Vivaldi: The Folk Seasons

Barocco Boreale, Kreeta-Maria Kentala (+Siiri Virkkala) violin
79:31
Alba ABCD 402
+ RV 114, 511, 522

Well… – where do I begin? I suppose with a positive comment – somewhere under all of this there is probably a rather attractive account of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. However, in the modern compulsion to ‘bring something new’ to Vivaldi, we have many of the natural sounds subtly alluded to in the original, ‘realized’ by bird whistles, regal, psaltery and a host of other inappropriate instruments, while Vivaldi’s original score is practically deconstructed in a series of ridiculous exaggerations and distortions. All good fun, you might say, and clearly eminent early harpist and professor Andrew Lawrence King, who plays several of the added instruments, would seem to agree. Well I don’t. Having heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons  horribly mangled by a number of ensembles over the years, I haven’t become in any way hardened to it, let alone more sympathetic to such treatments. By all means, write new pieces commenting on Vivaldi, as several composers have done, but don’t impose your own eccentric performance ideas which he would never have countenanced himself and which make a nonsense of his music. Surely the whole point of Vivaldi’s allusions to natural/folk sounds is that they are just that – allusions – and the minute you spell them out with literal renditions, shoe-horned into the original score, you have ruined his intentions. I have a secret inkling that all these attempts to ‘improve upon’ Vivaldi ultimately result from the chronic over-exposure of his music, particularly the Four Seasons. The answer is simple – give this played-out repertoire a rest and either turn instead to the other 95 percent of Vivaldi’s output that nobody looks near, or devote your time to one of the plethora of excellent and entirely neglected Baroque composers. It would be good to hear this clearly excellent Baroque ensemble turn their attentions to a more worthwhile project – meanwhile, slapped legs all round for this self-indulgent nonsense…

D. James Ross