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Piazzolla • Vivaldi: Four Seasons

Arabella Steinbacher (violin); Munich Chamber Orchestra (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Piazzolla • Vivaldi
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, RV269, 325, 293 & 297; Piazzolla (Arr. Von Wienhardt): 4 Esataciones Portenas
Arabella Steinbacher (violin); Munich Chamber Orchestra
Pentatone PTC 5186 746   64:38 mins


As Arabella Steinbacher points out in her introductory note, given the hundreds of versions of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons already available, another might seem superfluous. Yet few are as radiantly beguiling, nor so immaculately tuned as to rival even Henryk Szeryng’s bejewelled, late-1960s account with the English Chamber Orchestra (Philips/Decca). For those who despair at the number of recent ‘HIP’ versions (on both authentic and modern set-ups) in which Vivaldi’s onomatopoeic effects have been allowed to run riot, Steinbacher’s alluring tone, espressivo phrasing, subtle vibrato infections and bewitching cantabile should provide a vital tonic. ‘Slow’ movements are (in the main) nostalgically reflective – Autumn’s central Adagio molto, complete with gentle harpsichord musings, appears to be floating on gentle air currents – with bright and breezy (as opposed to hectically driven) outer allegros.

Yet what makes this fine-honed account stand out from the pack is the inclusion of Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (arranged expertly by Peter von Wienhardt), which season by season introduces each concerto in the traditional Vivaldi order – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Heard in context, Piazzolla’s training with Nadia Boulanger – who advised him strongly never to leave the ‘true Astor’ behind – can be fully savoured, as the music’s neo-Baroque formulations emerge with a Stravinskian rhythmic élan underpinned by the irresistibly seductive swing of Piazzolla’s native tango. Steinbacher treads the fine line between Argentinian heat and Parisian cool with flair and sensitivity, whilst (thankfully) remaining true to her own recreative instincts, rather than attempting to swing it à la Stéphane Grappelli.


Julian Haylock