A new approach to an iconic piece proves seductive

Daniel Rowland: Richter


The Strad Issue: May 2024

Description: A new approach to an iconic piece proves seductive

Musicians: Daniel Rowland (violin) Stift Festival Orchestra

Works: Richter: The Four Seasons Recomposed

Catalogue number: CHALLENGE RECORDS CC72978

Created as recently as 2012, Max Richter’s reimagining of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as Recomposed is already something of an iconic work, with countless performances and several recordings attesting to its uncanny emotional power, and its new ways with all-too-familiar tunes.

Offering a markedly different perspective on the piece to the sheen and serenity of original soloist Daniel Hope is British–Dutch violinist Daniel Rowland, with the orchestra of the Netherlands’ Stift Festival, of which he’s the founding artistic director. Here, grit replaces polish, and heat replaces coolness. Can Vivaldi/Richter take it?

Absolutely, and Rowland’s energetic, sometimes forcefully projected playing demands to be heard, and offers a profoundly sincere response to the music, not always immaculate, but conveying the piece’s own vulnerabilities and authenticity very compellingly, and very movingly. It’s not a live recording, but in his booklet notes Rowland writes that they aimed to capture a similar spirit shortly after a festival performance. The violinist and his orchestral players achieve that magnificently: there’s a rawness to some of Rowland’s frenetic solos (in ‘Spring’ and ‘Summer’, for example), and a wonderful sense of in-the-moment commitment from the ensemble too. Sound is rich and deep, especially in Richter’s slow-moving harmonies, but individual lines are cleanly teased apart, and Rowland adds a few nicely judged bits of spontaneous ornamentation too.

Hope’s original DG recording might offer finesse and well-oiled precision, but Rowland and his orchestra transform the music into something deeply human and affecting.