The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Midori Seiler (violin) Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Composer: Rebel, Vivaldi

It is fashionable now to emphasise the pictorial elements of The Four Seasons, which is fair enough up to a point: Vivaldi is quite clear about the chattering teeth and hailstorms. But these are essentially pieces of music; on this recording Midori Seiler and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin ham them up into a game of musical charades: ‘It’s a barking dog!’ ‘It’s peasants getting drunk!’ Some of it is effective, but altogether it’s a novelty act, Vivaldi as musical accompaniment for ‘Tom and Jerry go to Venice’.

Seiler, who is clearly capable of giving a first-rate performance, treats too much of the solo part as a sort of first draft. Elaboration is all very well, but she is so indulgent in her adornments that at times she virtually replaces Vivaldi’s perfectly serviceable melodies with her own (which she plays beautifully). Her grotesqueries can pall: the constant colourful manipulation of tempo is anything but musical, and the bent notes of her intoxicated rustics are just irritating. It won’t stand repeated playing.

Rebel’s Les éléments is given a similarly colourful performance, with a scary depiction of ‘Le chaos’ and some enthusiastic birdies. The recorded sound is appropriately close up and vivid.