I Musici, the ensemble who made the first stereo recording of one of classical music’s best-loved pieces, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, will release their new album on Decca Classics on 18 March. Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) includes a new version of Vivaldi’s iconic work by the group who know it best, paired with a specially-commissioned arrangement of Verdi’s Four Seasons.
The album marks the 70th anniversary of the group’s debut concert in Rome in 1952 and celebrates a staggering recording catalogue: I Musici made over 130 albums for Philips (now owned by Decca Label Group) and their versions of The Four Seasons have sold over 10 million copies. Alongside the new album, this astonishing body of work will be honoured in a new 83-CD box set of the ensemble’s analogue recordings 1955–1980, set for release later in 2022.
It is hard to believe today that a work like Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was ever out of performance. Although gaining immense popularity in his lifetime, following his death in 1741, the Four Seasons along with most of Vivaldi’s music became unknown to performers and survived only in libraries. Incredibly, that remained the case until the early−20th century, when figures from Alfredo Casella and Arturo Toscanini to Ezra Pound re-discovered and championed the music of the Venetian composer.
Vivaldi’s music was still largely unknown in 1955 when I Musici entered the studio to make the first stereo recording of the Four Seasons. The conductorless chamber orchestra was founded in 1951 and became world renowned for their interpretation of Italian baroque music. No less a figure than Arturo Toscanini gave a glowing tribute to the group in 1952 and predicted a great future for them. I Musici recordings were among the first to be released on compact disc and the group made the first ever purpose-made classical music video.
On the album, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is paired with the world premiere recording of Verdi’s Four Seasons: an arrangement of the ballet music Verdi composed for his Les Vêpres Siciliennes (I vespri siciliani) in Paris in 1855, here scored for piano and strings.
Marco Fiorini, the soloist featured on this new recording, is the son of one of the founding members of the group: violinist Monserrat Cervera.
Dominic Fyfe, Label Director of Decca Classics, says,
“There can hardly be a record collector in the past 70 years who did not own an I Musici version of the Four Seasons. The group are synonymous with the work and Decca Classics are proud to partner with them in releasing this new version to mark the 70th anniversary of their debut concert in Rome in March 1952”.
On 30 March 2022, the same day of the ensemble’s debut in 1952, I Musici will give a celebratory concert in Rome at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia featuring music from the new album.