I Musici – Le Quattro Stagioni (Antonio Vivaldi) (1970)

FrontCover1Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741) was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher, impresario, and Roman Catholic priest. Born in Venice, the capital of the Venetian Republic, he is regarded as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He composed many instrumental concertos, for the violin and a variety of other musical instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as the Four Seasons.

Many of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children. Vivaldi had worked there as a Catholic priest for 1 1/2 years and was employed there from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi also had some success with expensive stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, hoping for royal support. However, the Emperor died soon after Vivaldi’s arrival, and Vivaldi himself died in poverty less than a year later.

The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a group of four violin concerti by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. They were written around 1716–1717 and published in 1725 in Amsterdam, together with eight additional concerti, as Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention).

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The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi’s works. Though three of the concerti are wholly original, the first, “Spring”, borrows motifs from a sinfonia in the first act of Vivaldi’s contemporaneous opera Il Giustino. The inspiration for the concertos is not the countryside around Mantua, as initially supposed, where Vivaldi was living at the time, since according to Karl Heller[1] they could have been written as early as 1716–1717, while Vivaldi was engaged with the court of Mantua only in 1718. They were a revolution in musical conception: in them Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds (of different species, each specifically characterized), a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, storms, drunken dancers, hunting parties from both the hunters’ and the prey’s point of view, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires.

Title page of Vivaldi’s Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Invenzione,
which included The Four Seasons:
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Unusually for the period, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying sonnets (possibly written by the composer himself) that elucidated what it was in the spirit of each season that his music was intended to evoke. The concerti therefore stand as one of the earliest and most detailed examples of what would come to be called program music—i.e., music with a narrative element. Vivaldi took great pains to relate his music to the texts of the poems, translating the poetic lines themselves directly into the music on the page. For example, in the middle section of “Spring”, when the goatherd sleeps, his barking dog can be heard in the viola section. The music is elsewhere similarly evocative of other natural sounds. Vivaldi divided each concerto into three movements (fast–slow–fast), and, likewise, each linked sonnet into three sections. (wikipedia)

And here we can hear this great composition interpreted by I Musici:

In 1951, twelve young and promising italian musicians, mainly roman and mostly graduates of the at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, got together “inter pares” to create a unique chamber orchestra comprising six violins, two violas, two cellos, one double bass and one harpsichord.
They chose the simple, yet nice, name I MUSICI and they deliberately decided to shape the ensemble without conductor. They did so in order to create an egalitarian relationship among the twelve colleagues and friends, which would bring to their music-making a unanimity on technical and interpretative questions. It was a very unconventional but unexpectedly suitable procedure. Notably, maestro Arturo Toscanini, on hearing them rehearsing in April 1952 at the Italian Radio studios, enthused over the young orchestra in front of journalists and musical personalities, and dedicated his photograph to the group with the words “bravi, bravissimi …no! la musica non muore”, (bravo, the music will not die).
A few weeks earlier, on the 30th of March 1952, their public debut was an enormous success at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Roma; it was the starting point of an astonishing career, which in a short time catapulted them among the ranks of the great international performers.

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In 2020 I Musici celebrated their 69th anniversary since the beginning of their activity, an adventure that began in 1951, when the first members gathered. However, the official debut was on March 30, 1952 with the concert at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome.
The goal that these young musicians had prefigured was to make known and spread the immense heritage of eighteenth-century Italian music, at the time still not known at all, as well as performing music of Italian authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Probably none of them would have imagined that the group they founded would still be around the world to play that repertoire, but that was the case. Discovering, studying, spreading, this is the tireless engine of the long wandering of I Musici di Roma in these 65 years. The beauty of music did the rest. How can we not remember that if today’s Four Seasons of Vivaldi are one of the most famous pieces in the world, we owe it to I Musici.

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And then Corelli, Albinoni, Locatelli, Rossini, Rota, to name some of the most accomplished authors. But not only Italian music, of course, their Mozart was awarded with the Grand Prix du Disque, and then the string symphonies of Mendelssohn, and Brandenburg Concertos of Bach, Haendel’s Concerti grossi. Certainly, this would not have been possible unless a special relationship established with the public, which still lasts today. I Musici concerts are every time a trip to a different place, you just sit in the hall and let yourself be guided and carried in the magic world of sounds. Even today, the members of the group move among the score with the same enthusiasm of their predecessors, and perhaps this is the secret of this incredible longevity: the desire to share and the enthusiasm of those who know they have a beautiful gift to give to others: Music. (taken from their website)

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People about this album:
Wonderful, my favourite version, and apparently the first classical record to get a gold record for selling more than a million copies (in 1972) (Bruce Ainsley)

This is the best version of the Four Seasons. Only the one with Agostini comes close to that. (Micha Weinst)

Indeed: A masterpierce !

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Personnel:
I Musici
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Roberto Michelucci (violin)
Booklet01ATracklist:

Concerto For Violin And Strings In E Major, No.1, RV 269 “La Primavera”: 
01. Allegro 3.35
02. Largo 3.03
03. Allegro (Danza Pastorale) 4.20

Concerto For Violin And Strings In G Minor, No.2, RV 315 “L’Estate”:
04. Allegro Non Molto – Allegro 5.30
05. Adagio – Presto – Adagio 2.06
06. Presto (Tempo Impetuoso D’Estate) 2.56

Concerto For Violin And Strings In F Major, No.3, RV 293 “L’Autunno”:
07. Allegro (Ballo, E Cabto De’ Villanelli) 5.28
08. Adagio Molto (Ubriachi Dormienti) 3.22
09. Allegro (La Caccia) 3.22

Concerto For Violin And Strings In F Minor, No.4, RV 297 “L’Inverno”: 
10. Allegro Non Molto 3.25
11. Largo 2.43
12. Allegro 2.58

Composed by Antonio Vivaldi

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Caricature by P. L. Ghezzi, Rome (1723):
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