Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

You Ain't Never Heard Vivaldi

Red Priest's rendition of The Four Seasons is one of the happiest things going on in our house these days. The first time I played it, the quartet's exuberance was so overwhelming, my kids raced for the bin of instruments and broke out the recorders, kazoos, and water flutes to tweetle along. But it wasn't enough to keep up. Even more woodwinds! We had to find Dan's pennywhistles--early in our marriage I gave Dan a bouquet of pennywhistles, one in each key, for a Valentine's Day present--and soon each kid had a pennywhistle in each hand, while I tried to show them how to play two at once.

This may not be everyone's favorite way to listen to classical music. I wish to add that we have managed to overcome our initial ecstatic reaction enough actually to listen quietly, at least for a few minutes at a time now. From a four-year-old and a toddler, that is another kind of extraordinary endorsement.

The thing is, my kids had heard other versions of The Four Seasons before. Just try to go a month without hearing it. It'll turn up at a restaurant, a grocery store, in commercials, at weddings, as background music for your local NPR affiliate's beg-a-thon. There is no escaping Vivaldi. Plus, we have occasionally listened to more standard recordings on purpose at home. But if you haven't heard Red Priest's version, you ain't heard nothing yet.

I can well believe it when their liner notes say, Red Priest is the only early music group in the world to have been compared in the press to the Rolling Stones, Jackson Pollock, the Marx Brothers, Spike Jones and the Cirque du Soleil. They also quote some music historian who describes Vivaldi's own performance style by calling him the John McEnroe of the baroque. (Vivaldi, a redhead and ordained, was the original red priest, Il Prete Rosso, and a real bad boy on the violin.)

Nothing I can tell you about the details of the recording can either prepare you or spoil it. Just go listen to this birdsong-saturated excerpt from the Spring movement. Our birds are back from their migrations, our snowdrops are up, and our daffodils are sending forth their first shoots. The kids come in to warm up from playing in the yard, and they'd rather hear the music Conrad calls "Tweet!" than even the cannon-rific 1812 Overture, usually known around here as "Boom Clang!"
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