No, they haven't added four new seasons, it's still just spring, summer, fall, and winter, but in this disc you get to experience them all twice, in two different places at two different times. First, you will indeed hear the familiar 18th Century Venetian spring, courtesy of Antonio Vivaldi. After "La primavera," however, you will hop half way around the world for "Verano porteno," the summer section of 'The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires' by the great Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla, heard here in an orchestral arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov. Then it's back up north for "L'estate" and south again for "Otono porteno" as the inspirations of the Red Priest and the master of the bandoneon are interwoven throughout. This programming offers an interesting contrast in moods and attitudes, with the Vivaldi generally more bracing, especially in these quick and alert performances, and the Piazzolla more laid back and wistful, not lingering, but full of the bittersweet nostalgia so characteristic of his music.
The concept of this CD is decidedly postmodern; Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons concerti written around 1725 are presented in alternation with Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, written almost 250 years later. In his notes for the CD, Kremer asks us not to think too much about irrelevancies such as categories of Classical or Pop, Modern or Baroque, but simply to embrace the sounds as a language of emotion. Let us, then, begin embracing: listen to the pieces in your own order - try the Piazzolla Spring in Buenos Aires, followed by the beginning of Vivaldi's Spring.
In spite of Kremer's request, categorization and questioning are as natural for man as breathing; and music is not solely a sensory experience but also an intellectual one. We live in an age where Baroque and modern co-exist but the true post-modernist does not just accept these eclectic juxtapositions. Instead, he considers their real worth to be in the newly-found relationships these juxtapositions reveal. So we must ask, do the Vivaldi concerti gain from their juxtaposition with the Piazzolla? Do the Piazzolla gain from the Vivaldi? Certainly the references to the Vivaldi in the Piazzolla become immediately obvious. But beyond this, we become sensitised to the extent of Kremer's interpretation of the Vivaldi - he is perhaps a bit disingenuous when he asks us to simply accept, when so much thought has clearly gone into these performances. Better that we become aware of how crisply the Vivaldi is played, how percussive it is, how colorful and vigorous, and how expressive the tempo changes are - these interpretive details are not indicated in the score at all, but are clearly influenced by Kremer's work with contemporary music in general and Piazzolla in particular. Listen to the fascinating control of tone quality in Vivaldi's Winter, for example, and note the vigor of the rhythmic drive.
These performances are definitely not for the purist, but I imagine that Vivaldi would have been extremely pleased with these interpretations, as he was a virtuoso violinist himself, well known for his innovative playing techinques.
I've said relatively little about the Piazzolla pieces. They were written as four distinct works in the years 1964-1970 and not originally intended to be performed as a suite, although later Piazzolla did indeed put them together occassionally and perform them with his quintet. They are originally scored for violin, electric guitar, piano, bass, and bandoneon - an instrument much like an accordion. In the arrangements presented here, by Leonid Desyatnikov, they undergo a transformation even more radical than that of the Vivaldi, and so Kremer's presence in this project becomes almost like that of a third composer - this is not, as Kremer says in his notes "a dialogue of two geniuses", but rather a translation done by a third genius of their work in terms of one another.
-Dr. Christopher Coleman