Jonathan Morton

The Eight Seasons

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The pairing of Vivaldi's Four Seasons violin concertos and Astor Piazzolla's four tangos entitled Las Cuatro estaciones porteñas (The Four Seasons of the Port City, or Buenos Aires) seems irresistible, and there are several recordings on the market with this exact pairing. This one is distinctive in style, but suffers from major defects in presentation, beginning with the fact that the word "cuatro" (four) is misspelled "cuarto" (room) throughout. That's symptomatic of a bigger problem: not until you can read the booklet do you learn that the Piazzolla four seasons are performed in the unusual version by Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov -- a rewriting, really -- rather than in the more familiar orchestral arrangement by José Bragato. It is not simply a matter of dueling arrangments; the Desyatnikov version is a real oddity, both exaggerating Piazzolla's idiom and tying the four tangos back to the Vivaldi Four Seasons -- something Piazzolla, who didn't write them as a set, probably didn't intend, at least not in the way Desyatnikov does it. He inserts little quotations from Vivaldi's concertos into Piazzolla's seasons and gives them a solo violin part to match the Vivaldi forces. As long as you know what you're getting, the performances by violinist Jonathan Morton and the Scottish Ensemble are reasonably thoroughly realized: the mannerisms of the Piazzolla/Desyatikov pieces are matched by a very episodic Vivaldi that plays up the programmatic quality of the music. The inclusion of the four poems depicted in Vivaldi's concertos is a plus in this regard. The offbeat performances here may not be the best place to start with either Vivaldi or Piazzolla, but devotees of either, and especially of Desyatnikov, should at least be intrigued.

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