Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is given an enjoyable old-fashioned performance with what sounds like a large contingent of strings – upper ones bright and glossy, cellos and basses quite beefy in the resonant acoustic of Kleinhans Music Hall, the latter not a barrier to clarity. Tempos tend to the moderate to enhance rhythmic vitality, slow movements are romantically etched, the numerous picturesque details are left to speak for themselves, and Nikki Chooi (Buffalo concertmaster) plays with commendable poise, tone, expression and accuracy. The harpsichord is notably well-captured in a reading that overall marries poetry and panache to good effect.
With Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, it’s ‘Buffalo I have a problem’ – the music! I simply find this composer’s output (what I have heard of it, including a half-hour Concerto for bandoneon, which at a concert had me on my knees screaming for the exit) to be insubstantial and irritating, partly the Tango rhythms, partly the distracting add-on aspects of the Seasons‘ orchestration. That said, this score’s melodiousness and fervour will have wide appeal. The performance of this ‘violin concerto’ is obviously stellar, however, not least from Tessa Lark. When Piazzolla references back to the Vivaldi (a few bars here, and a few there) it only points to the paucity of his own invention. Still, rest assured, if you like the seasons Argentinean-style, then JoAnn Falletta, her players and guest soloist don’t stint on colour, energy or shape, captured vividly on Beau Fleuve Records 605996-998562.