A little over 250 years ago, Antonio Vivaldi was laid to rest in a pauper’s grave in Vienna Today, if we consider the number of Vivaldi’s recordings alone, the Venetian maestro ranks among the giants of classical music. After all, what had been recorded more often than The Four Seasons? Countless excellent interpretations have kept Vivaldi’s piece alive — here is one that really makes it get up and go. First of all there’s the sonorous name of the young Italian chamber orchestra, IL GIARDINO ARMONICO, which was founded in Milan in 1985 by Giovanni Antonini, Luca Pianca and Paolo Beschi. The “harmonious gardeners” played their way to the top in no time at all. No wonder, since Vivaldi’s enormously popular tunes had never before been played with such Baroque exuberance. The priest and composer Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, called “il prete rosso” because of his reddish-blond hair, applied himself diligently to the composition of operas, cantatas, sonatas and oratorios.
Vivaldi’s extraordinary popularity, however, is based above all on his many Concerti and Concerti da camera. And it is precisely these concertos which II Giardino Armonico chose for its truly spectacular new recording. There are a great deal of Vivaldi recordings of all kinds, but our “harmonious gardeners” have produced one that is truly the pick of the crop.
Indeed, Diners Club magazine summed up the ensemble’s bold and uncommon style in 1991 with these succinct words: “Storm tide in Venice’s lagoon! Watch out for crashing strings and capsizing bassoons. Vividly visual Baroque fun.” Exciting entertainment seasoned with authenticity — this is what the “harmonious gardeners” are intent on cultivating.
For the ensemble’s founding fathers, there was no question that their Vivaldi would be played on period instruments. The question was “how” — and herein lies their originality. True to its motto, Il Giardino Armonico is “exciting and unconventional” not only in its sometimes rough-and-tumble yet always thrilling string sound, but also in its outward appearance: Italian elegance instead of concert-hall drabness. Armani and Versace instead of tails and white tie.
Just as unconventional are its venues: Il Giardino Armonico has even played its bright and brisk interpretation of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in the 19th-century splendor of Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Strikingly authentic yet compellingly modern Vivaldi — an exquisite treat plucked from the fertile garden of II Giardino Armonico.