Two glorious Czech masterpieces are presented on this 2014 release from Alpha, performed on period instruments by the exceptional Anima Eterna Brugge, directed by Jos van Immerseel. Considering that Antonín Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World" was completed in 1893, and Leos Janácek's Sinfonietta dates from 1926, and the period instruments movement mostly has been concerned with Baroque and Classical era works, original instrumentation might strike some listeners as odd. Yet performances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries called for instruments that differ substantially in construction and tone quality from modern models, and the variety of timbres was much greater with handmade instruments than the homogenized sounds of today's mass-produced woodwinds and brass.
If anyone has earned the right to mess around with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons it is Nigel Kennedy, the violin world’s Marmite violinist. Remember how fresh he made this music sound on his recording of a quarter-century ago? This latest version offers a ferment of all he’s played since – concertos, jazz, Jimi Hendrix. It’s affectionate and irreverent in equal measure, and Kennedy and his Orchestra of Life never sound less than riveting. Pretty much all Vivaldi’s notes are there; around, above and in between them come interjections, overlays and linking passages involving guest musicians from jazz and rock: Orphy Robinson, Damon Reece, Z-Star and others. Spring is welcomed in by a distant-sounding intro on an electric-guitar. Summer’s storms bring forth bursts of crazily sampled static. Autumn tears off at a cracking pace, but with a jazz trumpet sauntering lazily over the top. It all sounds like a colossal jam session from the inside of a Botticelli painting.