Classical home listening: a fearless Four Seasons, plus Britten folk songs

Violinist Arabella Steinbacher dazzles in Vivaldi and Piazzolla. Plus, an impressive labour of love from soprano Marci Meth

Arabella Steinbacher Four Seasons

• Given its ubiquity, we risk forgetting the heady originality of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons – until, that is, we hear it played by a dazzling interpreter. Every violinist wants to tackle these four-concertos-in-one, but keeping them fresh is a challenge. The German violinist Arabella Steinbacher was hesitant before going into the studio, “but then I thought, well, still this my first recording of it!”.

We should be glad she went ahead. Her Four Seasons (Pentatone) with the Munich Chamber Orchestra is intercut with Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, written between 1964 and 1970. It’s an invigorating solution. Both soloist and ensemble approach the contrasting styles – baroque energy and bluesy Latin passion – with supple mastery, bows biting into strings, rhythms accentuated, mood at times aggressive. Vivaldi’s Summer, with its rushing storms and prickly, insect-ridden heat, sounds more than usually wild, with Steinbacher fearless in the rapid, high-flying outbursts. What a player.

The Wild Song/ Marci Meth/Simon Russell Beale etc

• Now more than ever, musicians need to follow their spirit of enterprise. Without label or agent, the soprano Marci Meth has produced The Wild Song (Modern Poetics), a collection of Britten folk songs with pianist Anna Tilbrook, together with readings of seven of Yeats’s poems by Simon Russell Beale and atmospheric, watery interludes, specially written, by the film composer Mychael Danna. It was recorded at the Britten Studio, Snape Maltings and carries with it, in photographs in the beautifully produced booklet, a tribute to the Suffolk landscape and environment beloved of Britten.

Watch a trailer for The Wild Song by Marci Meth

Soft-launched last year, it has been released now to coincide with the (absent) Aldeburgh festival. Meth’s voice is silvery and unaffected: none of the arch artfulness to which these folk songs are sometimes subjected. They’re not always my favourite Britten works, but here take on a strong, expressive spirit which suits the moment. Meth took several years to complete this project. All praise to her, and to her three first-rate collaborators.

• One of the best routes to a musician’s inner life is Radio 3’s weekly Inside Music (BBC Sounds). Last week’s guest was the oboist and conductor Nicholas Daniel, discussing musical honesty and virtuosity, with great choices from Radu Lupu to Cleo Laine.

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Classical home listening: Penderecki, Fauré and more
The late Polish composer’s chamber music is a treasure trove for the Tippett Quartet

Fiona Maddocks

10, Jul, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Classical home listening: Vaughan Williams, Paganini and Ysaÿe
The LSO and Pappano fire on all cylinders in RVW’s Symphonies 4 and 6. And Alina Ibragimova’s Paganini Caprices astound

Fiona Maddocks

24, Apr, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Classical home listening: Angela Hewitt and a recital rarity
The Canadian pianist explores declarations of love from Schubert to Gershwin. And Toby Hughes shows just what the double bass can do

Fiona Maddocks

03, Jul, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Classical home listening: Anna Lapwood, Jeremy Denk and the best of Edinburgh
The organ of Ely Cathedral is put through its paces in Lapwood’s solo debut; and a new Mozart recording from Denk is not to be missed

Fiona Maddocks

11, Sep, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Classical home listening: Lea Desandre’s Amazone; Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle
Desandre flies in a vivacious baroque programme, while a new edition of Rossini’s late work is small but perfectly formed

Fiona Maddocks

06, Nov, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Classical home listening: the fruits of lockdown
Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne work as one on a set of French piano works recorded last March, while a postponed April wedding sparked Isolation Songs

Fiona Maddocks

13, Mar, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Home listening: a good week for Stravinsky
The RLPO and Petrenko dazzle in The Firebird, while the Mariinsky Orchestra and Gergiev make Petrushka their own

Fiona Maddocks

23, Dec, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Home listening: where Beethoven, Shostakovich and Bach meet
Sparkling new releases from the Danish String Quartet, the DSCH-Shostakovich Ensemble and James Rhodes

Fiona Maddocks

02, Dec, 2018 @7:59 AM

Article image
Home listening: Vaughan Williams, Frank Martin and Kenneth Leighton
The RLPO concludes its magnificent Vaughan Williams symphony cycle. Plus, two masses for double choir

Fiona Maddocks

26, May, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Home listening: Howard Skempton piano works and more
Take two pianists and a druid princess…

Fiona Maddocks

16, Feb, 2020 @5:30 AM