VIVALDI specialists La Serenissima play the Bridgewater Hall tonight, featuring the ever-popular Four Seasons concertos.
Nothing unusual there, you might think – Nicola Benedetti played The Four Seasons in September, Kennedy played them last month …
But there is something special this time, as La Serenissima are using their own edition, created by director Adrian Chandler from the unique ‘Manchester manuscript’ of The Four Seasons, from the Henry Watson Music Library, in Central Library.
“When you hear it, you’ll say ‘That’s The Four Seasons’,” Adrian told me. “There’s nothing actually new in it – but the manuscript, which is in Vivaldi’s father’s handwriting, gives us a high level of detail about the bowings and other devices Vivaldi uses which are not specified in the earliest engraved edition.
“There is also a notable difference in the first movement of Spring, where there’s a thunder-and-lightning effect, about half way through, made by first and second violins playing rushing upward scales – in the Manchester edition the two parts play them staggered rather than in unison, which is a much more convincing effect.
“And in the last movement of Winter, where we hit the final tutti (all players together), there are two chunks in the Manchester version that are down to the leader to play solo. The orchestral fiddles are quite happy about that, as it’s a bit difficult to play anyway!”
The ‘Manchester collection’ of Vivaldi’s and other Italian composers’ music was bequeathed to the Henry Watson Music Library in 1965 by music historian and collector Newman Flower – who had bought it in 1918 from the then Earl of Aylsford.
Its origins involve a trip to Italy by a man sent by Charles Jennens (Handel’s collaborator in compiling the texts for the oratorio, Messiah), with instructions to get him some quality music. It seems he managed to buy the manuscripts at an auction held to meet the debts of the recently deceased Cardinal Ottoboni, who had been in Venice at the time Vivaldi was writing.
The collection includes some Vivaldi works unknown anywhere else – the ‘Manchester Sonatas’ – and a lot more, including works by Albinoni and other composers who, as Adrian Chandler puts it, ‘don’t get out much these days’.
Tonight he’s playing more Vivaldi: two bassoon concertos (soloist Peter Whelan), and two concertos for violin ‘in tromba marina’ – using a reconstruction of an instrument from the period which was made to sound extra loud.