Jeffrey Biegel

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

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One wouldn't think Vivaldi's The Four Seasons would lend itself well to the medium of the keyboard, given that its idiom is so married to the violin and the capabilities of that instrument. In the early '90s pianist João Carlos Martins and his four-hand partner Fernando Corvisier demonstrated that such an undertaking was not only practical, but capable of yielding spectacular results. However, no one else has come along with a solo version until this Naxos recording by Jeffrey Biegel, whereby he combines his own transcription of the whole set of four concerti with piano solo realizations of the Mandolin Concerto in C, RV 425, and the Lute Concerto in D, RV 93, by composer Andrew Gentile. Gentile's arrangements are a little fuller than those of Biegel, which are very literal and, at times, almost approach an "easy piano" kind of texture; however, the difference in approach makes for a greater overall sense of variety in the program. Vivaldi didn't write any music for the keyboard apart from its inclusion in continuo parts, so there is no evidence of anything resembling a mode of thought regarding the keyboard from Vivaldi's direction, so the transcribers are essentially free to do whatever they want in these adaptations; however, they are faithful to Vivaldi's text and overall sound. The modern piano's distinctive voice certainly transforms this music; at times it sounds strangely like Beethoven, though not as thick as Beethoven tended to score his piano music.

Biegel's playing is definitely no nonsense and employs none of the language of romantic piano technique; he has edited Schirmer's familiar volume of classical piano sonatinas and utilizes a light, classical touch for the whole disc. While Naxos' Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (arranged for piano by Jeffrey Biegel) is not a terribly challenging or ambitious listening experience, it is likeable, pleasant, and satisfying as a casual musical event and will strongly appeal to the young, particularly if "the young" happens to be a piano student.

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