A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

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Wallingford
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A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Wallingford » Sat Sep 24, 2011 10:47 pm

Yeah, come on, now.

This piece has been the recipient of quite a bit of abuse and snideness in these pages. I mean, didn't it occur to anyone this piece is a repertory stalwart because it deserved it? I mean, try divorcing the work from its pop-culture associations.....like that presumptuous Alan Alda movie of the same name (I have my own title for it: The Six Schlemiels--and we all know the egomaniacal Alda's auteur pretentions can't be taken seriously, anyway, much less do justice to a fine musical work). Or, for that matter, its use as a stuffy introduction to a Ren & Stimpy episode.

After all, when you scratch away everything added to it, what do you have left? A true masterpiece, that's what--a work filled with invention and imagination. Resourcefulness, too: it's astounding what Vivaldi can do with even the sparest of melodic materials. A multifaceted work. One that has "concerto" written all over it, in its showy display and its allowance of the musician to really shine throughout.

It must be seen as this to really assess its worth.

And thus I devote this thread to everyone saying something nice about Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

John F
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by John F » Sat Sep 24, 2011 10:58 pm

Have people really been talking down The Four Seasons here? Maybe so, but I've missed it. I don't get much out of Vivaldi's music generally, but those concertos are certainly no worse than the rest. Is that nice enough? :mrgreen:
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by josé echenique » Sat Sep 24, 2011 11:24 pm

Il Cimento dell´armonia e dell´Inventione has been enormously popular since first published in 1726 or 27. Copies of it could be found from Moscow to Mexico, and even in the late XVIII Century, when Baroque concertos were displaced by the Classical symphony, Charles Burney for example, was still well acquainted with Vivaldi´s music.
Are Vivaldi´s concertos good music?
Well, let´s ask Bach, he must have liked them since he made arrangements of some Vivaldi concertos:

Concerto No.1 in D major, BWV 972
arrangement of the Violin Concerto in D major, RV 230, by Antonio Vivaldi
Concerto No.2 in G major, BWV 973
arrangement of the Violin Concerto in G major, RV 299, by Antonio Vivaldi
Concerto No.4 in G minor, BWV 975
arrangement of the Violin Concerto in G minor, RV 316, by Antonio Vivaldi
Concerto No.5 in C major, BWV 976
arrangement of the Violin Concerto in E major, RV 265, by Antonio Vivaldi
Concerto No.6 in C major, BWV 977
source unidentified
Concerto No.7 in F major, BWV 978
arrangement of the Violin Concerto in G major, RV 310, by Antonio Vivaldi
Concerto No.9 in G major, BWV 980
arrangement of the Violin Concerto in B♭ minor, RV 381, by Antonio Vivaldi

Stravinsky didn´t like them, but Bach did. I side with J.S. or "Jack" as Dulcinea calls him.

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by CharmNewton » Sat Sep 24, 2011 11:25 pm

I love the piece. I've yet to hear a Vivaldi work that I didn't enjoy.

John

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by John F » Sun Sep 25, 2011 12:09 am

josé echenique wrote:Are Vivaldi´s concertos good music? Well, let´s ask Bach, he must have liked them since he made arrangements of some Vivaldi concertos...
And made them much better. I've just sampled one of them, the first movement of Vivaldi's op. 3/9 and Bach's BWV 972. Listen for yourself:





Vivaldi's perfunctory, inert accompaniments clearly weren't good enough for Bach, so he Bachified them with an independent contrapuntal part for the left hand that brings the music to life. If Vivaldi had written like that, I wouldn't be snide about his music. But he didn't, so I am. :mrgreen:

I wonder what Bach's purpose was in making these arrangements. Were they for the musicales he and his wife organized, samples of the Italian taste which Bach exploited and transcended in his own Italian Concerto? Were they teaching pieces for keyboard students (Clavierübungen)? Knowing this might make it clearer just what he saw in the Vivaldi originals.

Speaking of the Italian Concerto, it really needs the contrasts of timbres and textures that a harpsichord can provide and a piano can't. And the most vivid contrasts I know are in Wanda Landowska's 1935 recording. With her modern 2-manual Pleyel harpsichord complete with 16-foot stop, she gives real orchestral weight to the "tutti" and a more delicate texture to the "solos," which to me sounds right for this music. In the finale she has fun with a couple of quite unauthentic stops, and who would begrudge her? For me this joie de vivre is irresistable.

Last edited by John F on Sun Sep 25, 2011 5:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Jared » Sun Sep 25, 2011 2:35 am

maybe someone could answer a question for me... at what point did 'The Four Seasons' (Concerto for Strings op.8 Nos 1-4) detatch themselves from Nos 5-12 as a separate entity, and why are they played exclusively, when you never hear the rest of the suite, which is consequently almost never recorded? Vivaldi being Vivaldi, I can't imagine that Nos 5-12 are of a sufficiently inferior quality not to bother with... :?:

... I know Hogwood initially recorded the 12 together, but the set has long been discontinued and goes for silly money these days as a consequence..

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by John F » Sun Sep 25, 2011 3:59 am

If recordings are a halfway accurate snapshot of performance history - and there are good reasons to question this - then "The Four Seasons" emerged in the late 1940s. Two 78 rpm sets appeared at about the same time, one from the Italian label Cetra and the other from the subscription label Concert Hall, and were quickly issued on LP. At the time, a number of concertos from op. 3 (and Corelli's op. 6) were already on the market, but this was the debut of music from Vivaldi's op. 8. The other eight concertos were issued by Concert Hall a year or two later, on LPs only. My guess is that the popularity of TFS, and the less cumbersome and expensive medium, prompted Concert Hall to follow up with more of (kind of) the same.

Soon afterwards came the Baroque Boom of the '50s, with 3-LP sets of this, that, and the other Italian composer's concertos and concerti grossi by the dozen. Cynics said these were cocktail party music, with multiple LPs stacked on the record changer and played sotto voce to provide classy but unobtrusive background music for small talk. This trend so exasperated H.C. Robbins Landon, the Haydn man, that he wrote an article for High Fidelity magazine titled "A Pox on Manfredini!" Ensembles playing Italian Baroque music formed and recorded and toured and became household names, in the right kind of households: I virtuosi di Roma, I musici, the Società di Corelli, etc. Twenty years later, they were going or gone.

The Italian Baroque repertory never caught on with mainstream soloists and ensembles, with the unique exception of "The Four Seasons" whose recordings proliferated - there was even one by the New York Philharmonic under Guido Cantelli, with concertmaster John Corigliano (Sr.) as soloist. Why just those four concertos? That's an easy one: their programmatic content, which is comprehensible and entertaining even to those who don't know much about music. Just as Haydn's symphonies with nicknames are more popular than those without.

Personally, I think some of op. 3 is better music, notably #11, one of the very few Vivaldi works that Toscanini ever conducted, and others like Stokowski took it up too. But popularity isn't about quality, or not always at any rate, and "The Four Seasons'" inclusion among classical music's greatest hits is as assured as is the exclusion of everything else Vivaldi wrote.
Last edited by John F on Sun Sep 25, 2011 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by barney » Sun Sep 25, 2011 8:02 am

I loved it the first 20 times I heard it. I enjoyed it the next 150. You can't get away from it. If I could have a five-year moratorium, including ring tones, lift music, ads etc, I'd love it again.

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Jared » Sun Sep 25, 2011 8:43 am

barney wrote:I loved it the first 20 times I heard it. I enjoyed it the next 150. You can't get away from it. If I could have a five-year moratorium, including ring tones, lift music, ads etc, I'd love it again.
I feel like that about Eine kleine Nachtmusik... :lol:

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Jared » Sun Sep 25, 2011 8:44 am

John F wrote: Why just those four concertos? That's an easy one: their programmatic content, which is comprehensible and entertaining even to those who don't know much about music. Just as Haydn's symphonies with nicknames are more popular than those without.
Thanks for that John, I'm sure you're right...

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Holden Fourth » Sun Sep 25, 2011 2:39 pm

I'm a Four Seasons fan - I must be as I have four different recordings of the work and those four recordings are vastly different from each other. From Carmignola's very HIP approach to the ultra classical Perlman/IPO.

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 25, 2011 3:16 pm

Years ago Ralph posted enthusiastically on some old Four Seasons reissue that he found particularly compelling. (It has not been said explicitly here, but I believe that The Four Seasons is the most recorded piece of all time.) Ralph was frequently serious when one thought he was applying the driest wit, or should have been (for instance, he really did/does love Dittersdorf). Sure enough, his enthusiasm for one "new" recording among dozens of a work that pleases but does not excite was genuine.

(End of story--just an anecdote. :) )

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by John F » Sun Sep 25, 2011 5:26 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I believe that The Four Seasons is the most recorded piece of all time.
It certainly has been recorded surprisingly often, but not the most of all. Beethoven's 5th, for example, was recorded more than 40 times before the first Four Seasons appeared on records.
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Wallingford » Sun Sep 25, 2011 8:16 pm

As a Tower clerk a decade back, it was hearing--several times--Fabio Biondi's then-new EMI disc that made me hear it in a whole new light and heightened my appreciation of the work.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Wallingford
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Wallingford » Sun Sep 25, 2011 8:18 pm

Biondi must've had a caffeine injection.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Mark Harwood » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:45 am

John F wrote:
josé echenique wrote:Are Vivaldi´s concertos good music? Well, let´s ask Bach, he must have liked them since he made arrangements of some Vivaldi concertos...
And made them much better. I've just sampled one of them, the first movement of Vivaldi's op. 3/9 and Bach's BWV 972. Listen for yourself:





Vivaldi's perfunctory, inert accompaniments clearly weren't good enough for Bach, so he Bachified them with an independent contrapuntal part for the left hand that brings the music to life. If Vivaldi had written like that, I wouldn't be snide about his music. But he didn't, so I am. :mrgreen:

I wonder what Bach's purpose was in making these arrangements. Were they for the musicales he and his wife organized, samples of the Italian taste which Bach exploited and transcended in his own Italian Concerto? Were they teaching pieces for keyboard students (Clavierübungen)? Knowing this might make it clearer just what he saw in the Vivaldi originals.

Speaking of the Italian Concerto, it really needs the contrasts of timbres and textures that a harpsichord can provide and a piano can't. And the most vivid contrasts I know are in Wanda Landowska's 1935 recording. With her modern 2-manual Pleyel harpsichord complete with 16-foot stop, she gives real orchestral weight to the "tutti" and a more delicate texture to the "solos," which to me sounds right for this music. In the finale she has fun with a couple of quite unauthentic stops, and who would begrudge her? For me this joie de vivre is irresistable.

Cracking stuff. Thanks for the insights.
Now, if someone could record 1-12 with full orchestration and Bach counterpoint...
:D
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by IcedNote » Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:55 pm



:mrgreen:

-G
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:15 pm

Anyone got Florence Foster Jenkins dubbing some great soprano in Queen of the Night?

This is not very funny but not too many years ago Isaac Stern, old and/or having a bad day, appeared at the Kennedy Center honors and played something relatively simple, I cannot remember what, in honor of another recipient, and he sounded like these fake Perlman performances or worse. Anyone else recall that?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Lance » Wed Sep 28, 2011 12:00 am

Does LANCE love the Four Seasons? You betcha. I have some 60+ recordings to prove it! Among the most shockingly delight is Giuliano Carmignola's HIP rendition. I would probably have never purchased this recording but it was recommended to me right here on CMG. It remains one of the most breathtaking and original performances of the work I've ever heard. Last I knew, it was on Sony Classical 90391. That led me to collect many other Carmignola recordings issued on Sony and Deutsche Grammophon. He's done more for me regarding HIP recordings that just about anybody else. (I think it was John/CharmNewton who put me on to this one.)
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by CharmNewton » Wed Sep 28, 2011 12:28 am

Lance wrote:Does LANCE love the Four Seasons? You betcha. I have some 60+ recordings to prove it! Among the most shockingly delight is Giuliano Carmignola's HIP rendition. I would probably have never purchased this recording but it was recommended to me right here on CMG. It remains one of the most breathtaking and original performances of the work I've ever heard. Last I knew, it was on Sony Classical 90391. That led me to collect many other Carmignola recordings issued on Sony and Deutsche Grammophon. He's done more for me regarding HIP recordings that just about anybody else. (I think it was John/CharmNewton who put me on to this one.)
Lance, I can't claim credit for the recommendation as I haven't heard that recording, although I remember it being discussed. I am a fan of the Fabio Biondi recording, which was like no recording I'd ever heard of the work before. I still have deep affection for Mullova's Philips recording and the more recent one of Sarah Chang. All of these I find breathtaking.

John

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by Holden Fourth » Wed Sep 28, 2011 4:05 am

The inimitable Ralph M Stein was the person who recommended the Carmignola and I am so grateful for that. BTW, where is Ralph?

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:16 am

Holden Fourth wrote:The inimitable Ralph M Stein was the person who recommended the Carmignola and I am so grateful for that. BTW, where is Ralph?
Still at Pace University Law School and on Facebook. :wink:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by rogch » Fri Sep 30, 2011 9:10 am

I love The Four Sesons! Often when people hear more of Vivaldi's music they get less interested in The Four Seasons. For me it's the other way around. I have liked other Vivaldi pieces, but usually i don't remember them for very long. There are so many brilliant baroque composers available now and many of them are more interesting than Vivaldi in my view. But i always return to The Four Seasons, i am still amazed by the work.
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by mikealdren » Sat Oct 01, 2011 3:11 am

"The Four Seasons" emerged in the late 1940s. Two 78 rpm sets appeared at about the same time
Hi John, there's a 1939 recording of Campoli taken from a radio broadcast and it's very good too.

What I don't understand about HIP of Vivaldi is how they can claim to be HIP and yet do almost anything they want with rhythm distortion, improvisation and extreme tonal colourisation and yet as long as gut strings are used at a low pitch it's acceptable. If a 'modern' player follows the notes accurately, it's not acceptable!

Mike

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by John F » Sat Oct 01, 2011 4:05 am

mikealdren wrote:What I don't understand about HIP of Vivaldi is how they can claim to be HIP and yet do almost anything they want with rhythm distortion, improvisation and extreme tonal colourisation and yet as long as gut strings are used at a low pitch it's acceptable. If a 'modern' player follows the notes accurately, it's not acceptable!
Present-day understanding of 18th century performance practice is quite different from the just-play-the-notes approach of the Baroque Boom of the '50s and '60s. Improvisation is an essential element in 18th century performance practice; rubato wasn't invented by Chopin, though Baroque "rhythm distortion" isn't the same as in 19th century practice; and as for tone color, we can't know what 18th century performances actually sounded like, but the tonal possibilities of the acoustic violin haven't changed much in three centuries. (After all, Stradivari was a contemporary of Vivaldi.) And while the girls Vivaldi taught at the Venetian orphanage may not have brought much that's personal to their playing, "The Four Seasons" was composed when he was maestro di capella at the Mantuan court and working with the best professional musicians the Prince could buy.

I don't listen to many HIP recordings, they get on my nerves mainly because of the vibratoless string sound, but it's a safe bet that they vary considerably in how they approach 18th century performing style generally, and "The Four Seasons" in particular. I'd be interested to know what recordings you have in mind.
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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by karlhenning » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:39 am

I am all over (i.e., my ears are surpassing fond of) the Eight Seasons recording by Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica, which interleaves the Vivaldi with Astor Piazzolla’s Cuatro estancias porteñas. Could not call the Vivaldi realization HIP, but it never stales for me.

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Re: A "say something nice about Vivaldi's 4 Seasons" thread!

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Oct 01, 2011 5:05 pm

John F wrote:I don't listen to many HIP recordings, they get on my nerves mainly because of the vibratoless string sound, but it's a safe bet that they vary considerably in how they approach 18th century performing style generally, and "The Four Seasons" in particular. I'd be interested to know what recordings you have in mind.
I'm not going to buy those recordings to find out (and I imagine neither are you), but I would also like to know more about this alleged taking of liberties in a composer who so clearly suggests both the extent and limits of expressiveness in his music with not much more than the bare notes.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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