Video Pick of the Week: Germany’s Barrios Guitar Quartet Plays Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘La Follia’

Don’t let the name of this versatile German foursome fool you. The Barrios Guitar Quartet is not devoted to playing the music of Agustín Barrios (who was certainly a formative inspiration). Indeed, the group—Stefan Hladek, Martin Wentzel, Antje Asendorf, and Ulf Borcherding—plays music from the Renaissance to the present: BGQ releases have included works by Boccherini, Purcell, Vivaldi, Torroba, Falla, York, Goss, Weill, and others.

But they do seem to have a particular affinity to Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). In 2000 they released a CD of The Four Seasons, and this week’s lively and beautifully edited Video Pick finds the quartet taking on the the 12th (and final) piece of his Sonata Op. 1, RV 63 (1705), written for two violins and basso continuo. No. 12 features Vivaldi’s variations on the popular ‘La Follia’ theme, which appears to have been floating around Western Europe since the mid-1500s, and became a jumping-off point for a number of composers during Vivaldi’s lifetime, including Corelli, Scarlatti, Marais, Handel, and others. The arrangement is by Stefan Hladek, who plays a Baroque guitar made by a contemporary German luthier named Otto Rausch—it’s a five-course guitar, but played here with just nine strings instead of ten.