4 Elements – 4 Seasons (2009)

by | Oct 6, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

4 Elements – 4 Seasons (2009)

“Choreographic Concert” of REBEL: Les Elements & VIVALDI: The Four SeasonsPerformers: Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola, dancer; Midor Seiler, solo violin; Academy for Alte Musik Berlin/Clemens-Maria NuszbaumerStudio: Radialsystem V/Academy for Alte Musik/Sasha Waltz & Guests/Harmonia mundi HMD 9909026
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: DTS 5.0, PCM stereo
All zones
Subtitles: English, French, German
Extras: Bonus interviews with Juan Krus Diaz, Midor, Folkert Unde – producer from Radiosystem V, Reading by Unde of all the poems preluding The Four Seasons
Length: 1 hour 18 minutes
Rating: ***(**)

This production reminded me of the several RCA laserdiscs of European concert music productions from the early 90s directed by the Swiss Adrian Marthaler, dubbed “Classic Visions.”  Their slogan was “Music for the eye and pictures for the ear…A performance limited only by the imagination.”  Some of those were very clever and fun, while others were just plain strange.  The same goes for this odd DVD, I’m afraid.  

The presentation was first presented at the new space for the arts in Berlin, Radialsystem V, as a collaboration with the chamber music group and Sasha Waltz & Guests. The idea was to juxtapose two almost contemporaneous yet quite different works in a concert including choreography. Both Rebel’s Les Elements suite of 1737 and Vivaldi’s famous set of violin concertos from 1725, taking depictions of nature as their starting points. The notes call this “a new type of performance going beyond the traditional framework of the concert.”

The first half features the orchestra in the dark background surrounding the small dance floor in the middle on which dancer/choreographer Juan Krus Diaz writhes around – both on the floor and standing up – in a depiction intended to show the process of creation and the cycle of growth and decay.  I guess. The work opens with its famous clashing chaos chord – which Haydn lifted later for the opening of his The Creation.  As far as I was concerned, the piece went downhill both musically and dance-wise from that point, but then I’m not a dance aficianado. Such may actually find this quite interesting to watch.

The second half is an all-out depiction of each of Vivaldi’s Seasons in which the entire chamber orchestra participates – the musicians often doing things they would never in a million years have expected to be asked to do in their normal concert performances. They twist their heads mechanically (birds for Spring, perhaps?), move their whole bodies and instruments in time to the music, and in one very odd scene string themselves to one another via long red ribbons coming out of their mouths. The lovely Midori is a game girl – she plays beautifully (surely the music track was pre-taped) whilst being subject to such indignities as being picked up bodily and moved from one place to another, having fake snow dropped on her head by a dancer from a ladder above, and being “killed” by numerous violin bows jabbed into her back in an artistic pattern.

The orchestra is divided into two smaller string ensembles at the left and right sides of the stage, each with a harpsichord as the continuo instrument, and a “concertino” ensemble in the foreground between them – consisting of the solo violin, cello and lute.  One of the silliest parts of the choreography to my mind was the players all suddenly putting a large while kerchief over their heads while continuing to play.  The particular concerto was Winter, so I suppose that signified being cold, or snow perhaps?  There’s something about the Germanic sense of humor…it’s different, no doubt about that. The video work and the DTS surround soundtrack are first rate.  There have been some other visualizations of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on DVD, but this one is certainly…well…unique.

 – John Sunier

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