If anyone has earned the right to mess around with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons it is Nigel Kennedy, the violin world’s Marmite violinist. Remember how fresh he made this music sound on his recording of a quarter-century ago? This latest version offers a ferment of all he’s played since – concertos, jazz, Jimi Hendrix. It’s affectionate and irreverent in equal measure, and Kennedy and his Orchestra of Life never sound less than riveting. Pretty much all Vivaldi’s notes are there; around, above and in between them come interjections, overlays and linking passages involving guest musicians from jazz and rock: Orphy Robinson, Damon Reece, Z-Star and others. Spring is welcomed in by a distant-sounding intro on an electric-guitar. Summer’s storms bring forth bursts of crazily sampled static. Autumn tears off at a cracking pace, but with a jazz trumpet sauntering lazily over the top. It all sounds like a colossal jam session from the inside of a Botticelli painting.
Eschewing its usual heavy orchestral sound in favor of a more stripped-down instrumentation, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen's second album offers a fresh interpretation of one of the most performed classical works, Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. The 2005 follow-up to her Barry Wordsworth-conducted debut, the subtle but passionate renditions of the "La Primavera," "L'estate," "L'autunno," and "L'inverno" concertos are performed with a sparse, eight-piece ensemble including Lithuanian violinist Julian Rachlin, her cellist brother Maarten, and harpsichordist father Jan.
Released in June 1971 by RCA Victor, this completely instrumental Continuum's second album featured jazz influenced classical music played by two line-ups of highly proficient musicians. Side 1 was performed by the new, more 'progressive' band and included two amazing folk-jazz-classical long cuts with rock rhythm section and full of awesome Hammond organ, flute and saxophone parts. In contrast, the classically structured, 27-minutes long title suite (which occupied the entire Side 2 of the original vinyl) consisted of strings, cello, double bass, percussion and plenty of flute parts and was performed by the four members from the band's debut.
"…As it stands, this is an issue that can be warmly recommended musically and technically without reservation—except perhaps to those who hanker after rich Romantic tone and find the characteristic sound of baroque violins wiry. Even they, however, could not fail to be stirred by the enormous vitality of these performances: the word 'routine' simply doesn't seem to exist in the vocabulary of this splendid team of virtuosi. Its Vivaldi, which brings home the point that the Folies d'Espagne was (as its name implies) originally a frenzied dance, is in itself worth getting the disc for; 'the' Pachelbel canon played in the proper style might wean slush-wallowers away from the soupiness in which it is usually drenched; but the Handel trio sonata (incorporating themes from various stage works) is also a delight; and the glorious sense of controlled freedom which permeates the Bach, meticulously phrased and stylishly ornamented, uplifts the spirit." ~Grammophone