Tasmin Little & Roxanna Panufnik – Four World Seasons

It’s an interesting program, coupling Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with Roxanna Panufnik’s modern take on the same subject. And it’s one that works very well. The connective thread is the talent of violinist Tasmin Little.

Little’s performance of the “Four Seasons” with the BBC Symphony Orchestra is a spirited one. Her solo work is beautifully crafted as always. In the over-crowded field of “Four Season” recordings, this one definitely rises to the top. As a conductor, Little keeps things moving along without sounding rushed.

Of greater interest (for me) was Roxanna Panufnik’s “Four World Seasons.” Little and Panufnik are long-time friends as well as collaborators.

Each movement of Panufnik’s work not only represents a different season but a different part of the world. The first movement, “Autumn in Albania,” is perhaps the most personal. As she notes, her father — Polish composer Andrej Panufnik — “was born, loved, and died in autumn.” The music is infused with Slavic folk idioms, while at the same time sounding fresh and contemporary.

The other three movements were written for Tasmin Little and, as expected, showcase her strengths as a performer. There’s plenty of opportunity for technical brilliance, which Little accomplishes with ease. Of greater importance is the melodic content, which Little delivers with sensitivity and beauty.

If you like Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, you should enjoy “Four World Seasons.” Panufnik skillfully incorporates native musical languages into the work to really give the listener a strong sense of place.

“Tibetan Winter” features a Tibetian singing bowl, for example. “Indian Summer” uses the violin performance practices of Northern India. “Spring in Japan” has the strings mimic the delicacy of the koto. It’s a beautifully crafted work and one that reveals more details with each listening — especially through an SACD player.

By all means, come for the Vivaldi. But if you’re like me, you’ll stay for the Panufnik.

A Violin for All Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Roxanna Panufnik: The World Seasons
Tasmin Little, violin soloist, conductor
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Chandos CHSA 5175 SACD

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