Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, originally released 31 August 2012, is a radical reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Like many composers Richter was fascinated by Vivaldi’s groundbreaking Four Seasons and his ‘recomposition’ topped the classical chart in 22 countries. Vivaldi’s revolutionary set of four violin concertos, The Four Seasons, are among the most popular pieces in the classical music repertoire. The violin concertos broke new ground with their programmatic depiction of the changing seasons and their technical innovations. Max Richter spoke to uDiscover Music about how and why he recomposed the famous work.
“It’s like no other part of our musical landscape”
Like many composers Richter was always fascinated by Vivaldi’s 1725 composition because, “The Four Seasons is an omnipresent piece of music and like no other part of our musical landscape.” But he was also aware that for many, including himself, it had long ago ceased to be something of beauty and had instead become an ever-present piece of muzak. The idea of recomposing and re-processing musical works was common practice in Vivaldi’s time and Richter wanted to reconnect with the piece and to re-start the conversation on Vivaldi’s work. He sought to do so in an accessible style that mirrored Vivaldi’s intentions with the piece, rather than to place a twentieth century Modernist imprint on it. “I wanted to open up the score on a note-by-note level, and working with an existing recording was like digging a mineshaft through an incredibly rich seam, discovering diamonds and not being able to pull them out. That became frustrating. I wanted to get inside the score at the level of the notes and in essence re-write it, re-composing it in a literal way,” Richter explained.
“I fell in love with the Vivaldi as a kid: six or seven perfect, bite-size chunks of beautiful tunes. For a child it was a perfect introduction to a whole language. As I got older I started to hear it everywhere and I started to hate it. It stopped being a great piece of music and became an irritant. At the same time, intellectually, I knew it was a fantastic piece of music, and I thought about reclaiming it,” remarked Richter. If your daily commute went through the Alps eventually you’d come to hate it, however beautiful the landscape. I suppose I was interested in finding a new route through the music. The one I had taken had begun to bore me and I wanted to see the surroundings in a fresh way; I wanted to rediscover it. It does have a different texture than my other works. The colours are brighter, but that is because it’s a collaboration with a brighter, sparkier composer.”
“Some of the time I’m subverting the original”
“My starting point was the realisation that Vivaldi’s music was modular, it’s made out of little patterns, in the way a lot of post-minimal and contemporary music is; in the way a lot of my music is. So it was quite easy to find a common musical thread between what I normally do and what Vivaldi’s doing. Some of the time I’m taking the original and subverting or recontextualising it, and sometimes I’ve gone off on another trip. It’s like taking a detour from your commute. You do it every day and you don’t really see the place that you’re driving through. But you go on a detour and you experience that space almost as though you’ve never been there before.”
Although Richter said he discarded around three-quarters of Vivaldi’s original material the parts he does use are phased and looped emphasising his grounding in postmodern and minimalist music.”There are times I depart completely from the original, yes, but there are moments when it pokes through,” observed Richter. “Vivaldi’s music is made of regular patterns, and that connects with post-minimalism, which is one strand in the music that I write. That felt like a natural link, but even so it was surprisingly difficult to navigate my way through it. At every point I had to work out how much is Vivaldi and how much is me. It was difficult but also rewarding because the raw material is so fascinating.”
Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, featuring violinist Daniel Hope and the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin symphony orchestra conducted by André de Ridder, topped the classical chart in 22 countries. “Max Richter’s new version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons shows that the classical remix has finally come of age” stated The Telegraph, and ClassicFM.com remarked, “It’s almost impossible to come to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with completely fresh ears, but this mesmerising album enables listeners to rediscover these amazing works, creating entirely new music with a minimalist Baroque twist.”
“My aim was to fall in love with the original again – and I have”
“The original Four Seasons is a phenomenally innovative and creative piece of work,” said Max Richter. “It’s so dynamic, so full of amazing images. And it feels very contemporary. My aim was to fall in love with the original again – and I have.”
Max Richter is one of the most influential figures of the contemporary music scene, producing ground-breaking work as a recording artist, composer, pianist and collaborator. He studied composition and piano at Edinburgh University, the Royal Academy of Music and with Luciano Berio. He has recorded eight solo albums and has also written extensively for film and television. The first ever collection of Max Richter’s work, Voyager: Essential Max Richter, featuring original compositions from his solo albums and soundtracks will be released on 4 October 2019.
Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons can be bought here.