Tag Archives: Vivaldi

Original Transcriptions for Piano



Cameron Roberts (piano)

TTP: 63’00”



Goldberg Variations (Bach)

Cameron Roberts (piano)

TTP: 68’00”



reviewed by Neville Cohn


MCD404 is one of the most satisfying recordings I’ve heard in some time. It brims with good things.


All the transcriptions on this CD are by Cameron Roberts himself. Certainly, he shapes to the demands of whatever he plays like fine wine to a goblet. His taste is impeccable, his physical command of the piano is remarkable. Refinement of style  informs every moment of this recording.


Vivaldi’s Summer from The Four Seasons is a high point of this collection with Roberts working wonders with this much loved work. Magically silvery tone in the high treble informs the second movement which is transcribed and played with such artistry as to assume an identity that is quite unique and able to stand proudly in its own right. At its most extrovert, the playing has a Lisztian grandeur.


Roberts’ version of Rachmaninov’s song How Beautiful it is Here! is given marvellously lyrical treatment, each note clothed in gorgeous cantabile tone. The same composer’s The Morn of Life, Sleep is a model of introspection.


Is there a more hackneyed work in the American canon than Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue? Here, though, Roberts demonstrates a mastery of style and an heroic physical command of the instrument which, at climaxes, generates massive waves of noble sound. Bravo!


The Largo ma no tanto from Bach’s Concerto for two violins is another gem which leaves little doubt that Roberts is a born Bach interpreter; this offering cannot be faulted.


Tchaikowsky’s 1812 overture runs for more than a quarter hour – and every moment of it makes for thrilling listening.


This compilation is a stunningly fine example of the transcriber’s art.


ROBERTS  is in Olympian form in Bach’s Goldberg Variations which comes across as a chaplet of near-faultlessly fashioned pianistic gems. Variation 8, for instance, has a delightfully spiky, buoyant quality, Variation 10 is memorable for its emphatic rhythms – and there’s a wondrous clarity and control in Variation 11. Variation 12 is in the best sense danceable – and the bold, abruptly peremptory quality of Variation 16 could hardly have been bettered. A dainty, graceful account of Variation 17 makes for sheerly beautiful listening – and the intricate delicacy of Roberts playing in the20th variation calls finest Brussels lace to mind.


There’s no lack of virtuosity when called for: Variation 23 is given refreshingly forthright treatment – and Variation 23 is informed by fantastic agility and precision.  Variation 30, though, calls for a more paean-like quality.


A bonus takes the form of three transcriptions of Bach originals: Aus liebe from the St Matthew Passion comes across as an essay in achingly poignant terms – and the darkly bodeful despair that is the essence of Es ist Vollbracht from the St John Passion is as much an instance of the transcribers art at its highest as it is a profoundly probing interpretation.

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

A surpassingly fine account of a baroque oboe concerto was the chief joy of the first half of a concert which climaxed with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. That series of four concertos for violin has been the asthmatic, red-haired composer-priest’s biggest drawcard since being rescued from oblivion some sixty years ago. These concertos have never fallen out of favour since so, predictably, Vivaldi’s all-time big hit drew an audience of some 1200 aficionados who filled the stalls and lower gallery of the Concert Hall to capacity.

The only non-Vivaldi work on offer was Evaristo Dall’Abaco’s Concerto in C for oboe and strings, music I’d imagine might have been new to most. Here, Kirsten Barry scaled the heights, her skill on the baroque oboe, that much mellower, less piercing-toned ancestor of the modern oboe, is phenomenal, producing a near-faultlessly fashioned stream of sound that seduced the ear whether in the charmingly buoyant gigue which opens the concerto or the ultra-civilised minuet movement that brings the work to a close. The stately elegance of the finale was perfectly captured.

Throughout, Barry had the inestimable advantage of an accompaniment by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra which, on present form, makes it the nation’s most accomplished baroque ensemble.

In The Four Seasons, soloist Lucinda Moon and the ABO pooled their formidable musical skills to glorious effect. Although Ms Moon must long since have lost count of the number of times she has played this quartet of concertos, there wasn’t a hint here of concentration wearing thin. This was no routine, run-of-the-mill reading. Instead, page after page of what must surely be the most enduringly popular of all baroque concertos for the violin, came across as if freshly minted but always within the line and contour of the 18th century. Superbly synchronised, soloist and orchestra were throughout pitted against each other in insightful ways.

Many factors, of course, contribute to performance, not least technical finesse and stylistic integrity, both of which were present in abundance. Over and above these crucial factors, though, was a youthful exuberance, a shared enthusiasm that elevated whatever the ABO touched to impressive levels of achievement.

A rewarding evening also included a Vivaldi concerto for two baroque horns with Darryl Poulsen and James McCrow as soloists. Without either keys or valves, these treacherous precursors of the modern horn are almost impossible to control completely. They pose nightmarish difficulties for players. But notwithstanding a sprinkling of crumpled notes, the soloists rose admirably to the challenge, playing with flair and style to emerge at concerto’s end with honour pretty much intact – no small achievement.

Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn

VIVALDI The Four Seasons

Concerto for 2 violins RV522
Concerto for 2 violins RV511
Nigel Kennedy (violin)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

EMI 7243 5 57647 20
TPT: 1:01:45

   reviewed by Neville Cohn 

Yet another recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? Is not the catalogue overburdened with versions of this well-worn work? Is there a good reason for yet another recording coming on to the market? These are some of the questions that even the most die-hard Vivaldi enthusiasts might be asking themselves. Is there anything about this umpteenth version that makes the effort and cost to produce it worthwhile?

Yes! Very much so.

Why? One has only to listen to the opening measures of the work to realise that there IS a special factor at play (no pun intended) here. This account put me in mind of a recital by Ivo Pogorelich that I attended a good many years ago. It was a program of standard keyboard master works – a French Suite by Bach, a sonata by Beethoven and a bracket of Chopin pieces.

Just before that recital began, I asked myself the same questions I’ve just posed about Kennedy’s recording. Was this going to be yet another routinely professional, polished effort – or would it be something to write home about. It was – and for much the same reason that makes Nigel Kennedy’s Four Seasons so compellingly listenable.

After Pogorelich’s recital, I resorted to a botanical analogy, as I do here. Consider a flower, say, a rosebud. It is instantly recognisable as such. .Now, imagine an intensely bright shaft of light shining upwards from the base of the bud. Instantly, we will see the contours of unopened petals within the bud and the traceries of its venous system as well as the stamen at its heart, ALL invisible to the naked eye until the light was projected through the bud.

Now, the bud has not in any way altered. It is still the same bud. But, because of the very bright shaft of light projected through it, our understanding – and appreciation – of the bud has broadened and deepened.

As with Pogorelich, so with Kennedy. Without resorting to gimmickry or playing to the gallery, the performance, like the light through the bud, gives us a more intimate understanding of the music, it draws us into the heart of the music, giving us a greater appreciation of its worth. And that is far harder to do than one might imagine. It calls for absolute control of the instrument, a profound understanding of style – and an ability to reveal (as does the shaft of light) – the inner essence of the music. Kennedy achieves this to superb effect. It is this that elevates his reading of the Four Seasons to a very high category of excellence. In this recording, as if drawing inspiration from their soloist and director, the strings of the BPO play with a vitality and style that do them – and their great soloist – proud. In the two concertos for two violins, Kennedy is joined by an on-form Daniel Stabrawa.

The sound engineers have done a superb job with wraparound corporate tone that makes one feel as if we are listening from a seat within the orchestra. It gives a marvellous immediacy to the presentation. In the finale of the concerto RV522, the rich, grainy tone, rhythmic bite and concentrated energy that inform even the meanest phrase, makes for electrifying listening. Highly recommended.

© November 2003

W.A.Symphony Orchestra – The Four Seasons

W.A.Symphony Orchestra



At the Gallery 3: The Four Seasons
Daniel Kossov (conductor/violin)

Art Gallery of W.A.


reviewed by Neville Cohn


The program leaflet for this concert contained a detailed note by Cathie Travers on After the Requiem, her most recent work. But I deliberately refrained from reading it until I had heard the piece which was given its world premiere performance by the strings of the W.A.Symphony Orchestra for an audience that occupied every seat at the Art Gallery of W.A..


It opens with a sustained single note thus claiming a distant kinship with the opening measures of Borodin’s On the Steppes of Central Asia and Smetana’s String Quartet No 1 (From my Life), the finale of which also has a high-pitched sustained note of dramatic significance; it is the sound that rang in Smetana’s ear as a form of tinnitus that presaged deafness which, more than anything else, tipped him over the edge into terminal madness.


In the right hands, the use of a single note can be a powerful device. And in Travers’ piece, the quietness of this ushering-in of the work was, in its way, more effective than a blaring klaxon in focussing attention on the piece. It gives way to an episode in quasi-folksy style that falls agreeably on the ear, as do measures of a louder, more rhythmically emphatic sort. I particularly liked the effect of high-pitched harmonics that sounded like the twitterings of some angelic aviary. Certainly, listening to the WASO strings upfront and close made for rewarding listening.


A program note provides intriguing information about the genesis of the piece – but it isn’t necessary to know anything about its rationale to derive satisfaction from listening to it. Considered as an essay in musical abstraction, it is more than able to hold its own.

I understand that all fifteen miniatures commissioned by the WASO to mark its 75th anniversary are to be preserved on compact disc. Travers’ piece will be one of the highlights of this collection.

Daniel Kossov, in a white suit, with black, open-neck shirt and shoes, conducted the work and then, directing the WASO strings from the violin – as well as playing from memory (no small feat) – presented Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor as well as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Although the latter set of four, 3-movement concertos inspired by the changing seasons, is one of the world’s most loved and frequently heard works, it is only very infrequently heard ‘live’ in Perth. So Kossov’s account was of more than passing interest. I found this account as satisfying as that provided by Felix Ayo with I Musici which visited Perth in 1985.


From the opening bars, it was clear that this young musician was the man for the job, bringing a rock solid technique and a fine grasp of style to his presentation. Throughout, Kossov’s colleagues responded to his direction
in an unfailingly musicianly way.

Alan Dodge spoke at length before each work, frequently alluding to this painting or that to illustrate (no pun intended) the points he makes. But, as I am not an art expert (and I imagine this might apply to others who attend these Art gallery concerts) Dodge’ s dissertations, in the absence of images of the paintings, are exasperating rather than enlightening. Would it not make more sense to let us SEE the paintings being talked about. And rather than rabbiting on at length before each piece is played, could it not be arranged for Dodge to give a PRE-concert talk, say at 7:15pm, in the Gallery foyer so that the concert proper can begin on time and be allowed to continue without interruption?

© November 2003