Listening Log – [Pt. III]- Max Richter’s ‘Vivaldi Recomposed'(2012)


Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons (2012, 2014) In December 2019 Listened (streaming) to digital audio CD: on Deutsche Grammophon. Violin soloist: Daniel Hope. Orchestra: Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin. Conductor: André de Ridder. Recording studio: B-Sharp (Berlin, Germany).

In 2012 Max Richter recorded and released ‘Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons’. As the title suggests it is a re-imagining and reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. Vivaldi’s four violin concerti were originally written in 1716-17 and published in 1725. The original work was highly innovative for its time and is generally considered one of the first examples of this type of programme music. Vivaldi had set the music to sonnets corresponding to the three movements of each concerto and had used extensive word painting and invented musical ways of describing both action and landscapes. The Four Seasons went on to influence generations of composers and has become one of the best known and most used pieces of Classical music. This enduring popularity and its widespread use have however greatly contributed to the ‘cheapening’ or ‘trivialising’ effect that oversaturation can have on music. It has become so much part of our daily lives that for many (me included) it recedes into the background in much the same way that elevator music does. According to Max Richter, he also experienced this ‘trivialising’ effect of this piece that he once loved. For this reason, he decided to try and ‘resurrect’ the work by reinterpreting it in a new way.

Quoting MAx Richter from an interview on Last FM in Oct 2014:

‘How did the idea for the piece come about?

 When I was a young child I fell in love with Vivaldi’s original, but over the years, hearing it principally in shopping centres, advertising jingles, on telephone hold systems and similar places, I stopped being able to hear it as music; it had become an irritant – much to my dismay! So, I set out to try to find a new way to engage with this wonderful material, by writing through it anew – similarly to how scribes once illuminated manuscripts – and thus rediscovering it for myself. I deliberately didn’t want to give it a modernist imprint but to remain in sympathy and in keeping with Vivaldi’s own musical language.’

Having been one of the ‘Four Seasons’ naysayers myself, I have successfully been reconverted by Max Richter and am once more in awe of its beauty, repeating patterns and structure. Richter manages to highlight these aspects of Vivaldi’s music by using fragments of original melodies and rhythms, embedding them in fresh and delicate material of a highly emotional and deep kind. The simplicity and sensitivity of Richter’s music is exceptionally well both married and at times juxtaposed against the upbeat original material. The resulting piece is a mesmerising modern work.

Extract from Max Richter’s ‘Vivaldi Recomposed’