Compositions

The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

Astor Piazzolla arranged by Leonid Desyatnikov
Composed 1964-1970

October 15-16, 2010
Steven Copes, violin
1 Verano Porteño (Summer) 0:06:27 Add to Playlist Play Now  
2 Otoño Porteño (Autumn) 0:07:14 Add to Playlist Play Now  
3 Invierno Porteño (Winter) 0:07:23 Add to Playlist Play Now  
4 Primavera Porteño (Spring) 0:06:30 Add to Playlist Play Now  
  Entire Recording 0:27:34 Add to Playlist Play Now  

These pieces are the tribute of two 20th-century men — the Argentinean Astor Piazzolla and the Russian Leonid Desyatnikov — to an 18th-century Venetian master, Antonio Vivaldi.

From his teens, Piazzolla was a formidable bandoneon player and a fine leader of a tango band. But he stalled for years as a composer, trying to write what he thought he should rather than what came naturally. It took the legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger to put him right. After pointing out that most of his “classical” music sounded like other composers’ work, she encouraged him to look instead to tango for inspiration. From then on, memorable works flowed.

The first of The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires was written in 1965. The title inescapably brings Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to mind, but there the tribute ends, at least in Piazzolla’s original version. His are single-movement works, while Vivaldi’s all have three. Vivaldi revels in music that evokes specific pictures (dogs barking, storms, drunken peasants, birds); not so Piazzolla. The solo violin is critical to Vivaldi; Piazzolla did not call for one. Then, in the 1990s, along came Desyatnikov.

The seasons seem to be something of an obsession with Desyatnikov. Besides arranging this piece, he has also composed a set of pieces called The Russian Seasons (for violin, soprano and strings). What he did here was to take Piazzolla’s originals and “vivaldify” them, replicating Vivaldi’s orchestration — including the solo violin — and weaving in all kinds of clever allusions to Vivaldi. He also adds jokes. Remember, when it is summer in Vivaldi’s Venice, it is winter in Piazzolla’s Buenos Aires. So listen closely and you will hear bits of Vivaldi’s Summer worked into Winter here. And at the end of Spring... well, you can’t miss the allusion.

Svend-Einar Brown ©2006
Piazzolla wrote The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires in 1965. The work has been arranged by Leonid Desyatnikov for harpsichord, strings and solo violin

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