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Les Quatre Saisons: Piazzolla, Vivaldi

Vivaldi / Piazzolla / Grimal / Dissonances
Release Date: 04/12/2011 
Label:  Aparte   Catalog #: 11   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Antonio VivaldiAstor Piazzolla
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Dissonances
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VIVALDI 4 Seasons. PIAZZOLLA 4 Estaciones Porteñas David Grimal (vn); Les Dissonances APARTE 011 (67:06) Live: Dijon 5/2010

The notes connect David Grimal’s and Les Dissonances’ recording of the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi and Astor Piazzolla (arranged for violin and a somewhat Vivaldi-like string ensemble by composer Leonid Desyatnikov) with a general project to perform for Read more street people, begun in December 2004. The repertoire they’ve chosen should appeal broadly: one of the most popular works of all time and a set of very different portraits of very different seasons (those south of the equator don’t match up with their northern counterparts).

Grimal and Les Dissonances approach Vivaldi’s work with what might now be described as an almost old-fashioned sensibility—smooth détaché replaces choppy staccatos, re-creating the ambiance of performances from decades ago, before the period-performance movement altered the basic ground rules for playing Baroque works. Grimal negotiates the idiomatic passagework of “Spring” with a bright tone and silvery eloquence in the first movement, brings liquid sunshine to the slow movement’s solo (with the dog barking unmistakably underneath), and an elegant twist to the finale’s peasant dance. He and the ensemble discover similar expressive qualities in Piazzolla’s “Verano porteño” (Summer), despite its more percussive ambiance. The work makes reference to the “inverted” seasons by citing Vivaldi’s “Winter.” The engineers have captured the soloist and ensemble somewhat in the distance, with a bit of extraneous noise.

The generally lyrical approach Grimal and Les Dissonances take to the works doesn’t preclude tone-painting, which becomes quite specific in the characterizations of the bird calls in the first movement of “Summer.” And it doesn’t preclude, either, raging storms or strongly contrasting lyricism in the finale. In Piazzolla’s “Oroño porteña” (Autumn), Grimal’s sultry exchange with the cello provides an effective contrast with the spikier sections, some of which sound tumultuous in this reading.

Vivaldi returns in an elegant performance of “Autumn,” with Grimal dispatching Vivaldi’s virtuosic passagework with easy grace. Their reading of the finale blends that grace with rhythmic lift. By contrast, they infuse Piazzolla’s “Invierno porteño” (Winter) alternately with bracing energy and with smoldering yearning (listeners will hear a passing reference to the last movement of Vivaldi’s inverse season, “Summer”—but also to the pizzicato accompaniment in the slow movement of the older composer’s “Winter”).

Grimal and the ensemble make no attempt to create a shriveled or abrasive sound in the opening of Vivaldi’s “Winter,” which they play with outright virtuosity and straightforward though crisp propulsion. After a brisk stint of singing in the rain, Grimal and Les Dissonances indulge the first real quirkiness in the performance in their tart introduction to the finale and in their stop-and-go progress on the ice (including some spectral effects sul ponticello ). Those effects tie in with those in the succeeding performance of Piazzolla’s “Primavera porteño” (Spring), which they open with zinging timbres before settling into the smoldering movement proper (Grimal produces an appropriately husky tone in the lower registers of his instrument). Applause marks the end of the performance.

These readings of the Eight Seasons, as they’ve sometimes been called, should appeal most strongly to those who have either been initially uncomfortable with, or grown tired of, tart period timbres and crunchy rhythms in Baroque music. Their more straightforward Vivaldi paired with a zesty reading of Piazzolla’s corresponding works can be recommended to these listeners, although also more generally.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concertos (4) for Violin, Op. 8 no 1-4 "Four seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Dissonances
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Venice, Italy 
Date of Recording: 05/2010 
Venue:  Opéra de Dijon 
Length: 37 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Las estaciones porteñas (4) by Astor Piazzolla
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Dissonances
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967-1970; Argentina 
Date of Recording: 05/2010 
Venue:  Opéra de Dijon 
Length: 27 Minutes 5 Secs. 

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