Violinist Alexandra Conunova Releases a Fiery, Individualistic Take on an Iconic Suite as Solace for Troubled Times
During the early days of the lockdown, violinist Alexandra Conunova played parts of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons from her balcony for anyone within earshot.
Is that heroism, or what?
Here in the United States, most of the country remains unable to legally assemble to play music like this for any substantial audience. Fortuitously, inspired by the grateful response of her neighbors, Conunova was able to assemble a bunch of friends and recorded the iconic suite which has (bad pun alert) year-round appeal but here in New York has always been a staple of holiday concerts. If you know of any clandestine performances of the Four Seasons this month, go – otherwise you can hear this electrifying and often stunningly dynamic performance at youtube.
The ensemble open with Autumn and follow with Winter, Spring and Summer, rather than beginning with Spring as some groups do. Overall, this recording is on the brisk, even harried side, and when it’s not, it’s especially dreamy. Moments of starkness – like the crackling staccato in the second movement of Spring – can be genuinely breathtaking, perhaps a reflection on the current state of the world. Yet otherwise, the adagio in Autumn is hauntingly luxuriant, with remarkable contrast between strings and harpsichord. And the almost jolly stroll the group give the middle movement of Winter comes as a shock in a lot of ways: even so, this unorthodox interpretation makes thematic sense.
Conunova fires off her cadenzas with a quicksilver relish, but also an edge that’s reinforced by the headlong charge the rest of the group make in many of the faster parts: the intro and outro to Winter have as much savagery as anyone could possibly want. Likewise, the way the group explode into action midway through the opening movement of Summer. A practically defiant triumph for an inspired, rotating crew including violinists François Sochard, Dmitry Serebrennikov, Anna Vasilyeva, Marc Daniel van Biemen, Filipe Johnson and Katia Trabe; violists Blythe Teh Engstroem and Izabel Markova; cellists Anastasia Kobekina and Eric Zorgniotti; bassist Ivy Wong and harpsichordist Paolo Corsi.