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The audacity of Hope — and Richter

Max Richter

Max Richter

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‘Four Seasons’ Recomposed by Max Richter

Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park

7 p.m. June 23

Pavilion tickets $25-$65/Lawn $10


Updated: June 19, 2013 1:30PM

British composer Max Richter has recomposed “The Four Seasons.”

Yes, Richter has tampered significantly with Vivaldi’s magnificent set of violin concertos, which have been chronicling the cycles of nature since they were published in 1725.

But before posting an irate Facebook comment, listen to what Daniel Hope, British violin soloist in the new work at Ravinia, has to say about the project. “It was March of 2012 when Max told me he was recomposing Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons.’ It’s one of the great masterpieces of music, so I asked him what was wrong with it.”

To which Richter replied, “Nothing. It’s perfect.”

“But he went on to say that the concertos have become so familiar that they are played incessantly. They have become elevator music and you hear them when you’re put on hold,” Hope said. “So he felt bombarded by them, and something in his subconscious made him want to rediscover them.”

Richter has a considerable reputation as an award-winning contemporary composer, writing for film, ballet and the concert hall, so Hope gave him the benefit of the doubt. “He is someone who is very serious about music,” the violinist continued, “so I said ‘Let’s talk’ and he sent me some sketches.

“I’ve played the original ‘Four Seasons’ since I was a boy and when I saw the sketches it seemed Richter and I were on the same wave length,” he said, speaking from Vienna. “I took to it immediately and asked for more sketches. Now I have come to think of it not so much as a work recomposed as reframed. Like a beautiful painting that gets a new frame, which then gives a new perspective to everyone who sees it.”

The violinist was also impressed with the reverence and respect that Richter had for the original score. “We fell in love with the original ages ago,” he said, “and now, we have fallen in love with it all over again.”

Hope and the Konzerthaus Berlin Orchestera, conducted by Andre de Ridder, recorded Richter’s recomposed Vivaldi on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label, and it has been on Billboard’s classical charts for close to 30 weeks.

The CD can be a puzzlement, sounding at first like Vivaldi taking a short ride in Adams’ fast machine. Then suddenly, Vivaldi surfaces, like a golden daffodil, full blown and beautiful, though not for long. According to the liner notes, Richter jettisoned about three-quarters of the score and uses electronic instruments liberally.

The composer himself admits that his work was challenging. He is quoted as saying “At every point, I had to work out how much is Vivaldi and how much is me.”

He has praise for Hope, stating “He brought to [the new work] a deep engagement with the original, but he was fully prepared to cut this new swathe through the text.”

“Audiences have really loved it,” Hope said. “Ravinia’s pavilion will be the largest place where Richter’s recomposed Vivaldi has been played.”

Hope urges festival audiences to take a chance on this audacious enterprise. “Max has kept all the elements of ‘The Four Seasons’ that we know and love,” he said, “but it is done with the eyes of today. It is going to be very exciting.”

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