- Four Seasons of Manhattan, for viola & orchestra
The celebrity of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" violin concertos is comparatively recent; even in the 1960s they were not terribly often performed or recorded. As of the release of this 2016 album by violist David Aaron Carpenter there are said to be more than 1,000 recordings of the concertos, and even the pairing with Astor Piazzolla's "Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas," or Buenos Aires Four Seasons (a "porteña" is a resident of Buenos Aires, the Port City), has gotten a bit stale, even though Piazzolla's four pieces are only in the loosest terms a set. Carpenter's album has a twist on that, but that's only the beginning of its innovations. You might feel that novelty is being thrown at you thick and fast, or that the project is thoroughly fresh; at any rate, the album isn't boring. One new thing is that you're getting 12 seasons instead of eight (the four of Vivaldi and the four of Piazzolla): Carpenter commissions a rather gloomy "Four Seasons of Manhattan" from composer Alexey Shor. Your mileage may vary, but even with the big boost of juxtaposition with Vivaldi the work seems unlikely to live on. Another somewhat new thing is the presence of the adaptation of Piazzolla's "Buenos Aires Four Seasons" by Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov. This was first recorded on Gidon Kremer's Four Seasons disc, a good seller in its day, but hardly the standard version of the work the booklet makes it out to be. The Desyatnikov pieces are in the nature of mashups between Piazzolla and Vivaldi. Finally, and most prominently, Carpenter is playing the "Four Seasons" on a viola, not a violin. The adaptation is his own, and it's his finest moment here: he lets the viola display the gutsier power of which it's capable, with plenty of ornamentation, and backs it up with high-contrast, tumultuous readings from the Salomé Chamber Orchestra, which he himself conducts. It may be over the top for some, but many others will find it charismatic and a great deal of fun: just the thing for a young player of an unusual instrument. Recommended for the well-worn Vivaldi concertos alone; try sampling one of the these for the unusual effect of the viola.