The Four Seasons Op. 8/1-4
& Other Concertos
Amandine Beyer, violin
Alpha Classics, 2015
There are few violin concertos among those composed by Antonio Vivaldi that are more popular than the four works known as “Le Quattro Stagioni” (“The Four Seasons”). On the contrary, his Concerto for Two Violins and Cello in G Minor, Op. 3, No. 2 (RV 578a), the Concerto for Two Violins in B flat Major (RV 372) and the Concerto for Violin in B Minor (RV 390) are among his less known compositions, to the point that the first two are world premiere recordings.
The Four Seasons & Other Concertos: the Programme
The present recording was made in January 2008 at the Christuskirche, a German Protestant Church in Paris, but it was released only seven years later. It features the accomplished ensemble Gli Incogniti and solo violinist Amandine Beyer, while Olivier Fourés organized the programme. He later became the partner of Gli Incogniti for all their Vivaldi projects.
As for the editions used for this performance, Beyer used both le Cène edition (1725) and the Manchester manuscript. As she explains in the long interview in the booklet, about «this question of the different sources of The Four Seasons, I think one must simply remain open to all sorts of information. Being aware of the existence of the various versions of a work encourages the performer to take each of the composer’s markings as an aid to understanding a broader attitude and not as a fixed intention».
As in their album Vivaldi. Concerti per due violini, where Gli Incogniti collaborate again with Amandine Beyer (together with Giuliano Carmagnola), this recording is an exquisite journey through the Venetian composer’s music. “Exquisite” for many reasons, moreover. The first reason is that the three violin concertos that surround the Four Seasons combine effectively with them as they provide a charming introduction and ending, sometimes joyful, some others sadder or more nervous.
The second reason is the performance itself. Gli Incogniti and Amandine Beyer (who is joined by Alba Roca in the Concerto per due violini) have Vivaldi’s music in their blood and it seems to have no secrets for them. They play with skilful, brilliant technique and the natural lightness of Vivaldi’s music sparkles while they play it. Just to make an example with the most popular pieces of this collection, their Spring is a merry season and its irresistible awakening belongs to the two high-spirited Allegri but it extends to the pensive Adagio. Summer is the description of an irrepressible enthusiasm, while Autumn appears as a celebration of its flamboyant colours (that can be easily found in the orchestral playing) and Winter is still vigorous and yet softened, especially in the Largo.
The interaction between Gli Incogniti and Beyer is perfect. There is a sympathetic and natural understanding between them and their expressive style of playing makes these works animated and lively.
This recording is extremely enjoyable. Not only it gives the chance to listen to some of Vivaldi’s less performed works, but it presents also one of his most popular work (The Four Seasons) in a fine performance. It is worth listening to it from any point of view.