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Strings Magazine

February 2004



(Dorian, DOR-90317)

Yes, I'm at it again: reviewing another darned "Four Seasons" disc, and this one featuring recorder as the lead instrument, to boot. The recorder player is a bona fide virtuoso, even if string players aren't accustomed to seeing those two phrases in the same sentence. But wait. Methinks this Vivaldi is a bit cuckoo. Rather than the customary full-string orchestra, this ensemble features just four players and, if I'm not mistaken, no overdubbing. It's a totally fresh take right from the start, beginning with assorted delicate bird calls and an almost tentative harpsichord intro to Spring and continuing through to the man playing double-stops on two recorders (at the same time).

Violinist Julia Bishop and cellist Angela East more than hold their own in this merry band. Intentionally blurry intonation gives voice to Autumn's rather inebriated peasants, and a cacophonic cascade of notes represents a fierce tumble taken on Winter's icy landscape. There are barking dogs and buzzing insects and players yelling "Hey!" in the middle of a dance. There's a quite unorthodox accompaniment to Winter's Largo (think "Carribean getaway"). All in all, it's a wholly irreverent and highly enlightened approach to the piece we all love to hate. Corelli's Christmas Concerto, thrown in for good measure, seems almost an afterthought. But it too is delightfully delivered. Red Priest puts the viva in Vivaldi.

—Elisa M. Welch


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