Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Four Seasons
Kati Debretzeni (vn, cond); O of the Age of Enlightenment
SIGNUM 377 (41:22)
Kati Debretzeni serves as director and violin soloist in Signum’s release of Vivaldi’s
, which integrates occasional natural sounds into a performance replete with startling dynamic contrasts, bold gestures, and flexible tempos. Actual bird song, for example, graces the opening of “Spring,” though no actual lightning and thunder enhances the
musical depictions of storms there. Debretzeni adds embellishments that grow organically out from the solo part of the
; she plays with a jaunty lilt the passagework of the “Danza pastorale” (and makes the figures over the pedal near the end sound almost improvisational, though they aren’t).
“Summer” brings strongly characterized bird calls: a virtuosic cuckoo, a mournful turtle dove, and a cocky goldfinch, as well as a fierce windstorm. In the slow movement, the orchestra begins the interjected thunder rumble at first in the distance, growing louder and more ominous as if approaching—a well calibrated purely musical effect that adds an unexpected touch of realism. The thunder also appears in the distance at the beginning of the finale, allowing the wind and rain to gather force before the onset of the really big thunder claps and lightning bolts.
The peasant dance at the beginning of “Autumn” sounds crisp enough, but Debretzeni adds very discreet ornaments to her double-stopped statement of the theme on the violin, and she makes the drunken revelers stagger insouciantly in the movement’s middle. The slow movement sounds gauzy and hushed in the orchestra’s reading, preserving a great deal of its mystery (I used to set it as an examination problem in analysis in theory classes, but it’s so much more than an exercise). In the finale, Debretzeni again adds sprightly rhythmic variants to the solo part’s hunting calls. The soloist and orchestra imitate the fleeing prey and the sound of gunshot with almost startling realism. PETA members beware.
“Winter” begins thumpingly here rather than creakily, and the soloist sets out on the ice very tentatively—just another touch of realism, the possibility of which has been largely unexplored. Debretzeni employs a sort of stroke in which the bow, thrown on the string, bounces (but seemingly not a traditional ricochet) to enhance the effect. The slow movement, hardly lingering, nevertheless includes liquid ornamentation that, as did the slow movement of “Spring.”
Why not include more natural sounds, or, alternatively, why include any at all? But this question won’t press itself too heavily on most listeners, who can easily become enmeshed in the performance’s timbral, virtuosic, and pictorial aspects. In fact, while many other readings establish their individuality either through extreme virtuosity or extreme dynamic effects—or just through plain weirdness—this one integrates everything. Could this be the desert isle performance? For many, perhaps it could. Urgently recommended—and though it’s only just over 40 minutes long, nobody should mind.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concertos (4) for Violin, Op. 8 no 1-4 "Four seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi
Kati Debretzeni (Violin)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy
Venue: St Jude's on the Hill, Hampstead Garden
Length: 39 Minutes 16 Secs.
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