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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741) arr. Federico GUGLIELMO (b.1968)
Le Quattro Stagioni, RVv 269, 315, 293, 297.
Hypothetical "Dresden version," with wind parts, in the style of Pisendel. [38.38]
Giovanni Antonio GUIDO (c1660 - >1728)

Scherzi Armonici sopra le Quattro Stagioni dell’Anno (>1733) [17.32]
Federico Guglielmo, solo and leader; L’Arte dell’Arco
Recorded Chiesa di S. Maria, Marostica, Italy, 20 September 2001
Notes in Deutsch, English, Français. Photo of artist, painting of Guido
Hybrid SACD Playable on CD players and SACD players
CPO 777 037-2 [56.10]
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Comparison recordings:

Tomasow, Janigro, I Solisti di Zagreb [ADD] Vanguard Bach Guild OVC 2536

There is a story about Arnold Schoenberg that bears retelling now. He was in the midst of teaching a class at UCLA when a colleague burst in excitedly proclaiming "Arnold! I am just hearing Verklärte Nacht mit HORNS!" Amid much startled posturing the two rushed out to destinations unknown, leaving the class unacknowledged. But all the various arrangements of Schoenberg’s work (I’ve never heard it with horns, but the string orchestra version with timpani is quite a good one) don’t begin to compare with the numerous outrages wreaked upon this helpless Vivaldi composition.

And here we hear it with horns. Federico Guglielmo has reconstructed a hypothetical arrangement in the style of Pisendel for the Dresden Orchestra, with wind parts — an inauthentic version is of a highly authentic nature. You know you’re not in Kansas any more when the opening tutti clearly has trumpets in the orchestra and the first violin solo turns into a duetto with sopranino recorder. The famous dog barks are played on wooden cornets, and don’t sound quite so canine as the col legno viola notes in the Harnoncourt version. The last movement of La Primavera begins with what sound like wooden trombone fanfares. Naturally the horn calls at the beginning of L’Autonno are played by, among other instruments, horns. The beautiful melody in L’Inverno which Jan Tomasow plays with such a gorgeous, generous, singing line is here fussed over and fiddled with, and loses all cantilena. By the time the whole orchestra gets into the act, the final storm in L’Inverno is one storm you don’t want to be out in. Of course the violinist improvises generously but not outrageously during his solos. Recorder and violin trade solo duty, the recorder particularly appearing where bird-songs are being imitated.

The possibilities for this sort of thing are enormous — imagine Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue as arranged by Mozart and performed by Beethoven, or, closer to home, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" as arranged by Liszt and performed by Godowsky.

Well now that we know what we’re up against, is it any good? Yes, it is; the music is quite recognisable and the expanded sonority does little violence to the style and is certainly more listenable than some versions. Compared to the Tomasow version, which Igor Stravinsky and I consider the best of the conventional performances (the one by Leopold Stokowski isn’t bad either), the Guglielmo version is not so sweet of sound, interestingly varied, and affectingly and dramatically phrased. But the question is: is it necessary? Does this arrangement give us something we didn’t have before and is that something desirable? It is true that some of the places in Vivaldi’s concerto where the violin imitates bird-calls are now played on a recorder and sound more like a bird, and some other places where the violin imitates horn-calls are now played on horns. The piece is now less of a virtuoso violin work because the violin has less work to do, becoming more a member of the orchestra with occasional concertato passages to play. In other works the Four Seasons become more of an orchestral work and less of a set of violin concertos. If that is what you want, then this disk is for you.

Next on the disk following Guglielmo’s version of the Vivaldi we have a free fantasia based on the Vivaldi work by Giovanni Guido, who was 18 years older than Vivaldi. This is a more straightforward improvisation and Vivaldi isn’t mentioned in the title; it answers the question: Why fool around with somebody else’s music when you can just write your own? Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme by Corelli and Werner Egk’s Suite after Rameau are other more recent examples of this genre, but of course Guido was actually older than Vivaldi and must have written this work only very shortly after Vivaldi’s original. Guido’s take-off is less than half as long as his model, and since he does not copy exactly any tunes, only textural fragments, it is a genuine composition "in the style of" the Vivaldi. Is it as good a piece of music? No, but certainly showing much skill and sensitivity and interesting to hear a few times.

Sound in the SACD version is clear and the sense of ambient space is nothing short of breathtaking, although the orchestra remains in front, with the instruments clearly differentiated, and only ambient information comes from the rear. However the acoustic is live and very realistic.

Paul Shoemaker

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