Ara Malikian / Non Profit Music Chamber Orchestra

No Seasons

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The idea of music based on the cycle of the four seasons is an old one (Thomas Morley's madrigal April is in my mistris face is an underappreciated example), and to judge from this Spanish release it is still attracting creative thinking. Usually Astor Piazzolla's Cuatro estaciones porteñas (Buenos Aires Four Seasons) comes last in the chronology on such recordings, but here it's the locus classicus. In the arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov originally made for Gidon Kremer, it here receives a very fine performance, brisk and taut, from the Non Profit Chamber Orchestra (which, true to its name, gives away proceeds from its concerts and album sales) under violinist Ara Malikian. The other two works are contemporary neo-tonal pieces with a strong Iberian flavor. The Quatre estacions a mallorca of Catalonian composer Joan Valent, like Vivaldi's Four Seasons, are accompanied and inspired by a set of poems that serves as a more or less detailed program, given here in Catalan and English. Of particular interest is the placement of the static movement -- not in summer, but in the fall. Jorge Grundman's Four Sad Seasons Over Madrid is in English, the notes mysteriously assert, in order "to make a connection between the rhythm of the music and the rhythm of the lyrics," which are also given in Spanish in the booklet. The work, in a single movement with four distinct sections, opens with a vocalise, executing a nice transition on the program between the submerged text of the Valent piece and the poetic settings that follow. Soprano Susana Cordón does a lovely job with the delicate melancholy of the work, depicting a woman mourning over a breakup but rooted in the composer's loss of a childhood friend. The program holds together not only because of the seasonal theme but also through its thread unrolling the passage of time, and it exposes some works that could work on any presentation of small-scale orchestral music. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary tonal music.

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