I was listening to Mediacorp Symphony 92.4 FM radio on my way to work when I instantly recognised the mesmerising motif of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons being repeated over and over again. I hit the Soundhound button on my smartphone quickly and it identified the work effortlessly.
Max Richter is a German-born British neo-classical composer whose works are influential in post-minimalism, and his discography are mostly film scores. No wonder when I heard the track, I thought it came from a Vivaldi movie soundtrack.
Classical music purists would probably tear “Recomposed” apart, but musical styles constantly evolve. Max Richter took the motifs from “The Four Seasons” and employed them over and over again. If you are very familiar with the musical phrases of “The Four Seasons”, and love the way pop music repeats the “hooks”, you might fall in love with “Recomposed”, as I did.
There are parts of the new work that I do not quite enjoy as much as the original version. He even completely dropped some of the better-known themes, like the opening theme of Spring First Movement, adopting instead the “birds” motif. But everyone has their own preferences. Max took the best bits, in his opinion. I was hoping though that he could set himself free from the existing 3-movement-per-season structure and include other thematic motifs as additional movements.
To determine the popularity of a work, one has to seek if others have performed them. Here is one by a string ensemble, NICO, known for their modern performance styles.
Here is another complete performance of “Recomposed” by a traditional orchestral group, Sayaka Shoji and Polish Chamber Orchestra.
And while we are at the topic of derivative works, here is a rock version of the original Vivaldi version. Love how he stuck to the original structure.
Here’s an even odder performance: an ensemble of electric guitars performing the 1721 composition.
This Vivaldi’s work is certainly well-loved by musicians of all genres and styles.