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February 2004


Red Priest

Dorian DOR 90317

The clowning quartet are at it again: fun, but definitely not a seasons for all men.

If you are looking for a definitive version of the Four Seasons, you had better stop reading now; even assuming that such a thing were possible or desirable, this recording will never be the one in a year of summers.   This is not just because Vivaldi's ubiquitous violin concertos are here freely arranged for recorder, violin, cello and harpsichord, but because it's a typical product of Red Priest's startlingly fertile imagination.

Readers familiar with the group's previous two discs, 'Priest on the Run' (2/99) and 'Nightmare in Venice' (4/03), will have some idea what to expect, which is to say a whole load of clowning around, including musical re-writes, interpretative jokes and vocal interpolations of the sort that are certain to infuriate in some quarters.   But whether or not you feel you can stomach the general extremes to which the performances go, let alone more

specific humorous details such as the bagpipe wind-up of 'Spring', the snatch of 'God Save the Queen' which interrupts the sleep movement of Autumn (don't ask me why), or the Caribbean-style slow movement of 'Winter', there is no denying that everything is carried out with a creative and instrumental virtuosity which demands respect.

If you can go with the flow, this recording is enormously entertining, while genuinely capable of saying something about the music - a point made clear by the similarly inventive but more tender and touching approach taken in the companion arrangement of Corelli's Christmas Concerto.

Red Priest are having fun with these old favorites, but it is unpretentious fun, and, most importantly, it is dished up by people who know how this music works and whose affection for the subject of their witty and anarchic fooling is never in doubt.   If you like your Four Seasons but want to blow away the cobwebs once in a while, you should certainly consider adding this latest audcious sally by the Spike Joneses of Baroque music to your collection.

Lindsay Kemp

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