Richard Galliano: Vivaldi

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COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Vivaldi
WORKS: The Four Seasons; plus opera transcriptions
PERFORMER: Richard Galliano, Jean-Mac Phillips-Varjabédian, Sébastien Surel (violin), Jean-Marc Apap, Eric Levionnois (cello), Stéphane Logerot
CATALOGUE NO: 481 0350

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Among more than a thousand recordings of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons are arrangements for Chinese pipa and Japanese koto, shred, surf and tango guitars, sarangi and synthesizer. There are jazz, hip-hop, acid rock and reggae versions, and performances by The Swingle Singers, Nigel Kennedy, Jacques Loussier and Vanessa Mae. French accordion player Richard Galliano – best known for his playing of jazz, tango and Nino Rota, though no stranger to Baroque music – is the latest to cast new light on these infinitely flexible concertos in this slimmed-down arrangement for accordion and a quintet of strings.

Galliano plays with effortless virtuosity, his phrasing pliant and free, responsive to the music’s inherent drama. He draws a range of colours and timbres, suggesting here the violin, there a flute or reedy oboe, and even the chill winds of the Venetian scirocco gust through the first movement of ‘Winter’. The accordion lacks the flamboyancy and expressivity of the violin, and the homogeneity of a string ensemble is inevitably lost in this version, but Galliano’s sensitive, committed playing makes this performance far more than mere gimmickry.

Alongside the Seasons are arrangements of four arias from Vivaldi’s operas, played with plaintive poetry. Their transparent, lyrical lines transcribe effectively to the accordion, though they sound more like Parisian café music than Venetian Baroque opera.

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Kate Bolton