The New Four Seasons - Vivaldi Recomposed

The New Four Seasons - Vivaldi Recomposed

In 2014, the premiere recording of Max Richter’s Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons was released by Deutsche Grammophon. Featuring stellar performances by violinist Daniel Hope and the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin, the work boldly set out to reimagine one of classical music’s best-loved and treasured masterpieces: Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, a set of four violin concertos first published in 1725. The album was a master class of conservation and revolution—and rightly took the classical music world by storm. Eight years later, Richter made the bold decision to re-record his version of The Four Seasons (released once again on DG), using period instruments strung with gut strings, and performed by soloist Elena Urioste and Chineke! Orchestra. “It was a bit of a no-brainer,” Richter tells Apple Music. “There’s an agility and a lightness to period instruments, and they can make fast, dynamic shifts and execute more detailed articulation. Yes, the sound is smaller, but in a way it’s a more human sound. It’s more chamber music-like, more intimate.” The digital sounds that Richter weaves into the original 2014 recording to give basslines more weight have been replaced here with the dirtier, grainier heft of early synths, including one of the very first: the iconic and rare Minimoog from the 1970s. (“I organized an internet search party, and we tracked one down,” Richter says of getting his hands on one.) The question still remains, however: why reinvent Vivaldi? “Like many of us, The Four Seasons was probably the first piece of classical music I got to know as a young child,” says Richter. “I fell in love with its wonderful melodies, the drama, the story, the ideas, everything about it. But as an adult, I grew irritated by the music because I kept hearing it in jingles and adverts. For me, Recomposed was an attempt to recapture that affection and sense of wonder I had about the original.” Read on as Richter walks us through each concerto on The New Four Seasons – Vivaldi Recomposed. Spring “The whole piece begins with a kind of overture—‘Spring 0’ is a scene-setting moment after which ‘Spring 1’ starts with Vivaldi’s birdsong material. But we’re living in the 21st century, and we’ve heard a lot of different kinds of birdsong music, whether at the start of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring or Messiaen’s piano music. Instead of there being just two or three birds as in the Vivaldi, there’s this big cloud of eight birds. Underneath it, you get this slow, sustained music, which appears to have nothing to do with Vivaldi. But it does in a way: it’s a period thing to do compositionally. The slow movement is built around a four-bar Vivaldi phrase, which I’ve reharmonized and reconfigured and recontextualized. And then you have the fast last movement, which is built out of just seven Vivaldi notes. That’s something which happens in the original, but I just thought, ‘Well, that’s a great little nugget.’ And so, I wrote new material underneath it, ignoring the rest of the movement.” Summer “The two outer movements of ‘Summer’ are very much pattern music, out of which I’ve made the most dance-music bits of Recomposed. They take Vivaldi’s principle of making music out of patterns and they turn up all the parameters. Instead of the first movement being a fast sequence of semiquavers, then a pause, and then another fast sequence of semiquavers, as in the Vivaldi, I made a perpetual motion machine out of it. I turned up the propulsive aspect of the original Vivaldi. In the slow movement of ‘Summer,’ I’ve taken a couple of fragments of the Vivaldi and made a larger structure by just isolating them and repeating and recontextualizing them. The final movement, like the first, has that driving dance energy to it.” Autumn “With ‘Autumn,’ I put lots of trapped doors into Vivaldi’s material. You have this very four-square, pulsed material in the ensemble, and I subverted it. Instead of it being in four beats to a bar, it’s in seven and five and three. It’s familiar but unfamiliar, and it’s quite a playful little game that plays with our memory. It makes you wonder what just happened a lot of the time, which I really enjoy. It’s fun—and it’s fun to play. I haven’t done anything with the slow movement other than to realize the continuo part. I wanted it to just be steady quavers: It’s a sort of backwards reference to the Beatles song ‘Because’ on Abbey Road with its clavinet accompaniment of straight quavers. The pulsating textures of the final movement of ‘Autumn’ are built up from one bar of the violin in the original Vivaldi score.” Winter “The first movement of ‘Winter’ is quite faithful to the original, except that I’ve put it into seven beats in a bar, which gives it an off-kilter compulsiveness, which I really enjoy. It’s got some very fast playing on the solo violin—a kind of Jimi Hendrix moment. It’s great fun. In the slow movement, I’ve used Vivaldi’s melody and replaced the accompaniment with an icy harmonic resonance, which came out beautifully on the gut strings. I wasn’t expecting it to work as well as it did. The last movement of ‘Winter’ is built around two bars of violin semiquavers. Otherwise, there’s no other Vivaldi in it, just a lot of pulsating falling lines. The violin goes up all the time, and the orchestra goes down, so you get this sense of everything expanding and getting bigger.”

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