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Composer-performer Max Richter (right) brings his revamped Vivaldi to Manhattan's Le Poisson Rouge. (NPR)

Max Richter In Concert: Reimagining Vivaldi

Feb 7, 2013 (Q2)

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Can't take another moment of Vivaldi's ubiquitous Four Seasons? Neither could Max Richter, a London-based composer who deftly blurs the lines between the classical and electronic worlds. Long ago he loved it the piece but like some of us, he grew tired of the overplayed warhorse, which can be found in no fewer than 250 recordings on sites like ArchivMusic.

So instead of writing off the piece forever, Richter rewrote it. He discarded about three quarters of Vivaldi's original, substituted his own music and tucked in some light electronics for a total Four Seasons makeover. It sounds a little hipper — lighter on its feet in places, darker and more cinematic in others. Still, Richter's remodeled version retains the basic shape, and much of the spirit, of the master's original four violin concertos — each about ten minutes and in three movements, sequenced fast-slow-fast.

Richter recorded his rejiggered Seasons with violin soloist Daniel Hope and together they brought the project to (Le) Poisson Rouge, the Greenwich Village music space, where we had our cameras set up and ready to roll.

In Richter's reimagining, you'll recognize more than a few weather-related signposts like the violin's shivering figures in "Winter" and bolts of thunder in stormy "Summer." Yet in other places the music is heavily disguised. The cheerful birdsong that opens Vivaldi's "Spring" emerges as mere shards of the original, backed by moody pedal points in the electronic low end, lending it a movie music feel. And Vivaldi's violin horn calls in the finale of "Autumn" morph into a comforting minimalist blanket of warm double basses and electronics.

The revamped Vivaldi is about as "classical" as Richter gets. For a taste of his more electronic side, the second half of this concert features selections from Infra, dance music he wrote for London's Royal Ballet, based on T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. For this music, Richter pares down to just a piano, his laptop and a string quartet, but he weaves in many unusual sounds. Here you'll find a dusty treasure-trove of old shortwave radio signals, industrial rumbles, clicks and pops serving as the underlying bed for Richter's gritty and forlorn soundscapes.

Program:

  • Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Recomposed by Max Richter)
  • Music from Infra

Ensemble LPR, Tito Muņoz, conductor

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