I know, I know. It’s the forfeit one pays as a reviewer
to receive another arrangement of the Four Seasons to listen
to, and despair over. But wait - wrong! This is a fabulous exception,
so don’t pass over this review until I’ve convinced
you to buy a copy or to give it a go, at least.
This is the Ricordi arrangement, made anonymously, as augmented
and arranged by pianist Jeffrey Biegel. You’ll wonder how
the verdant chirpings, guttural barking and chilly, warming,
and other topical seasonal states come over on a piano and I
will tell you: very nicely indeed, believe it or not. If I came
to scoff, I stayed to enjoy, and so will you, unless you’re
made of sterner stuff. The recording quality, let me add, is
The thing that impresses throughout is the variety of articulation
that Biegel summons up. He is crisp, bright, even, sustains the
writing through deft voicings (Spring’s Largo) and through
clarity and variety of timbre. There’s real buoyancy to
his finales. He generates amazing drive and animation in, say,
the Presto finale of Summer. Nor does he stint the wit inherent
in, say, the Allegro finale of Autumn which, I must say, I find
defter and genuinely funnier than any orchestral performance.
I’m not sure I should - but I do. The opening of Winter
is powerfully compelling, and the trills and decorations in the
slow movement are equally diverting; I wondered if its sparseness
would defeat Biegel but it doesn’t; he flecks the writing
with great felicity. And the Allegro finale of Winter sounds
like an organ fantasia at its start; like a Bach-Siloti spectacular.
Terrific stuff all round.
The two extra items are in the same mould, though these are original
adaptations and arrangements by Andrew Gentile. Vital and exciting,
with free embellishments in the Largo of the Mandolin Concerto,
I equally defy you to find these unattractive. The delicacy and
lyricism embedded in this transcription of the Lute Concerto’s
slow movement is considerable. There’s textual depth here
and no mistake.
So I began with a feeling of weary subjugation and ended elated.
What more do you want from a disc?
see also review by Brian