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?’