Ensemble Danguy, Tobie Miller
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I have to say when I saw the cover of this CD my heart sank – Les Saisons Amusantes: Nicolas Chédeville (after Antonio Vivaldi). Over the years I have reviewed so many CDs where people felt impelled to ‘muck about’ with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with more or less disastrous results. However, a closer examination revealed that tampering with Vivaldi was not just a phenomenon of our times – this CD presents a version by Nicolas Chédeville printed in 1739 and arranged in the French taste of the period for ‘les musettes et les vielles avec accompagnement de violon, fluste et Basse continue’! Closer inspection reveals that Mons. Chédeville manages to amass six ‘seasons’, only the first of which (‘Spring’) is a direct transcription of Vivaldi. The other pieces draw freely from other concertos in the Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione – ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter’ use none of the music from the equivalent pieces by Vivaldi, while ‘Autumn’ combines the outer movements of the original with the slow movement from Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’. The two additional pieces (La Moisson and Les Plaisirs de la Saint-Martin) are complete confections from the rest of the Cimento. This would appear already to merit the term ‘mucking about’, albeit 18th-century ‘mucking about’. The ensemble has also been selective in their instrumentation accompanying the solo hurdy-gurdy with two violins, cello, bassoon, theorbo/guitar and harpsichord – so no musettes and no recorder as requested by Chédeville. I think the addition of a musette or two might have been intriguing. If you accept the arrangements at face value along with the instrumentation decisions, the performances have a certain charm, and certainly provide a window on the rather bizarre musical world of early 18th-century France, with its wannabe rustic aristocrats milking imaginary cows and expressing themselves on hurdy-gurdies. So this is certainly not just your standard CD devoted to ‘mucking about’ with Vivaldi, but – notwithstanding the virtuosity – I found the unvarying textures, which might have been helped with the participation of recorder and musettes, a little ennui-making. Quelle domage!
D. James Ross