features scalic figures passed across the ensemble, the soloist continuing to represent a calming influence, its relatively settled lines pouring balm on the ensemble’s freneticism. In the final Allegro the soloist seems to succumb to the prevailing mood of unrest, yet with the phenomenal agility required comes necessary control. This maintains the sense that the violin, despite displaying dazzling technique, is reining in the ensemble’s volatile nature.

The Concerto in E minor RV 277, `Il Favorito’, was one of a set of six presented by Vivaldi to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. The concertos were later published by Le Cene as Vivaldi’s Op.11, of which Favorito’ is the second. The title is only broadly relevant, in that it was appended to the score after the work was written, but is nevertheless suggestive of the brilliance of the violin part. The imposing grandeur of the opening movement shows Vivaldi’s capacity for musical drama, while the Andante exudes an almost wistful lyricism. The dotted rhythms of the final movement seem to foreshadow the final Allegro from the ‘Autumn’ Concerto of The Four Seasons.

Viktoria Mullova plays her ‘Jules Falk’ Stradivarius violin for this recording, but uses gut strings tuned A=415 with a Baroque bow to achieve a closeness to the music’s period and style. Mullova finds the transition from metal to gut strings is second nature now; much more significant is her use of the Baroque bow, which, she says, alters the quality of sound produced more dramatically than anything else.

Mullova does not generally consult historical sources as a means of justifying her interpretation as ‘authentic’, but is as faithful as possible to the score in matters of ornamentation and phrasing. Though Mullova intends to research ornamentation in the future, it is worth emphasising that all of the Baroque era’s abundant performance styles could be drawn upon to support any given modern interpretation of this repertoire. Approaches to violin-playing differed widely from place to place, as recorded by Georg Muffat (1653-1704) in his writings on violin technique, but he allowed that ‘the best masters of all nations agree that inasmuch as a bow stroke is long, firm and sweet, so much is it to be valued’.

The titles attached to these concerti are useful as labels but, as far as Viktoria Mullova is concerned, they are not crucial to the interpretation of the music. The real challenge in getting to the heart of these pieces is, she maintains, the need for the ensemble to ‘breathe together’ through the musical phrases. This process can take several days of rehearsal, by the end of which the ensemble is truly unified in expression. Although these musicians have played this repertoire together many times throughout the world, they are constantly striving for fresh insights into the works and for musical spontaneity. In Mullova’s words, conductor Giovanni Antonini ‘never stops searching’.

Il Giardino Armonico Vivaldi Four Seasons

Joanna Wyld

The story of the reception of the compositions of Antonio Vivaldi is extremely curious. After his death and during the whole of the 19th century, Vivaldi was indeed known to scholars, but his real rediscovery and appearance in concerts dates from the 20th century: the publication of the composer’s instrumental scores undertaken by the newly founded Antonio Vivaldi Italian Institute was begun only in 1947. No sooner was he rediscovered than Vivaldi made up for lost time: today, little more than 40 years after the first republication and resumed performance of his concertos, Vivaldi is certainly among the best known, most heard composers of all time; and the themes of the Four Seasons are among those (like the start of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the finale of his Ninth) that thousands of the public recognise. But the story of the interpretation of Vivaldi is also curious. Let us start with the pre-history: in 1924 Bernardino Molinari was among the first to re-offer the Four Seasons in the concert halls of half of Europe, but in transcriptions for large orchestra; in 1949 the Accademia Musicale Chigiano of Siena offered a whole week of Vivaldi; but people were still convinced that the Vivaldi material that had come down to us was full of gaps and therefore in need of completion. Publication of the instrumental pages put a curb on the mania for size of orchestrations: from 1947 onwards, performances became more restrained, and the mania became that of alleged fidelity to the text. An important stage was reached in 1976 when Nikolaus Harnoncourt issued a disc of the Opus 8 concertos (and I underline “disc”: it is through discographic support, in great part, that the story of acceptance can be written): “Harnoncourt’s Seasons” became the most advanced point of a research based on the study of different performance practices in order to rediscover, on philological bases, the pleasure of live interpretation instead of one of museum archaeology. One can speak of pre and post Harnoncourt; and precisely in this course (with all respect, naturally, to the artists in the case) we can register the experience of the Giardino Armonico, whose point of departure is to be found in Harnoncourt and was then developed and, through the experience of fifteen crowded years, taken to the furthest consequences.

Il Giardino Armonico Vivaldi The Four Seasons

Let us consider, among the interpretative conquests of this story of acceptance, the realisation of the basso continuo, which decades of practice have brought from a stunted and unconvincing situation to the quantitative and qualitative imagination of instruments employed “in concert”, as was already indicated at the dawn of this practice, in 1607, by the Italian theorist Agostino Agazzari: among the instruments we meet “organ, harpsichord, lute, theorbo, harp, which form the foundation; lirone, cittern, spinet, chitarrina, violin, pandora, which are for ornament and which, sporting and adding counterpoints, render the harmony more agreeable and sonorous”. Or, as in the informative letter of Agazzari’s published by Adriano Banchieri in 1609: “In concert the lute should be played with pleasing invention and diversity, now with strokes and sweet reiterations, now with long flourishes, and in stretti with some graceful upper notes repeating points of imitation in various places; and producing charm with gruppi, trills and accenti [appoggiaturas] […] The chitarrone, or theorbo as we like to call it, should in concert play with full and sweet consonances, re-striking its drone strings with light flourishes, a particular excellence of such an instrument, at pauses using trills and varied accenti produced by the lower hand. In concert the violone (as the bass part) should proceed as a foundation, sustaining the harmony of the other parts and playing in sweet consonance with the basses and contrabasses. The viols should draw their bows to their full length, clearly and sonorously, and in particular the lirone or viola bastarda should play its part with much judgment and on a basis of good counterpoint and experience. The violin calls for clear and long passages, with lively sections, echoes and little replies repeated on different strings, affecting accenti, nuances of bowing, with gruppi and varied trills.” Even if this evidence refers to the early Baroque period, we can consider it more than legitimate as a clue to the period which is of closer interest to us, that of Vivaldi.

Il giardino armonico vivaldi four seasons

Of capital importance for the interpretation of Baroque music and of Vivaldi in particular has been the study of mid-18th century aesthetics, starting with the etymological enquiry into the term “Baroque”: even musicians have accepted that it is perhaps of Portuguese origin and could mean “a steep cliff” or “an irregularly shaped [gibbous] pearl”, images that make one shudder; or perhaps the etymology is Italian, and the root would be “baro”, “barare” (to cheat), i.e. the most subtle and histrionic form of deception that we can apply, bearing in mind pictorial or architectural forms of this epoch. One of the aims of the artist became that of surprise: that is what we fully understand only by reading poets like G. B. Marino or G. Chiabrera, who explain to us that the purpose of their poetry is that of “raising the reader’s eyebrows”. The skilful musician of the late 20th century again needs to astonish, but also to move, in short to convince; and the “Baroque” aesthetic itself has suggested a way of explanation — by the art of rhetoric. The analogy between a good orator and a good musician, present in Marcus Fabius Quintilian’s De institutione oratoria and then taken up in the most important musical treatises of the Renaissance and Baroque, has given our musicians food for reflection. Perhaps nothing has had a greater influence on modern interpreters than this analogy in the way to present, once again, musical pages that were not written for us and that we need to recover, seeking afresh to convince an addressee who is no longer contemporary with the sender and the instrumental means at his disposal. More than in the field of the Dispositio or of the Decoratio, the analogy stands comparison in the field of the Elocutio. In this regard, some explicit evidence on the art of persuasion as applied to musical performance is greatly to be relished. It is again Banchieri who, in 1614, quotes the modern musicians who “seek to imitate the perfect orator: the affects of the words, of sorrow, harshness, falsity, interrogation, emphasis, joy, laughter, song, are imitated with musical notes — in a single word, an imitation of natural oration.” But it is perhaps in the nonmusical treatises that we find the most interesting musical indications, like the following, hidden in the pages. of the Cannocchiale aristotelico by Emanuele Tesauro (1654), where transgression in art is exemplified as a means of elocution: “It is, then, an oratorical virtue to incur some vice, now and then negligently letting some cacophony appear so as to escape a vice of too great cleanliness, which reveals the artifice when it is unmasked. Hence we may see many harshnesses and hissings and roarings studiously scattered in orations and in Latin and Greek poems, with such grace that negligence itself is diligence and voluntary error becomes a figure. […I Thus an expert cittern player lets a false string sound in his harmonious performance; and this upset is rehearsed, either to laugh at those who will laugh at it, or to seem to be playing by instinct and not art, or to make an illustration of barbarism. Thus, finally, the oration seems enlivened rather than mannered.” It seems almost like reading a music critic of 1993 reviewing a disc of the Giardino Armonico…

Giuseppe Clericetti
Translation: Lionel Salter

Notes on performance technique

The revolution brought about by Italian musicians at the beginning of the 17th century, which gave rise to the birth of the melodrama, the concerto form and the sonata understood in the sense of a solo with the support of a basso continuo, did not fail to influence the organo-logical researches of the major luthiers of the time, who immediately adapted the instruments in use to the new expressive requirements.

In the vast plucked-string family, the archlute and the theorbo (or chitarrone), varied-sized derivatives of the lute, came into being, always equipped with single strings and not double courses, as during the whole of the Renaissance period. The single string allows a considerable strength of sonority to be obtained in the low register and a greater singing quality in the melodic line.The use of the nails of the right hand (which plucks the strings) was adopted in order to produce a more percussive and brilliant sound.

Already in 1623, in his Avvertimenti che insegnano la maniera e il modo di ben sonare (“Counsels that explain the manner and method of producing good sound”), the great Bolognese virtuoso Alessandro Piccinini declares that “… index, middle and ring fingers should certainly have the nails long enough to project beyond the flesh …”, and he adds “… I do not approve of the thumb having a very long nail …”. It is interesting to note that he rejects too great a growth of the thumbnail, thus demonstrating a probably general tendency to the reverse. We are tempted to deduce that this technique had already been employed for at least some decades, such a radical change obviously not being possible in the lapse of too brief a time. The question was not raised in discussion again during the whole of the Baroque period, and in 1759 again the lutenist and painter Filippo Della Casa testifies that “… while the harpsichord’s voices [strings] are tuned, on the arch-lute it is necessary to finger on the neck [fingerboard] and with the other hand to touch the many and various strings with the nails …”. Possibly this technical phenomenon (entirely Italian) remained restricted to the peninsula alone, though we may be permitted to doubt this on examination of facts which tell us of the arrival in Italy of French and German lutenists in order to acquire the “new instruments”: it may well be that they took home with them, along with the lutes, a new method of plucking too.

Luca Pianca
Translation: Lionel Salter