In 1989 Nigel Kennedy made his breakthrough recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. In his sleeve notes to that famous release, Kennedy stressed that he had rejected the idea of playing Vivaldi's suite of violin concertos in either the "authentic" fashion, using period instruments or in the more florid "romantic" style. He explained that his objective was to use "every kind of technique I know" to communicate his feeling for the music to his listeners. He didn't believe that The Four Seasons was confined to any particular point in time, because it "has far more to offer than mere historical interest.”
Now, in 2015, Kennedy returns with a completely fresh take on The Four Seasons, but while the music sounds hugely different, his creative attitude is the same. Once again he has set out to prove that The Four Seasons can be music for all time and in his opinion, there's no reason why Vivaldi's masterpiece shouldn't be opened up to embrace developments in musical instrument technology or even new musical styles undreamt of in Vivaldi's 18th century world. Any forward-looking composer, Kennedy reasons, would have been delighted to exploit the potential of more expressive or sophisticated instrumentation if it had been available to him.
Kennedy's fans have already had a chance to hear his The New Four Seasons in concert, so some of the musical innovations crammed into this new recording will seem familiar. Integral to the Kennedy approach is the drum programming of Massive Attack's Damon Reece, which adds a mesmerizing rhythmic pulse underneath the crisply-articulated playing of Kennedy's ‘Orchestra of Life’. This hand-picked ensemble of enthusiastic young musicians, under orchestra leader Lizzie Ball, is an extension of Kennedy's own adventurous philosophy. They're willing to follow Kennedy's imaginative flights wherever they might take him, while always keeping him anchored, somehow, to Vivaldi's original blueprint.
Still, there's no denying that Kennedy has taken a few liberties. For example, he has introduced a selection of poems which describe in words some of the images of landscape and nature which Vivaldi's music was intended to evoke. Kennedy has set the poetry to short passages of his own music and they're sung here by a vocal quartet comprising Zee Gachette, Xantone Blacq, Kakie Taylor-Black and Lucy Potterton. Again, Kennedy has decided that it's time to move on from the standard keyboard instrument of Vivaldi's baroque era, the harpsichord and to take advantage of its more modern successors, the piano and the Hammond organ. He adds: "I am also introducing a range of electric instruments into this new interpretation."
Vivaldi's Four Seasons: but not as we have previously known them. The rhythms, the tonal palette and the instrumentation are different and the introduction of voices and electricity clearly move the piece into a different dimension, but creativity means change and the last thing Nigel Kennedy will ever do is stand still.