Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons Max Richter
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Info for Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote the four violin concertos known as Le quattro stagioni - “The Four Seasons” - in Venice in 1723, but they were published in Amsterdam in 1725. The first edition prefaced the music with four sonnets, possibly Vivaldi’s own, which underlined that each concerto was a musical evocation of a particular season. Today The Four Seasons may be the most widely heard piece of classical music ever composed. As Max Richter suggests, “The piece is part of the musical landscape, and a part of my daily life. I hear it in supermarkets, and it’s always turning up in TV ads.”
Like most of us, Richter feels a degree of irritation at the music’s ubiquity, yet, again like most of us, he retains a powerful fondness for Vivaldi’s masterpiece: “I’ve known The Four Seasons since childhood. It is such engaging, attractive material that it’s easy for young people to connect with it; it’s very immediate. As everyone does, I had the piece in my brain and knew my favourite moments.”
Affection is an integral part of Max Richter’s Vivaldi Recomposed. He has approached the project as an admirer of Vivaldi, but no less importantly, as a composer. At first glance, he might not seem the obvious person for such a task. His own individual voice began to emerge while he was studying at Edinburgh University, the Royal Academy of Music in London and with Luciano Berio. Perhaps the time that he spent with Berio foreshadows some aspects of what he has done with Vivaldi:
“Anything that a composer writes is part of a conversation with music that has gone before,” he says. “A lot of Berio’s work was explicitly an engagement with the past: in works like Sinfonia, for example, quotation and reference are integral elements. At the time I never thought that I’d pick that idea up, but here is an instance where perhaps I have. It’s surprising how these things creep up on you.”
After finishing his studies, Richter co-founded Piano Circus in 1989, specifically to perform Steve Reich’s Six Pianos. He remained with the ensemble for ten years, performing music by composers such as Kevin Volans, Michael Nyman, Louis Andriessen and Richter himself. Since then he has continued to write in what he calls a “post-classical idiom”, which embraces many of the possibilities of contemporary composition, notably minimalism, but also draws inspiration from other influences: electronic music, punk, club music, psychedelic rock.
All of this can be heard in Vivaldi Recomposed, to which Richter has brought his own frame of reference: “Vivaldi’s music is made of regular patterns, and that connects with post-minimalism, which is one strand in the music that I write. That felt like a natural link, but even so it was surprisingly difficult to navigate my way through it. At every point I had to work out how much is Vivaldi and how much is me. My score contains passages that are 90 per cent my own material, and others where I have changed only the odd note of the original, slightly shortening individual bars, lengthening others, moving others still. It was difficult but also rewarding because the raw material is so fascinating.”
Max Richter’s co-conspirators on Vivaldi Recomposed are Daniel Hope, the British violinist; the German conductor André de Ridder; and the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin. A former member of the Beaux Arts Trio, Hope is both a notable champion of contemporary music and an exponent of the standard classical repertoire. That makes him the ideal soloist for Richter’s piece. As Hope suggests, “Vivaldi knew how to stage music both aurally and visually, a gift he owed not just to his activities as an opera composer. Imagine him for yourself: with his shock of red hair he was known as the ‘Red Priest’, he was a virtuoso violinist, and he always had a string of young women in tow. No wonder the whole of Venice was mad about him. The Four Seasons is a radical tour de force for the solo violinist, and Max has approached it with the keen eyes and open ears of the 21st century. I have always shied away from recording Vivaldi’s original; there are simply too many other versions out there. Max’s reworking has persuaded me to listen to the piece anew and has restored my appetite for the original.”
André de Ridder has recently worked on Dr Dee, an opera by the British pop musician Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, having in 2007 conducted the Manchester première of the Gorillaz opera Monkey: Journey to the West. De Ridder regularly collaborates with electronic bands and non-classical musicians such as Mouse on Mars, Tyondai Braxton and These New Puritans. Yet he is also a distinguished interpreter of contemporary classical music, and of works from the baroque era: in September 2012 he opens the new season at Berlin’s Komische Oper with adaptations of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas.
Of Richter’s Vivaldi project de Ridder says, “I’d initially been sceptical; I couldn’t help thinking of all the bad pop and jazz versions of The Four Seasons. My scepticism evaporated when Max played me his demo tapes. His version uses contemporary compositional techniques more familiar from electronic pop music: looping and sampling, for example. But he applies these techniques in analogue, writing them down and working on them with his ensemble, to the point where now I almost prefer the end product to the original. Vivaldi’s music, like all baroque music, contains harmonically advanced, ambient and – I have no hesitation in using terms from pop music – groovy, rock elements. Max brings a new intensity to these aspects, clarifying, multiplying and elaborating them, and through his work I have gained an entirely new and fresh insight into the original. I can well imagine that what Max has done will show us a way of re-evaluating other older works and of striking out in new directions with them.”
'It's a beautiful recomposition, with undulating string beds carrying Daniel Hope's lyrical lone violin lines. The 'Spring' sections are joyously simple and engaging, with subsequent sections adding depth through high-string harmonies, methodical harpsichord and pulsing string ostinatos that reflect the original Vivaldian style. The result is a creditable palimpsest of the original work informed by modern pop and dance techniques.' (Andy Gill, Independent)
Daniel Hope, violin
Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin
André de Ridder, conductor
Max Richter, composer
The work of the award-winning British composer Max Richter includes concert music, film scoring, and a series of acclaimed solo albums.
Working with a variety of collaborators including Tilda Swinton, Robert Wyatt, Future Sound of London, and Roni Size, Max's work explores the meeting points of many contemporary artistic languages, and, as might be expected from a student of Luciano Berio, Max’s work embraces a wide range of influences.
Recent projects include the ballet INFRA, for Wayne McGregor at The Royal Ballet, with scenography by Julian Opie, the award-winning score to Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir, and the music installationThe Anthropocene, with Darren Almond at White Cube.
Max's music has formed the basis of numerous dance works, including pieces by Lucinda Childs, NDT, Ballet du Rhin, American Ballet Theatre, Dresden Semper Oper, The Dutch National Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, among many others, while film makers using work by Max include Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island).
Recent commissions include the opera SUM, based on David Eagleman’s acclaimed book, premiered at The Royal Opera House, London and Mercy, commissioned by Hilary Hahn.
Current projects include Vivaldi Recomposed for Deutsche Grammophon, recorded by British violinist Daniel Hope and the Konzerthaus Orchester, Berlin, as well as a variety of other recording and film projects.
This album contains no booklet.