Vivaldi - Four Seasons
Nicolas Meier's Modern Guitar Orchestra's Vivaldi - Four Seasons was released a while back in 2004 on the American classical label Centaur. The Modern Guitar Orchestra is the multi-tracked Nicolas Meier on acoustic, electric and synth guitars, with a special guest guitar solo by veteran guitarist John Etheridge on tracks 14 and 15. This album is as fresh as the day it was released and more than deserving of much wider attention.
Meier is of a course a most prodigious guitar talent, right in the top rank of the younger stars of the instrument on both the British and international scenes. Fundamentally a jazz guitarist, as with all great players it would be inappropriate and downright unkind to thus tie Meier down to one genre though. Here, his 'excursion' is into the world of classical music. Not, mind you, straightforward classical guitar. Oh no. Meier is far too original and inventive and instead has, masterfully, arranged Vivaldi's Four Seasons for (multi-tracked) acoustic, electric and synth guitars, with the addition of a brief intro and a short suite of three originals by way of an epilogue.
In effect, Vivaldi - Four Seasons provides Meier with a wonderful solo guitar showcase for his brilliant virtuosity as well as his vast inventiveness and imaginativeness. Indeed, this is a veritable tour de force that Meier handles brilliantly and beautifully. He even has the confidence and chutzpah to accommodate two brilliant guitar solos by veteran guitar legend John Etheridge, on Promesse and Guidance.
Vivaldi's The Four Seasons is probably the most adapted piece of classical or Baroque music, and it is evidence, if such were needed, of the music's genius that it not only still speaks to young musicians over and over again but indeed still inspires them to find something new in it. Of the countless adaptations for different instruments or groups of instruments there have been over the years, Nicolas Meier's is undoubtedly one of the most original that I have heard yet. It is both inspired and inspiring. Meier manages to stay so perfectly true to the spirit of the work that you could be forgiven thinking that the Red Priest himself had originally written it for acoustic, electric and synth guitar. Indeed, Meier is as inspirational as Vivaldi's music. His performance is nothing short of spectacular and sensational and indeed awe-inspiring. For an artist who wasn't yet thirty at the time recording started, this is also astoundingly mature work.
The Intro and the Guidance mini-suite by Meier that closes the album fit seamlessly with Vivaldi's work. Seasons in the latter suite seems to summarize the feel of the seasons subtly yet dramatically and provides the perfect closer, with its reflectiveness providing the perfect balance to all the previous excitement.
A perfectly consistent album, Nicolas Meier's Vivaldi - Four Seasons is more than compelling and enchanting - it is seriously addictive. It is very hard indeed to find sufficient superlatives for this album. Meier and this album have been described as "perfectly bonkers" in the past. Yes, of course, madness this certainly is. The madness of genius.
The sleeve notes include translations of the four Italian sonnets that prefaced each of the four concertos making up The Four Seasons when they were first published. These may have been written by Vivaldi himself and acted as "programme notes". More than a century before the programmatic music of the romantic composers Vivaldi already foreshadowed this within the context and confines of Baroque music with his The Four Seasons, much as in painting Turner foreshadowed the impressionists.
As exciting, entrancing, mesmerising, spectacular, sensational, breathtaking, sheer "bonkers" an album as Nicolas Meier's Vivaldi - Four Seasons must be beyond essential in any good music collection, and especially in any truly enlightened classical collection and beyond that any good jazz, world music or guitar collection. Sheer joy. Vivaldi - Four Seasons is an absolute must-have album. One can only hope that it will not go 'out of print' for a very long time to come.
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