For those of you who are in London Halloween night, this is the place to be. Having become a much more prolific composer in recent months, Max Richter is now showcasing his newest project in the Barbican Hall with the Max Richter Ensemble – an ambitious recomposition of the classic “Four Seasons” by Vivaldi as part of Deutsche Grammophon’s Recomposed series. The album was released only weeks ago. The majority of music listeners will without a doubt have heard Vivaldi’s original at least once in there lives. The concept behind it being four movements which reflect the characteristics of each of the four seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
The reconstruction of such a widely known and revered work has obviously brought some skepticism among critics in the classical scene, however Richter is quite up-front in his intentions to change the original and claims that he is altering the piece to suit the modern listener, not instead trying to make the original better. Hence, over 40% of the original material has been discarded and instead the main themes and ideas are developed and embellished, adding subtle electronic touches here and there. Here is a video explaining Richter’s intentions in a little bit more depth, from the horses mouth…
After listening to the album myself, I have to say, it really drew me in from the first song. Being a fan of Vivaldi’s original, I instantly recognized the main themes that have made “The Four Seasons” one of the most famous classical pieces of all time. I imagine those who are fans of the original will instantly know that this album is the work of someone who really knows and loves the original piece, and is simply trying to “turn up” his favorite bits.
What first stood out to me is the quality which this was recorded, it really is striking. Richter is already well known for having absolutely top-notch productions which immediately grab the listener and give his work a quality which separates him from most other composers in his genre – something which he has already proved in his widely applauded work The Blue Notebooks. There is definitely a huge focus on the dynamics of the instruments more than anything and it certainly contributes to the atmospherics.
Another notable change to the work is the poignant chords which are frequently introduced over many sections. Although many of these instances are not included in the original work I think they add an amazing atmosphere to the existing melodies, particularly in Spring 1. Although I do love the original, I’m pretty sure it has never made the hair on my neck stand up as with this version.
Essentially the album is a largely different listening experience to Vivaldi’s version. Rather than it being a reattempt at the original (as was my first impression), it instead comes across as a romantic interpretation of the work from the perspective of a music lover in the 21st century. The result is a beautiful, highly emotive piece that is perhaps much more easily accessible than the original.
Given the emphasis Richter usually puts on high quality recording and production, I’d imagine that seeing this live will be much more of experience than just an orchestra playing his tunes, especially as its in the beautiful Barbican Hall. On top of that, the second half of the show is a live performance of his second most recent album, Infra, which in itself has achieved great critical acclaim. Expect this to be epic.
Tickets 15 – 20 pounds, Doors at 7:30