Vivaldi: The Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter. DG 4792777 (2014)

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter. Daniel Hope (violin), Raphael Alpermann (harpsichord), Max Richter (Moog synthesizer), Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin, André de Ridder. DG 4792777 (2014), barcode 028947927778






If Michael Nyman had composed Vivaldi’s Seasons…
11 March 2018

I had no idea what Max Richter’s version (arrangement? Transcription? The disc’s title calls it “recomposition”, whatever that means… ) of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was, but I love the Four Seasons (I never get jaded), I love transcriptions (I call them seeing your 25-year marriage wife show up in kinky undergarments – great when you are jaded by 25 years of marriage… and even if you aren’t), and the fact that DG thought enough of it to publish it does give it an air of respectability, doesn’t it.

Well, okay. Richter makes the Seasons sound strikingly like a film score of Michael Nyman. Pretty, sometimes haunting, always very sentimental. Your appreciation will depend, I think, on how much you enjoy the music of Michael Nyman and the sentimentalism he brings to it (along with other qualities, and when the other qualities override, I enjoy Nyman’s music). Vivaldi’s music (when played well) has sentiment, but it is never sentimental. Of course, you are not listening to an original score of Michael Nyman, and there is always the kick of recognizing Vivaldi beneath Richter. As Medieval towns built on the foundations of Roman cities, sometimes the foundation is very evident, sometimes a little less, but it never entirely disappears. I enjoyed a hearing, but now it goes on the shelf “for further reference”, and certainly doesn’t efface the original in my affections. The disc is completed with five tracks called “Electronic Soundscapes by Max Richter”, mixing electronics and real sounds (birds chirping, flies buzzing…) on underlying themes from the Seasons serving as a ghostly underpinning. I find little interest to them, and even some naiveté: to put sounds of flies above “The Summer” or of winds (sounding very artificial) and the cracks of a fireplace above the introductory music of “The Winter” doesn’t strike me as extraordinarily imaginative…



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