International Record Review

Divine Art’s policy is to include at least one premiere recording per disc. In the case of Giovanni Antonio Guido’s The Four Seasons this extends to the whole album. Genoa-born Guido (c.1675-died after 1726) is a shadowy figure, confusing would-be biographers by using both Antonio and Guido as surnames during his lifetime: the only known likeness of him is a drawing by Watteau. His Scherzi armonici sopra le Quattro stagioni dell’anno could well pre-date Vivaldi’s: confirmation is hard to come by, though the booklet note exhaustively attempts to clarify the issue. Ideas from poems adorning the first set of printed parts form en-route titles to the music (‘Les ruisseaux’, ‘Menuet des nimfes’, ‘La Chasse’, ‘Les riantes fêtes’ and so on): these sections are not separately tracked but the start time of each episode is sensibly given in the listings.

And the music? Resemblances to Vivaldi, inescapable with present-day hindsight, are never embarrassingly close: I was reminded more of Rameau. Soloist Caroline Balding is superb, her backing Band of Instruments under director Roger Hamilton wholly admirable, and only one-to-a-part-phobes may have wished for more players in order to heighten the contrast between solo and tutti. I foresee much enjoyment as well as many irritating pub-quiz questions like ‘Italian, Four Seasons, not Vivaldi but who?’

—Michael Round