The Sound Of Vivaldi Rolling In His Grave

*David, sit down with a stiff drink before you read this…

A friend who sings with a well-known professional choir rang on Friday with last minute bargain tickets to the evening’s performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria. We took him up on his kind offer and hugely enjoyed our surprise entertainment. While the Gloria is not one of the more emotionally charged choral works in the canon, it is still a beautiful piece and it was superbly performed.

However, the glorious Gloria was followed by what I can only describe as a rather self-indulgent academic exercise, viz. The Four Seasons… wait for it… re-scored for the recorder.

Yes, the recorder.

I don’t dispute the virtuosity of the player – she was a veritable recorder demon – but there are parts of a violin concerto which, with the best will in the world, cannot be articulated on the recorder. Quite apart from the fact that the sound was completely lost for significant portions of the piece, drowned out by the wonderful Brandenburg Orchestra.

As I listened I tried to explain the experience to myself in visual terms, since that is the art with which I am most familiar.

Imagine a Rubens or a Caravaggio painting executed in pastel crayons rather than oil paints. The colours and shapes might be similar so the picture would be recognisable – just as the notes and rhythms in the music were similar so the melody was recognisable – but it would lack the richness of tone, the subtlety of light and the textural depth which gives those works life.


The Celtic lament which she played as an encore, however, was perfect: full of haunting longing which spoke directly to my Irish and Scottish roots and reminded me just how far away I am from ‘home’.

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13 Responses to The Sound Of Vivaldi Rolling In His Grave

  1. Ouch! That sounds terrible. Was it at the Opera House?

  2. modestypress says:

    This comment may be recorded for training purposes.

  3. What David said. I wonder that the conductor was able to be talked into such a travesty, especially with an orchestra named the Brandenburg Orchestra.

  4. woo says:

    Archie – no, it was at the City Recital Hall which is a better venue acoustics-wise. Although whether that was a benefit in this case is debatable…

    Mr Random – train the recorder player never to darken Baroque’s door again.

    David – Word.

    Healingmagichands – I know, the orchestra and the choir are both marvellous – professional and passionate. I have no idea what possessed the musical director to allow the recorder player to try this, other than possibly as an academic exercise in seeing what the paying public would put up with…

  5. piereth says:

    Second David and others, and remind the assembled party that the recorder isn’t remotely the worst thing they could have chosen for this endeavour. Comb and toilet paper? Funnel, and eight feet of garden hose? Or how about farting the tune? I’d pay to see that!

    • sledpress says:

      My father, twenty years a hornist with the US Army, performed an original concerto with a youth orchestra at Wolf Trap, using a garden hose, funnel and French horn mouthpiece. In gloves and tailcoat. I have a tape recording around still. The thing had about an octave tessatura.

      Le Petomane probably farted it, in his day.

  6. I don’t know anyone who farts with enough bravura to be able to perform Vivaldi. But it would certainly be educational to see someone try.

  7. And wha is wrong with the bagpipes, lassie?

  8. woo says:

    piereth – ROFL

    Azahar and Archie – the only excuse for bagpipes is the need to communicate over long distances in the Highlands. They should NEVER be played indoors. EVER.

  9. modestypress says:

    The ultimate homage to bagpipes is The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (original French version).

  10. pandemonic says:

    Chin up. It could have been with a kazoo.

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