Vivaldi: Four Seasons (Arranged For Piano) / Jeffrey Biegel

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Why transcribe Vivaldi's ubiquitous Four Seasons for solo piano when a gazillion recordings of the orchestral original can be had? That's a question pianist and transcriber Jeffrey Biegel eloquently addresses in the booklet notes he provides for his own performance. In essence, Biegel elaborates upon and embellishes the unaccredited solo-piano Four Seasons arrangement published by Ricordi with a keen sense of style and keyboard deployment. His vivacious, gorgeously detailed, thoroughly committed, and beautifully engineered piano playing constantly delights.

The wealth of tone color Biegel squeezes from the endless violin trills in high registers precludes any danger of the music turning percussive or tinkly, while rapid repeated notes and double notes effortlessly fall from his fingers (the G minor's Presto is quite a tour-de-force in this regard). Listen also to how adroitly Biegel weighs the dissonances in the F minor first movement's churning accompaniment.

Andrew Gentile's two concerto transcriptions are no less effective, mainly due to Biegel's ear for detail, such as the varied articulations and dynamic contrasts he brings to echoed passages (the C major mandolin concerto's finale, for example). What easily could have been a gimmick turns out to be no less than one of 2009's most enjoyable piano recordings. Don't judge it before you hear it!

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com,

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I know, I know. It’s the forfeit one pays as a reviewer to receive another arrangement of the Four Seasons to listen to, and despair over. But wait—wrong! This is a fabulous exception, so don’t pass over this review until I’ve convinced you to buy a copy or to give it a go, at least.

This is the Ricordi arrangement, made anonymously, as augmented and arranged by pianist Jeffrey Biegel. You’ll wonder how the verdant chirpings, guttural barking and chilly, warming, and other topical seasonal states come over on a piano and I will tell you: very nicely indeed, believe it or not. If I came to scoff, I stayed to enjoy, and so will you, unless you’re made of sterner stuff. The recording quality, let me add, is first class.

The thing that impresses throughout is the variety of articulation that Biegel summons up. He is crisp, bright, even, sustains the writing through deft voicings (Spring’s Largo) and through clarity and variety of timbre. There’s real buoyancy to his finales. He generates amazing drive and animation in, say, the Presto finale of Summer. Nor does he stint the wit inherent in, say, the Allegro finale of Autumn which, I must say, I find defter and genuinely funnier than any orchestral performance. I’m not sure I should—but I do. The opening of Winter is powerfully compelling, and the trills and decorations in the slow movement are equally diverting; I wondered if its sparseness would defeat Biegel but it doesn’t; he flecks the writing with great felicity. And the Allegro finale of Winter sounds like an organ fantasia at its start; like a Bach-Siloti spectacular. Terrific stuff all round.

The two extra items are in the same mould, though these are original adaptations and arrangements by Andrew Gentile. Vital and exciting, with free embellishments in the Largo of the Mandolin Concerto, I equally defy you to find these unattractive. The delicacy and lyricism embedded in this transcription of the Lute Concerto’s slow movement is considerable. There’s textual depth here and no mistake.

So I began with a feeling of weary subjugation and ended elated. What more do you want from a disc?

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: 8570031


  • UPC: 747313003174


  • Label: Naxos


  • Composer: Antonio Vivaldi


  • Performer: Jeffrey Biegel