Vivaldi’s Seasons

Bolette Roed, Arte dei Suonatori
154:51 (2 CDs in a card triptych)
Pentatone PTC 5186 875

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The starting point for this project is recorder player Bolette Roed’s thought that ‘many of Vivaldi’s concertos comfortably fit into the ‘seasons’ theme if one thinks about it.’ What she and Arte dei Suonatori have done here is teamed up three further concerti from Vivaldi’s output with each of his iconic ‘Four Seasons’ concerti on the basis of their perceived mood. I have in the past lamented the fact that people feel free to meddle endlessly with Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ in the belief that to justify performing music, which to put it politely is already ‘over-performed’, you have to find a ‘new slant’. I suspect your reaction to this project will depend very much on whether you think Roed should be performing violin music on recorders at all, and whether she should be second-guessing the composer’s intentions, when he had already placed the four seasonal concerti in the context of a larger set. I must confess that I have set aside any musicological prejudices to simply enjoy some wonderfully dynamic orchestral playing from Arte dei Suonatori, and some exquisitely expressive and virtuosic recorder playing from Bolette Roed. I was unfamiliar with many of the concerti that have been selected as ‘honorary seasons’, so I set myself a test – if you didn’t know that these were mainly violin concertos, would you really know they weren’t originally for recorder? The answer was invariably no, and in fact, the same might well be the case for the actual Seasons if I didn’t know better. It is only occasionally that I feel Roed is having to find slightly less idiomatic recorder equivalents for violin effects, and most of the time these performances just sound like terrific recorder music. This is a testimony to Roed’s consummate recorder technique, but also to the depth of understanding of the music that gave rise to the original project. You could perhaps argue that we don’t need ‘yet another’ account of the Seasons, but the same cannot be said of the other less familiar music, and there is certainly no denying the superb musicality and wonderful energy of these performances. In the course of some 30 years reviewing, I have had to listen to some horrendously ill-conceived attempts to ‘improve upon’ Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – I am delighted that this CD does not come into this category. These are pleasing, revelatory and above all respectful performances of Vivaldi’s music.

D. James Ross

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