The Strad Issue: January 2011
Musicians: Daniel Rowland (violin) Stellenbosch University Camerata
Composer: Vivaldi, Piazzolla

Daniel Rowland and the Stellenbosch University Camerata have been performing this spicy cocktail of eight seasons since the ensemble was formed in 2008. Piazzolla’s Four Seasons, originally written for a small band with the composer himself paying bandoneón and here performed in one of a number of subsequent arrangements for string ensemble, consists of four portraits of Buenos Aires, urban counterparts to Vivaldi’s portraits of rural life. Rowland and his players tackle them in a suitable frenzy of heat and colour, the quotations from Vivaldi peeking cheekily out from the potent mix of vibrant rhythms, complete with percussion, and the welter of glissandos and ponticello effects.

The Vivaldi, too, is vividly performed. In the fast movements, and they are fast, tuttis are clipped and dry. The performance conforms to the current custom of historically informed reading, with modern players on modern instruments taking what they will from their period colleagues. Rowland, his vibrato rich and unfettered, treats the score very much as a first draft, a basis for improvisation to be executed with a rhythmic freedom that works wonderfully in jazz, but can be unsettling in this context as he parts company from his colleagues, left clinging grimly to the beat. It’s all good pictorial stuff, with Rowland to the fore in a resonant acoustic.