VIVALDI’s Five Seasons – Quintessence Saxophone Quintet – CPO Special 777 366-2, 59:04 ***** [Distr. by Naxos]:
There have been many alternative transcriptions of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, including I believe a previous one by a sax quartet. They have spanned both classical and jazz versions. However, this is the first by a sax quintet and the first to add a “fifth season” – an original concerto in a jazzy version of Vivaldi’s three-movement style. The composer – Uli Lettermann – is a member of the quintet.
This is definitely a classical-jazz crossover effort. Though in the first Spring concerto the arrangements hew rather closely to Vivaldi’s baroque original, the Summer concerto moves more into a relaxed jazz vein, and the Fall gets quite a groove on. By Winter things get a bit more strict according to Vivaldi, but the Fifth season swings considerably, almost like Third Stream music. The recording quality is good, but I was wishing this were one of CPO’s SACD releases, with perhaps the quintet arrayed in a horseshoe shape around the listener, as the Tacet label would do it.
– John Sunier