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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons (Le Quattro Stagioni) (1720) (arr. Red Priest) [39:15]
Arcangelo CORELLI
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 Beach (harpsichord))
rec. Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York, January 2003

Experience Classicsonline

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 reputation.

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 of calypso.

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!

Em Marshall 

See review of this and other Red Priest recordings by Jonathan Woolf


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