What is known as a cover in pop music -- a composer and/or performer making a song his or her own -- is ancient history in classical music. In medieval and Renaissance times, the chant tune on which masses were built was commonly a cover of a standard issue cantus firmus. In the Baroque, Bach rewrote Vivaldi. Later Mozart rewrote Handel. Mendelssohn did it to Bach, as Liszt did to Mozart and many others. Mahler “improved” Beethoven; Stravinsky redid Pergolesi; Schoenberg orchestrated Brahms, likewise Ravel with Mussorgsky. Even Cage covered the Beatles, and Brian Eno can be found doing his thing on a recent CD titled “wagner transformed.”
All of which means that the German composer Max Richter’s recomposing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” throwing out a good deal of Vivaldi and taming what is left with electronica drones, loops and whatnot, is only the latest in a long line of covered classical wagons. Still, this latest “Four Seasons” has gotten a lot of attention thanks to a heavily promoted bestselling CD on Deutsche Grammophon by the versatile violinist Daniel Hope, who premiered the piece in London two years ago.
Now Hope takes Richter’s recomposition to Montecito, Calif., on Saturday night when he appears at the Music Academy of the West with several of its talented music students. Hope’s inventive program will also include another modern recomposition of a past master, Alfred Schnittke’s “A Paganini” for solo violin, as well as other solo pieces by the fanciful German Baroque composer Heinrich Biber and the equally idiosyncratic early 20th century Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff.
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