Opera Daily 🎶— Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
"My aim was to fall in love with the original again – and I have."
I am breaking the rules today.
There are periods in my life when I listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons Recomposed by composer Max Richter all day long. This is one of those weeks.
🎧 Listen here to the full piece:
I've always been curious about what happens inside our brains when we listen to the same music.
When was the last time you listened to a song on repeat?
I remember one long weekend in high school; it was I Can't Make You Love Me by American singer Bonnie Raitt. My boyfriend had broken my heart, and I must have played that song a thousand times. Not everyone knows this, but there’s a correlation between how young you are and how quickly heartache cycles through your system.
I am not sure I wanted to feel better that weekend. It opened my eyes to the idea that we get over things more quickly when we are young. Sometimes the most hopeful thing you can do is look directly at the darkness.
According to a study done by the University of Michigan, people listen to the same songs for comfort. The rush from dopamine might be the reason we love listening to the same songs over and over. Freud wrote about repetition as "the desire to return to an earlier state of things."
I don't pick up Max Richter when I feel down; instead, when I am hopeful about the future and need help seeing what is on the other side.
I strongly recommend the entire piece, but “Spring 1” is one of my favorites. I've never heard a piece that I would want to play at my wedding and my funeral. For me, it represents symbolic endings and new beginnings.
It's hope, love & growth all wrapped into one—the perfect Spring filled with rebirth and renewal.
Every movement from Vivaldi's Four Seasons creates images from the season in question. The energy of the strings might evoke a bird, a squirrel, a bee, or a seedling breaking through the soil.
Rather than using the highly recognizable main melody from Vivaldi's original, Richter uses a few simple bars from the same piece as the foundation for his re-working.
I’ve heard Richter say that just because you recompose something doesn’t mean that the original wasn’t good enough – it just means that you care about it enough you that you have to get deep into it. That you learn so much more about it than you did before when you have to take it apart. You realize which key elements must stay versus those that need to be blown up.
This process of recomposition reminds me of what we often do with the opera audience experience. We attempt to modernize it by adding technology and other elements we think will make it more accessible to a modern-day audience, but really, all we need to do is highlight the aspects that made it great in the first place. That’s what any audience wants to hear.
There is a piece on NPR on why Richter decided to take this project on. Richter says that as a child, he loved The Four Seasons. But as he grew older, that passion faded.
It's beautiful, charming music with a great melody and wonderful colors. Then, later on, as I became more musically aware — literate, studied music, and listened to a lot of music — I found it more difficult to love it.
We hear it everywhere — when you're on hold, you hear it in the shopping center, in advertising; it's everywhere.
For me, the record and the project are trying to reclaim the piece, to fall in love with it again.
In this article, classical violinist Daniel Hope shares his favorite moments of Max Richter’s Recomposed.
I love how he describes what is happening in “Autumn 3”:
Richter takes a short phrase of four measures and puts it in a repeating loop with a series of crisp interlocking rhythms against a slow, melancholy melody. “Autumn 3” for me is a masterpiece, Hope says. Max creates a minimalist heaven—but the material isn't by him, it's by Antonio Vivaldi in 1725. And that's an amazing ride to be on.
Here is the full piece [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]:
There are times I depart completely from the original, yes, but there are moments when it pokes through.
— Max Richter
I love this piece.
Richter’s recomposition preserves Vivaldi’s original spirit but alters it just enough to make it sound like it was meant for today's world.
This music has magical powers. I hope it helps you see what is on the other side, too.
Thank you for reading (and listening),
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