Notes and Editorial Reviews
4 Estaciones Porteñas
Jonathan Morton (vn); dir; Scottish E
SIGNUM 231 (68:45,
Text and Translation) Live: Edinburgh 4/23/2010
It’s become almost common to pair Antonio Vivaldi’s and Astor Piazzolla’s
(the latter arranged for violin and string orchestra by composer Leonid Desyatnikov). Violinist Jonathan Morton
and the Scottish Ensemble play Vivaldi’s “Spring” with a crispness and tartness that might suggest period instruments (Morton plays a 1640 Nicolo Amati violin). Occasional graces, brisk tempos, and strong contrasts dominate the first movement, and reappear in the dance-like finale as well. Svend Brown discusses in his booklet notes the influences of South America’s reverse seasons (spring being fall, and so forth) on the music. In any event, the later composer’s “Verano porteño” (Summer) sounds in this performance by turns heavily accentuated and languid, with quotations from Vivaldi’s
Morton and the ensemble begin Vivaldi’s “Summer” lethargically, as the accompanying sonnet suggests, but they bring the succeeding birdsong to riotous life. Morton doesn’t miss opportunities to characterize the various birds with timbral and technical markers, in a way that violinists performing with older ensembles like I Musici, at least in its early incarnations, hardly ever explored. Strong accents mark passages that often flow smoothly in those older readings, but Morton slows down as if to emphasize the calm before the approaching storm. Another approaching storm and the doldrums preceding it constitute the subject matter of the slow movement, which Morton and the ensemble play for all the contrast they can wring from it, Morton dryly lyrical and the ensemble thunderous. They also create a whirlwind in the last movement’s storm, with Morton deploying especially sharp accentuation to illustrate flashing lightning and the ensemble interposing sudden bursts of thunder. Piazzolla’s “Otoño porteño” (Autumn) features an extended dialogue between violin and cello, in which Morton and, presumably, principal cellist Alison Lawrence engage with sonorous authority, all encased in the spiky framework of Piazzolla’s zesty rhythms.
Vivaldi’s “Autumn” elicits from Morton a reading that combines the familiar with highly personal interpretive gestures. Nevertheless, the first movement sounds on the whole perhaps less individual than do some of the corresponding movements in the other concertos. Morton and the ensemble bounce in their saddles for the main theme of the finale’s hunt, with Morton playing the horn calls with brassy verve. As in so many punky performances influenced, at least nominally, by scholarship, these vividly—in fact, graphically—represent the fleeing prey and the pursuing volleys of gunshot. Piazzolla’s “Invierno porteño” (Winter) sounds, by contrast, more subdued and more elusive, though it includes quotations from Vivaldi’s more bracing concerto for that season, including one from the pizzicato accompaniment in Vivaldi’s slow movement. Occasionally, especially in the later, more animated section of the work, but also elsewhere in Piazzolla’s
, Morton sounds tonally strained, though he seems to possess the requisite technical means to draw the most from his instrument.
Since Neville Marriner’s reading of Vivaldi’s
with violinist Alan Loveday, ensembles have explored a wide variety of ways to lend brittle creakiness to the opening of Vivaldi’s “Winter,” no two of them exactly the same; Morton’s sounds intriguingly like a series of moans. He and the ensemble waste no time painting the lily in the slow movement, but move forthwith into the finale’s introductory wind-up. As in the storms of the preceding seasons, these feature strong dynamic contrasts and sharp rhythmic characterization (as well as stirringly virtuosic violin solos) that sweep everything before them with gale force. Piazzolla’s “Primavera porteña” (Spring) brings, in this performance, jauntiness relieved by yearning cantilena.
If the recorded sound seems tubbier in Piazzolla’s works, that can hardly be the case because the engineers recorded the whole performance live. Still, they’ve given the strings plenty of body and placed Morton close to the front of them acoustically. Those in sympathy with abrasive Vivaldi and seductive Piazzolla should find Morton’s program full of continual surprises that shouldn’t breed contempt upon greater familiarity. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Las estaciones porteñas (4) by Astor Piazzolla
Jonathan Morton (Violin)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1967-1970; Argentina
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