Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (Anne-Sophie Mutter)

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”Ask a classical musician why anyone should come hear them play. Or, if you’re a musician, ask yourself. Very likely, you won’t be able to say.

Often I hear, “Well, I’m playing great music.” But so is everyone else! Or else, “I’m really good.” (Usually put, especially in press releases, in fancier words.) But others, too, are good.

What’s distinctive about you? What can you offer that no one else can?”
-Greg Sandow

Anne Sophie-Mutter answers these questions. Oh boy, does she answer them.

This is one of those albums that you can judge from the cover – this is Anne Sophie-Mutter sexying up one of the most well-known classical works of one of the least sexy classical genres by making it modern. By which, of course, I mean, increasing the volume and increasing the tempo because, you see, her recording of the same piece with Herbert von Karajan, available 1984, was too straight-arrow. Which should be fine, to be honest: growing up on modern sounds, that sounds appealing to me on paper, but what results is taking something that was the dated definition of vulgar (common) and turning it into the newer one (coarse).

Specific examples? You can hear it from the get-go on the first movement of “Spring” during the quick flurries of solos around 2-minutes in; each solo just drops you into a loud barrage – the phrasing is completely unnatural. Or, check out the first movement of “Winter,” where, in addition to more unnatural phrasing, we have breakneck speeds rendering Mutter’s violin into a scraping sound that takes center stage (ie. the harpsicord color (?) in the intro is practically invisible, as opposed to say, the second movement of “Autumn” here, or even Tartini’s “Sonata in G Minor,” which is probably the best thing about this package). When “Winter”‘s Allegro non molto bursts into the climax around the one-minute mark, because everything is so heavy, the movement lurches, despite being faster than how most people would’ve played it. The same issue of heaviness applies for the final movement of “Autumn.”

That said, the 1-star reviews on Amazon seem a tad hyperbolic; this may be badly imagined, but it’s still competently performed: I can’t fault the rest of the “Spring”, and the storm sections of “Summer” are predictably rousing given the emphasis on volume and speed. But at the same time, so too are the 5-star reviews: just because it’s unique, doesn’t mean it’s worthy of respect.

We don’t have to make the jump from “unique” to “good.”

Nor “listenable” to “good.”

C+

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6 responses to “Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (Anne-Sophie Mutter)

  1. Man I do love Vivaldi. And I love sexy! Haha if I saw this cheap I would still grab it to give it a whirl.

    I have a CD of hers here, doing a Sibelius violin concerto, serenades, etc. I loved that.

      • I’ve only ever heard her CD of it, but its awesome. I put up a blurb on my site, which doesn’t actually tell you much but might make you wanna dig deeper:

        “One of my library book sale finds! This was a real shift of gears for the rest of the week, and it’s very active, challenging, and yet also achingly beautiful. Mutter’s attack is at times forceful and others soft as velvet. Wow!

        Jean Sibelius himself was a fascinating character, a massive part of Finland’s fabric, deeply affected by his country’s history and natural beauty. You should go read about him here. Check out this bit, on his death (from that link to Wiki):

        “Erik Tawaststjerna also relates an endearing anecdote regarding Sibelius’ death:

        [He] was returning from his customary morning walk. Exhilarated, he told his wife Aino that he had seen a flock of cranes approaching. “There they come, the birds of my youth,” he exclaimed. Suddenly, one of the birds broke away from the formation and circled once above Ainola. It then rejoined the flock to continue its journey.

        Two days later, on 20 September 1957, Sibelius died of a brain hemorrhage at age 91, in Ainola, where he is buried in the garden.””

        Whoa.

      • I just picked up another Sibelius CD for $1.50. This time it’s Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra doing Symphonies 6 & 7, as well as the Tapiola. Can’t wait to dig into it! I’ll be sure to slap up some blabber on the KMA after I hear it…

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