Vivaldi would be totally astonished by the fame of his Four Seasons today. As a priest working in an orphanage, the majority of his music was heard by only a relatively small circle of people in Venice, and almost all of it was forgotten, lost or disregarded for nearly two centuries after his death.
The Four Seasons is not just well-known: it's one of the most exciting, colourful and innovative works from the Baroque era. Each concerto is accompanied by a sonnet, and the hallmarks of each Italian season, from birdsong in Spring to pesky flies in Summer, are imagined in amazingly vivid musical form.
Written more than 200 years after Vivaldi, Ottorino Respighi's quartet (opulently arranged for string orchestra) evokes a different, romantic image of Italy'picturesque town squares, languorous sunny days by Lake Como, young love and good living.