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Washington Post (USA)

27th January 2003

Red Priest

The performance by British period-instrument quartet Red Priest of "The Four Seasons" at Dumbarton Church on Saturday didn't so much breathe new life into Vivaldi as plunge an adrenaline-filled syringe into his heart.

The score -- played in Red Priest's own arrangement for violin, cello, harpsichord and battery of recorders -- took playfully anarchic liberties that included a fair amount of newly composed material. Vivaldi's gentle evocation of bird song in "Spring" erupted into a veritable rain forest of species. "Autumn's" harvest festival reeled with a pitch-bending, graphically queasy drunkenness. And the cozy, hearthside slow movement of "Winter" was retooled into a hip-swaying Caribbean fantasy.


What made this zaniness (not to mention their PDQ Bach-style physical comedy) work, was the players' virtuosity and thorough understanding of the baroque idiom -- as evidenced by the other works on the bill. Anyone doubting their chops need only have heard violinist Julia Bishop's scorching performance of Biber's "Crucifixion" Sonata, Angela East's lovely, introspective reading of Bach's Prelude in D Minor for Solo Cello, or Howard Beach's keyboard work throughout the high-speed chase they made of Corelli's "Christmas" Concerto.

But the evening's star was Piers Adams, whose nearly superhuman facility on recorders (at times playing two at once) more than justified rewriting the "Seasons" as recorder concertos. His jaw-dropping rendition of Van Eyck's "What Shall We Do This Evening?" must mark him as the reigning recorder virtuoso in the world today.

Joe Banno

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