Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

WORKS: The Four Seasons
PERFORMER: Julia Fischer (violin); ASMF/Kenneth Sillito
Back in July, BBC 1 screened a really rather good (if a trifle tricksy) investigative performance-documentary on The Four Seasons, presented by the conductor Charles Hazlewood (with Clio Gould as an incisive soloist) and filmed largely on location in the Red Priest’s native Venice. Sadly, this isn’t that, but just a straight and safely MOR performance, played expertly but anonymously by Munich teenager Julia Fischer, backed by an Academy of St Martin’s apparently on autopilot and filmed in and around Norman Foster’s great glass greenhouse in the National Botanic Garden of… wait for it… Wales. Why Wales? Because it’s a BBC Wales production — and, unlike BBC1, BBC Wales presumably can’t afford to film abroad. It clearly can’t afford to film for a whole year either, so the gimmick of this DVD – whereby the ‘director’s cut’ includes ‘stunning images of the changing seasons’ – is rather undercut by the fact that it was seemingly all shot in July. Not that the pictures aren’t pretty (though the background track of constantly twittering birds, buzzing bees and running water is pretty annoying), but the director is so keen to make everything in the garden look so lovely that nothing nasty is allowed to intrude – so no ‘stunning images’ of gnats and flies in ‘Summer’ and certainly no hunt, let alone a bloody kill, in Autumn’. The stated running time is also a bit of a cheat, made up by adding in both edits of what is of course only a single performance, plus another 22 minutes for the two worthless ‘extras’ (an unrevealing interview with the teenage prodigy and a set of ‘my favourite season’ quotes from visitors to the NBGW). A great ad for the ‘Garden of Wales’, a poor show for Vivaldi. Mark Pappenheim