When you see someone called Z-Star among the guest artists, it's a fair bet that you're not getting a conventional recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons violin concertos. And sure enough, bad-boy violinist Nigel Kennedy and his Orchestra of Life use the score as a starting point for various kinds of embroidery. There are beats, long solo interjections, abrupt tempo shifts, electronics, rock guitars, and samples of various kinds of outdoor sounds, some of them quite loud, and so on. How you'll feel about this may well depend on your stance toward The Nige in the first place, but give this a chance either way: several things make it work better than you might guess. One is fidelity to Vivaldi's spirit, if not to his notes: Kennedy reproduces (in English) the sonnets, perhaps by Vivaldi himself, that accompanied the original score, and his sound effects generally correspond to the scenes in the poetry. Second, Kennedy has perhaps never played better than he does here, slashing through his various heavy accompaniments with brilliance and speed. And finally, there's an X factor here that's due to a certain break-on-through-to-the-other-side quality. The performance is not just loud and brash but focused and intense as well. In all, you may be left with the impression that if Liszt had known Vivaldi's music and had had access to modern popular forms and technologies, he might have come up with something like this. Even if not, it's a wild, wild ride.
Vivaldi: The New Four Seasons
(CD - Sony Classical #88875076722)
Review by James Manheim
|The New Four Seasons|