Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Four Seasons
Erik Bosgraaf (rcr); dir; Ens Cordevento
BRILLIANT 94637 (40:11)
The insightful booklet notes to Brilliant’s release of Vivaldi’s
, played on recorder by Erik Bosgraaf, include an interview of the artist by Kees Vlaardingerbroek in which the artist explains his adaptation of the popular set of violin concertos for recorder. Bostraaf notes, for example, that he had to omit very little from the violin part, distributing
double-stopped intervals among consecutive notes or assigning a violin to play along. And he preserved both the original solo parts and the original keys. He even suggests that he can play these concertos more easily than some that Vivaldi composed for recorder. The Ensemble Cordevento, according to the booklet, consists of two violins, viola, cello, double bass, harpsichord or organ, and chitaronne or guitar.
In earlier reviews, I’ve suggested the sturdy durability of Vivaldi’s ubiquitous tetralogy. But does it qualify as music—such as, for example, some of Bach’s—that hardly relies on the medium for its message? For those who aren’t sure despite James Galway’s recording on flute and Yolanda Kondonassis’s on harp (Telarc 80523, which I reviewed enthusiastically in
23:3), Bosgraaf’s performances should provide yet another case in point and a necessary one to boot, because, after all, a good argument doesn’t inevitably lead to a good recording.
The opening of Bosgraaf’s performance of “Spring,” however, demonstrates not only how well the recorder fits into Vivaldi’s ambiance but also how much the alternation of recorder and tutti violin enlivens the ensuing birdcalls. And the instrument’s quicksilver timbres illuminate the sky thrillingly in the lightning strokes. Bosgraaf’s ornamentation enhances the slow movement, and his keen and crisp articulation in the finale’s passagework takes it into territories inaccessible to violin soloists, however buoyant their staccato. The ending, which sounds almost improvised, strays as far from the score as Bosgraaf himself does from violinistic timbres. Purists who didn’t like Nigel Kennedy’s tropes may not like this either. The first movement of “Summer” once again includes almost palpably crunchy passagework on the recorder. Bosgraaf and the ensemble at times push and pull tempos like silly putty (although not so formulaically as did, for example, I Soloisti Veneti), but it all sounds organic and natural. The ensemble thunders in both the second movement and the finale. “Autumn” sounds bracing in its first and third movements (the ensemble creates a wide spectrum of timbres in the second) and the recorder makes about as plausible a prey in the finale as does a violin. “Winter” may be the most violinistic, as well as the most brilliantly virtuosic of the concertos; but the recorder makes the hail pelt down and the chill winds blow in the first movement so vividly that only diehards may miss the string solo. Bosgraaf brings a different kind of fireside snooze in the
, and he tentatively varies the repeated statement. Bosgraaf and the ensemble churn the winds hair-raisingly once again in the finale.
Overall, the engineers have placed the recorder to the forefront, where it can sound a bit shrill, but those who favor such a placement shouldn’t find this one annoying. Otherwise, they’ve vividly captured the performance’s dynamic and timbral contrasts. It’s sometimes hard to understand why Igor Stravinsky (or, perhaps, Robert Craft) considered Vivaldi dull—the older composer shared his keen timbral and textural sensitivity. But once again it appears, to answer the question posed earlier, that his works don’t depend upon them entirely. If this isn’t Bach-like universality of substance, it’s not so inextricably tied to specific performing forces, either. A rip-snorter, strongly recommended to everybody but purists.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concertos (4) for Violin, Op. 8 no 1-4 "Four seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi
Erik Bosgraaf (Recorder)
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy
Venue: Kruiskerk Burgum, The Netherlands
Length: 38 Minutes 46 Secs.
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