New Classical Tracks: A New 'Four Seasons'by Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" is a series of pictures in music. On her new disc, Sarah Chang gives them a high-definition presentation.
St. Paul, Minn. — Do you remember the first time you heard Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons"? On their brand new recording, Sarah Chang and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra give this enduring classic a fresh, spontaneous treatment. You may get the feeling you're hearing it for the first time, again.
"The Four Seasons" is the third in a set of 12 concertos titled "The Contest between Harmony and Invention." The title indicates that Vivaldi intended to have two opposing musical ideas come face-to-face: the time-honored rules of composition, versus the desire to let the imagination run free.
In "The Four Seasons," Vivaldi clearly let his creativity get the best of him. Sarah Chang allows herself to get swept away as well. A descriptive sonnet was written to coincide with each of the four concertos. It's possible the composer himself wrote these vivid poems.
Chang felt the sonnets were so integral to the music she had them printed inside the CD booklet, so you can follow along as you listen.
In the first concerto, Chang's violin sings a gentle birdsong welcoming the return of spring, as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra provides an undulating breeze. The slow movements may be the most dramatic throughout this recording of "The Four Seasons."
The Largo in the first concerto is incredibly sparse, yet every note has its purpose. Chang and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra almost whisper the notes so as not to wake the sleeping goatherd and his dog.
Threatening thunderstorms sweep across "Summer," the concerto No. 2 in g minor. Storms can be dangerous and destructive, yet there's still a sense of excitement to see the power of Mother Nature. The unifying force of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with violinist Chang generates the same thrill you might get from chasing a storm.
Fall colors are bursting from the trees, and fields are overflowing with harvest in the Concerto No. 3 in F. Chang and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra play the first movement joyfully, while taking liberties with the tempo.
The Concerto No. 4 in f minor has always been my favorite. That's because it so vividly depicts some poor soul shivering in the snow. The staccato strings sound edgy as they whip up the stinging winds. Chang provides the swirling snowflakes with elegant phrasing that's sometimes lyrical, sometimes percussive.
Only musicians at the top of their game can record "The Four Seasons." The Orpheus Chamber orchestra is made up of outstanding soloists. Add to their stellar mix the talents of Sarah Chang, and you have a formula for amazing musical chemistry.
These musicians get right to the essence of this music, drawing vibrant musical scenes that make the composer's intentions even clearer to listeners.