Sydney Experiences Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in an Unfamiliar Guise

AustraliaAustralia J S Bach, Vivaldi, C P E Bach, Max Richter: Christina Leonard (soprano saxophone), Brendan Joyce (baroque violin), Ben Dollman (baroque violin), Australian Brandenburg Orchestra / Paul Dyer (Conductor and Artistic Director), City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, 6.5.2015. (ZT)

Vivaldi Unwired ABO May 6, 2015
Vivaldi Unwired ABO May 6, 2015

J S Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No 3 in G major, BWV 1048
Vivaldi: Concerto for two violins, Op.3 No.8, RV 522
C P E Bach: Concerto for flute in A minor, Wq 166, arr. for soprano saxophone by C. Leonard
Max Richter (1966-): Vivaldi Recomposed: The Four Seasons

The current Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO) recital series entitled ’Vivaldi Unwired’ had its inaugural performance with this Sydney concert.

It takes more than just expert performance of Baroque masterpieces to permanently keep bottoms on seats, and the ABO manages it better than many. Artistic flair in the production, and imaginative programming embellish the intrinsic skills of the orchestra.

The entire second half of the concert was dedicated to Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed: The Four Seasons. Given the other items on the programme most would agree that this was an imaginative choice, possibly inspired by Richter’s Sydney performance of the same music in November of 2014.

On this occasion the music was supported by special coloured lighting and wall projections of relevant subjects. Anyone who listens extensively to recorded music on fine equipment cannot but be inspired by the natural, sound of the SBO unspoiled by amplification. The corollary of this is the appreciation developed for superior over inferior reproducing equipment. The opening, in particular, of Vivaldi Recomposed employs electronic music as part of the score. Unfortunately the quality of the equipment used was relatively inferior, an observation facilitated by comparison with the natural sounds of the orchestra.

One could cite numerous examples of well- composed music that have garnered the attention of eminent musicians and formed the basis of ballets, concertos, orchestrations, theme and variations and arrangements/transcriptions. Many musicians have taken their own works, and arranged them in other forms and guises . Generally how well all this works is a matter of opinion, but composers have been known to express preference over the original for arrangements/transcriptions by others. Despite all the artistic support and talents of the Orchestra, I doubt that, regarding Richter’s efforts, Vivaldi would concur with these latter composers.

There are some interesting moments in the recomposed Vivaldi music, but most of these coincided with the areas where the original is most prevalent. The orchestration is often thin and ponderous. This is a composition of ephemeral recognition, and once its commercial potential is dissipated will be relegated with the likes of Todd Levin whose past association with Deutsche Grammophon followed a similar trajectory.

The well-known and loved Brandenburg Concerto No 3, although enthusiastically executed faithful to its original scoring, suffered a little by virtue of its programme positioning. Immediately followed by the full orchestra in Vivaldi’s Opus 3 No 8 for two violins, the still-lingering recollections of the preceding item seemed patently thin. The comparison between the sound of ten versus twenty instruments may seem pedantic, but was an inescapable reality in this programme.

The highlight of the evening was C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto for flute, Wq 166. Fortunately this was not recomposed, but in an excellent arrangement for soprano saxophone by C. Leonard in which Christina Leonard played the soprano saxophone. She is a virtuoso in every sense of the word, and performed with admirable musicianship and infectious enthusiasm. The considerable musical and technical demands of the composition were executed with supreme confidence and a sure-footed technique. Such an occasion is certainly one when this reviewer preferred Leonard’s arrangement to the original. Bravo Christina!

Zane Turner

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