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Decca Phase 4
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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons (Le Quattro Stagioni) (1720) (arr.
Red Priest) [39:15]
The Christmas Concerto (Concerto grosso in G minor Op. 6
No. 8 Fatto per la Notte di Natale (arr. Red Priest) [11:16]
Red Priest (Piers
Adams (recorders); Julia Bishop (violin); Angela East (cello); Howard
rec. Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York, January 2003
RED PRIEST RECORDINGS
One would not have thought that a piece as famous and as widely-played
and arranged as the Four Seasons would offer much scope
for a completely different and original take; at least without
straying outside the classical genre. This disc would prove
one wrong! Red Priest have already achieved fame - or notoriety
- for their inventive and exciting performances that push interpretations
and boundaries to the limit. This disc is in keeping with their
The first thing to say is that the playing is amazing, particularly
the recorder playing from Piers Adams - incredible stuff! The
effects that Red Priest bring about are also quite amazing.
The bird sounds, for example, in the first movement of Spring,
which bring to mind Papageno in the Magic Flute. The
musicians' imaginations run riot at every opportunity. Every
movement brings surprises. Every nuance is dug out and developed
and each trill is turned into a bird song - as in the depiction
of cuckoos, dove and goldfinches in the first movement of Summer.
Any hint of animal or human activity is turned into a portrait:
horses, barking dogs, stags, and hunters. The 'rustic'
movements, too, are given tremendous characterization, such
as the first movement of Autumn. You can hear it also
in the coarse and rough playing in the gipsy knees-up that is
the second movement of Spring. The gipsy influence is
quite strongly heard. The second movement of Winter becomes
a jazzy gypsy violin playing over the accompaniment of a sort
The disc concludes with a slightly less outrageous version of
Corelli's Christmas Concerto, if still inventive
and rather extreme in interpretation.
This is a fascinating disc, with tremendous energy and some
demon playing from Piers Adams. His virtuosity comes out particularly
in the faster movements - such as the first movements of Spring,
Summer and Winter, and the third movement of Summer.
However, I sometimes felt that, whilst the superb recorder
works well as the solo in many of the movements, it should have
played a less prominent role in others, as the instrument lacks
the depth and interest of the violin. It can become a little
tedious in the slower numbers in particular.
This witty and amusing disc is excellent for a novelty. It is
great fun first time you hear it, and certainly the sort of
thing you're going to want to get out when friends come
round to delight and shock them. However, the novelty wears
off fairly quickly, and it's not a version that you'll
return to time and again for your own enjoyment - deep it is
not. Also not one for the purists!
See review of
this and other Red Priest recordings by Jonathan Woolf
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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