This sounds like complete blasphemy. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons suite is a monument of classical music. It is a pillar of human art, so to have a young pup come along and pull it apart is enough for any fan, however casual, to start fuming in anger. What will stay the mob’s pitchforks is the knowledge that said “pup” is Max Richter, nothing if not a sensitive, soulful artist, whose track record consists almost exclusively of touching people’s souls with little more than a violin. This is not Philip Glass deconstructing David Bowie.
Over 13 tracks (the 12 months and a short overture), Max Richter samples Vivaldi, sometimes faintly, sometimes closely, either distilling or expanding familiar pieces into something new, yet familiar, that adds a new layer to a masterpiece without detracting from the original. And what Max Richter brings to the table proves a game-changer, at least to this listener: he gives this music an aching heart. Vivaldi’s originals are unique, brilliant, technical masterpieces, but sometimes, even in their best interpretations, they leave you cold, too admiring of their structural brilliance to be moved in a primal way. Richter collapses the distance and makes the 4 Seasons intimate, heartfelt.
If you have even the remotest interest in classical, orchestral or even minimalist music, you owe it to yourself to hear this. At the very least it will be an interesting experiment, but if you open up to it, it will haunt you long after the last note fades to silence.