2 LP - 6.35386 EK - (p) 1977
1 CD - 8.42985 ZK - (c) 1984
1 CD - 8.43094 ZK - (c) 1984

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Inventione, Op. 8

Concerto I E-dur "La Primavera" (F. I/22)

8' 15" A1
- Allegro
3' 08"

- Largo 1' 53"

- Danza Pastorale: Allegro 3' 14"

Concerto II g-moll "L'Estate" (F. I/23)
10' 51" A2
- Languidezza per il Caldo: Allegro non molto
5' 41"

- Adagio - Presto
2' 20"

- Tempo impetuoso d'Estate: Presto 2' 50"

Concerto III F-dur "L'Autunno" (F. I/24)
9' 31" A3
- Ballo e canto de' Villanelli: Allegro
4' 07"

- Dormienti ubriachi: Adagio
2' 38"

- La Caccia: Allegro
2' 46"

Concerto IV f-moll "L'Inverno" (F. I/25)
7' 56" B1
- Allegro non molto
3' 30"

- Largo 1' 17"

- Allegro 3' 09"

Concerto V Es-dur "La Tempesta di Mare" (F. I/26)
8' 38" B2
- Presto
2' 38"

- Largo 2' 30"

- Presto
3' 30"

Concerto VI C-dur "Il Piacere" (F. I/27)
7' 31" B3
- Allegro 2' 43"

- Largo 2' 08"

- Allegro 2' 40"

Concerto VII d-moll (F. I/28)

7' 26" C1
- Allegro 2' 37"

- Largo 1' 51"

- Allegro 2' 58"

Concerto VIII g-moll (F. I/16)

8' 47" C2
- Allegro 2' 37"

- Largo 2' 14"

- Allegro 3' 56"

Concerto IX d-moll (F. I/1) *

7' 24" C3
- Allegro 2' 58"

- Largo 1' 57"

- Allegro 2' 29"

Concerto X B-dur "La Caccia" (F. I/29)

7' 44" D1
- Allegro 2' 58"

- Adagio 2' 26"

- Allegro 2' 20"

Concerto XI D-dur (F. I/30)

11' 06" D2
- Allegro 4' 25"

- Largo 1' 54"

- Allegro 4' 47"

Concerto XII C-dur (F. I/31) *

9' 02" D3
- Allegro 3' 17"

- Largo 2' 26"

- Allegro 3' 19"

Alice Harnoncourt, Violino principale

Jürg Schaeftlein, Oboe *

CONCENTUS MUSICUS WIEN (mit Originainstrumenten)

- Walter Pfeiffer, Violine - Alison Bury, Violine (1-4)

- Peter Schoberwalter, Violine - Kurt Theiner, Viola
- Wilhelm Mergl, Violine - Josef de Sordi, Viola
- Anita Mitterer, Violine - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Violoncello
- Richard Motz, Violine - Eduard Hruza, Violone
- Ingrid Seifert, Violine - Herbert Tachezi, Organo / Cembalo
- Veronika Schmidt, Violine (5-6)

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Leitung
Luogo e data di registrazione
Casino Zögernitz, Vienna (Austria) - ottobre 1976 e marzo 1977
Registrazione live / studio
Producer / Engineer
Heinrich Weritz
Prima Edizione CD
Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - 8.42985 ZK - (1 cd) - 53' 42" - (c) 1984 - (Concerti I-VI)
Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - 8.43094 ZK - (1 cd) - 52' 26" - (c) 1984 - (Concerti VII-XII)
Prima Edizione LP
Telefunken "Das Alte Werk" - 6.35386 EK - (2 lp) - 53' 42" + 52' 26" - (p) 1977

Vivaldi composed the majority of his numerous concertos for his own ensemble, the famous orchestra of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice In 1704 he began to teach the violin at this institution, and from c. 1714 onwards held the post of “maestro dei concerti". One of several Venetian institutions of its kind, the Ospedale was devoted to the care of orèhaned and abandoned gorls, who, if they showed some aètitude, were given a musical education. The regular performances of concertos during services on Sundays and holidays constituted one of the city's principal attractions, and travellers were quick to lavish praise on the playing of the girls. For example, in 1668 Peter Tostalgo noted: "There are convents in Venice whose inmates sing and play the organ and various other instrrrments so beautifully that nowhere in the world will you find music that is so harmonious and sweet."
When Vivaldi included works from this repertory in his printed editions, he tended to subject them
to radical revision. A comparison of the two versions reveals that, in order to make them commercially viable, the printed editions usually contained a considerable number of technical simplifications. The Opus VIII concertos, Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (the title, roughly translated, signifies “daring experiments with harmony and invention”), were not, it seems, written especially for publication. Not even the pieces that constitute "The Four Seasons”, the  centrepiece of the collection, were new works.
The source used in this  performance is the edition published in Paris by Le Clerc et Me Boivin. We consider this to be particularly reliable in view of the fact that it appeared immediately after the first edition: it was carefully edited and thus contains virtually no mistakes.
Vivaldi rendered into music the sonnets on which “The Four Seasons" are based, thus imparting to the work its detailed programmatic character. This is underlined by the fact that letters in the parts correspond to certain lines in the sonnets.
In the first concerto, La primavera, the arrival of spring is depicted in a rather theatrical manner. The first movement, a rondo, is a dance in the style of a bourrée that is repeatedly interrupted by naturalistic passages. In the slow movement three different kinds of tone-painting are applied simultaneously: the calm melody of the solo violin depicts the innocent slumber of the shepherds, the ripieno violins render into music the pleasant sound of leaves rustling in the wind, and, in a rather direct manner, the viola imitates the barking of dogs. The final movement with its 12/8 siciliano rhythms is a delightful rural tableau in the style of the baroque era peopled with dancing shepherds and nymphs.
In L'estate (Summer), extremely soft pianissirno dynamics characterize breathless languor and the heat of surnrner the slightest movement results in complete exhaustion. The image of oppressive heat, which is repeated several times in the style of a rondo (bars 52-59 and 110/116), is later recalled in L'inverno (Winter), where it evokes the warm scirocco wind. The cuckoo (from bar 31 onwards) is heard amidst lively repeated semiquavers that represent a throng of chattering birds. The complaint of the peasant makes use of chromaticism, a classical device of musical rhetoric: in the slow descending scales in the bass it depicts resigntion, and in the solo violin the passionate weeping and sobbing characteristic of the south. We hear the apprehensive boy (bars 153 and 154), and then the storm breaks out. In the slow movement, which depicts his attempt to overcome his anxiety and regain his composure, the melodic line is repeatedly interrupted by presto passages representing thunder, lightning and swarms of insects, The last movement is a musical evocation of a severe summer thunderstorm.
L'autunno (Autumn) begins with a merry peasants’ dancing song in which the solo violin assumes the role of lead singer repeating and embellishing the music of the chorus. Vivaldi takes great delight in depicting a drunkard in various states of inebriation, though this is repeatedly interrupted by the communal singing. The movement ends abruptly with the dancing song with which it began, though now, as the wine begins to take effect, it is played faster. In the slow movement, which evokes the image of pleasant slumber, Vlvaldi calls for mutes and arpeggios on the harpsichord. The third movement is devoted to a musical description of the hunt.
In L'inverno (Winter) the freezing wintry cold is depicted by sharp bow vibrato, piercing dissonances, and, in the first violin, by two-finger vibrato, a kind of microtonal trill. Particularly complex and subtle, the slow movement shows man happy and content in the safety of his house, where he is warmed by the fire and protected from the wintry showers. The cello (molto forte) depicts a sudden downpour, and rather loud pizzicato in the upper strings the water dripping down from the eaves. Almost obscured by all this and none the less audible, the delightful melody of the person sitting hy the fireside is accompanied by viola (pianissimo), organ and bass (piano). In the last movement Vivaldi stipulates that the slurs in the violins (arcate lunghe) which depict the slippery ice must not be divided. This indication was of some importance: in general, long slurs merely indicated that slurring was required, and usually this meant short slurs, Fear is once more depicted by intensive bow vibrato After the drama on the ice, which ends with a fall and the ice breaking up, we hear the warm scirocco wind leaving its winter quarters (bars 102-120). Here Vivaldi makes use of the image of oppressive heat from L'estate (Summer), and this reminds us of the cyclic pattern of the whole work.
La tempesta di mare depicts the stormy sea and waves that roll in from afar, syncopated breakers, as it were, whose whirling spume and foaming crests (from bar 53 onwards) tower ever higher and closer (from bar 61 onwards), The description obviously continues in the second rrrovement. There is a moment of tranquillity, and the waves begin to subside. However, quiet undulation continues to be clearly audible in the unison triads of the tutti. In the third movement bizarre general pauses that retard the flow of the music and unusual and cleverly concealed changes of metre reflect the musical daring announced in the collective title.
At the beginning of Il piacere rejoicing and exultation are portrayed by means of syncopations and embellished leaps of a fifth. The slow movement with its 12/8 siciliano rhythm is evidently a depiction of rural life: in the baroque era pastoral scenes were always symbolic of harmony and of pure and innocent joy. However, in the third movement the rejoicing has acquired a comical and somewhat derisory character. In the tutti large leaps of an octave, a tenth, a twelfth and more lead to suspensions, striking and mocking gestures that, in the form of a dialogue, stand in marked contrast to the solo part.
The structure of Concerto No. 7 is quite different. The same material is employed in the tutti and solo passages, and thus the soloist merely comments on the motto theme first played by the orchestra. The movement depicts and contrasts numerous affections of a passionate, tender, active and passive kind. In the slow movement the soloist embelhshes the repeats in an improvisatory manner to the accompagniment of arpeggios played alternately by the first and second violins. The last movement is rather witty and sometines verges on slapstick.
The influence of the commedia dell'arte is clearly apparent in Concerto No. 8. The solo violin is given motifs of its own (which are distinct from those of the tutti passages), though these themes are frequently incomplete. The initial motif finally continues on its own. Although the tutti passages are based on the material of the first tutti, they are always varied in a witty manner. The second movement, which is in the style of sixteenth-century vocal polyphony; comes an something of a surprise. A secular movement is followed by a sacred one, just at the carnival season is followed by Lent (which is hinted at by sorrowful chromaticism in the bass). The finale is a whirling popular dance with bizarre chords and rather eccentric violin solos.
In Concerto No. 9 at stubborn syncopated motif supported by the quavers of et walking bass is answered and challanged by two lamento bars, which consist of a rhapsodic and sorrowful chromatic motif. The first solo passage is a free adaptation of the syncopated motif of the opening tutti. The tutti passages that separate the cheerful and witty solo sections always end with the lamento. The slow movement, which is for oboe and basso continuo, continues to dwell on the sad and elegiac mood of the first movement. The finale, as in so many of Vivaldi's concertos. is based on a lively popular dance. The unusual rhythm (the fact that 3/2 and 2/2 alternate in an irregular manner becomes apparent from the metrical structure, and not from the notation), the voice leading, and the soloist's embellishments are all reminiscent of oriental music. Venice maintained close links with the Countries of the eastern Mediterranean for centuries, and thus it is not surprising that Venetian composers were often influenced by Mediterranean folk music.
The vigorous 3/4 thermes which imitate the horn in the next concerto. La caccia, describe jolly huntsmen riding out into the countryside in pursuit of their quarry. The hunters and the hunted are depicted by the solo violin's triplet runs and horn motifs. This game is repeated four times (though on the second occasion the animal is cornered and killed). The second movement does not seem to have anything to do with this subject, though its striking rests impart a special and almost hesitant character to the musical dialogue. The last movement again depicts a hunt. As in the first movement, there are several episodes (which are separated by tutti passages) and these seem to depict the reactions of various animals. The first shows one of them simply running away; and in the second another one leaps up and then crawls along. The large leaps in the third episode culminate in an animal's attempt to escape, and its melancholy end.
Concerto no. 11, which begins with a four-part fugato, is a brilliant compendium of contemporary stylistic possibilities The contrapuntal introduction is interrupted once by a motif that whirls along nimbly in the style of Neapolitan folk music for mandolins, and then by sentimental syncopations. In this concerto Vivaldi revels in some impressionist sounds which only becorrre audible in performance and cannot be deduced from the individual parts. The slow movement is also based on such magical images: with the help of bow vibrato the upper strings create a texture from which the solo violin emerges like an upper partial that becomes more and more audible. The finale begins with a fugato, as in the first movement; and the first tutti ends abruptly with an incisive dotted motif repeated four times and some soft scales. With the exception of the fugato sections, this movement is another example of the oriental influence that was omnipresent in Venice.
The first movement of Concerto No. 12 is unmistakably rustic in character. Vivaldi seems to have been inspired to write this very rural piece by the sound of the oboe, and by a plethora of ideas derived from folk music. The motifs of the solo oboe, which are quite different from those of the strings, are cantabile and elegant, so that we seem to be hearing a conversation between a master and his servant. In the slow section the repeats are embellished in an improvisatory rnanner. The last movement is once again in the style of a rustic dance.
Nikolaus Harnoncort
Translation: Alfred Clayton

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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