The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today brings the Winter Solstice – a perfect time to listen to Vivaldi’s original “Four Seasons” and Max Richter’s “Recomposed” version of Vivaldi’s popular violin concertos. | December 21, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the winter solstice in the Western Hemisphere.

We turn the corner and the days start getting longer, and the night shorter.

The solstice arrives today — on Friday, Dec. 21. Specifically, it arrives this morning at 5:12 a.m. CST.

Could there be a better time to celebrate the famed “The Four Seasons,” a series of violin concertos, composed in 1725 by Antonio Vivaldi (below), and a work that is reputed to be the most recorded piece of classical music of all time?


Here is the original “Winter” section by Vivaldi, with its virtuosic rush of notes, slashing chords and chilly tremolos.

But the winter solstice is also a good time to take a listen to Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s famous, if overplayed, masterpiece.

It is called  “Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons” and is available on the Deutsche Grammophon label (below). And it would also be a make for a good holiday gift, especially if someone already has and likes the original “Four Seasons.” It isn’t often after all, that you can have Baroque music and contemporary music in the same work.

Max Richter Recomposed CD cover

Recently, NPR’s exceptional blog “Deceptive Cadence’ featured a fine review of the album, in which the well-known former Beaux Arts Trio violinist Daniel Hope stars, and an interview with the young German-born British composer Max Richter (below).

Max Richter

I find it a quintessentially postmodern project, but one which I find quite effective – and which I think Vivaldi himself might like and approve of. After all, most of the great Baroque composers — including J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel — transcribed their own works and freely borrowed from and elaborated on or altered the works of their colleagues.

Here is a link to the NPR story and interview:

And here are links to some other reviews:

The Guardian:

See what you think and let me know.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. rynku. Wdrożyły drgać dzwony. Przerażeni meemi.
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    Comment by — April 3, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

  2. […] Today brings the Winter Solstice – a perfect time to listen to Vivaldi’s original &#8220… ( […]

    Pingback by The Bear Days Of Winter | Taxi Dog Blues — December 26, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

  3. Not sure what I think of these. I like the texture, but I don’t feel it has enough of its own identity as a piece. The Piazzolla Four Seasons of Buenos Aires stands completely on its own as a work, regardless of its allusions to Vivaldi, whereas these are more or less exact copies with the edges blurred. I would enjoy listening to the album, but probably only once. Piazzolla’s Seasons stand up as a concert work (brilliantly, as Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg showed us a few years ago, despite a snapped E-string), but I don’t think these would.

    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — December 22, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

    • Hi Mikko,
      I think I agree with you for the most part.
      I certainly prefer the work by Astor Piazzolla, which is undoubtedly a more original and daring work.
      The musical half-life of the Max Richter is, as you say, much shorter.
      Nonetheless, it is an interesting postmodern take on how to modernize an old and taken-for-granted masterpiece.
      But part of the composer’s intent may be exactly what happened to me: I returned to the original Vivaldi with a new and refreshed appreciation.
      As always, your writing is balanced and aticulate.
      if you ever feel like submitting a review to be posted here, I would welcome it.
      Happy holidays to you!

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 22, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

  4. […] Classical music: Today brings the Winter Solstice – a perfect time to listen to Vivaldi’… ( […]

    Pingback by Surprise a Chicago Classical Music Fan with an Album by a Local Ensemble — December 21, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

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