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Omer Meir Wellber — “Vivaldi & Piazzolla: The Mandolin Seasons” (Hyperion, 2022)

Abstract:

Embarking on the creation of “Vivaldi & Piazzolla: The Mandolin Seasons” alongside the accomplished mandolinist Jacob Reuven has been a deeply personal and enriching journey. This collaborative effort, slated for release in April 2022, represents the harmonious convergence of our distinct musical backgrounds, resulting in a project that holds a special place in my heart.

Our collaboration with Jacob began with an admiration for his unique mandolin approach, rooted in a deep exploration of violin repertoire from a young age. His virtuosic adaptations brought a dazzling quality to the mandolin, expanding its possibilities and setting the stage for a groundbreaking album. Despite the challenges inherent in performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on the mandolin, Jacob’s dream laid the foundation for an album promising audiences a fresh perspective on familiar compositions.

The innovative process unfolded organically as we sought to seamlessly intertwine the continuo element, drawing from my extensive experience with continuo in Mozart and Jacob’s virtuosic adaptations. We crafted a unique approach for both Vivaldi and Piazzolla, treating the absence of a continuo part in Piazzolla’s work as an opportunity to infuse a Baroque touch. The result is a captivating blend of two musical worlds separated by 200 years, with Vivaldi adopting a modern continuo approach.

The orchestrated elements played a crucial role in unifying the two distinct pieces, utilizing my accordion skills for Vivaldi and the cembalo for Piazzolla. Maintaining a consistent interpretive key for both composers, we aimed to create a cohesive narrative that highlights hidden nuances within each piece, offering listeners a musical experience they might never have imagined. “Vivaldi & Piazzolla: The Mandolin Seasons” is not just a recording; it’s a celebration of artistic exploration, collaboration, and the boundless possibilities that emerge when musicians share a passion for pushing boundaries and creating something extraordinary.

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Publication date:

ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

My recent collaboration with the accomplished mandolinist Jacob Reuven has given birth to a project that I hold close to my heart – “Vivaldi & Piazzolla: The Mandolin Seasons.” This album, set to release in April 2022, is a testament to the convergence of our diverse musical backgrounds and the creative synergy that emerged during the recording process.

The journey with Jacob Reuven began with an appreciation for his unique approach to the mandolin. Unlike many mandolinists, Jacob delved into the world of violin repertoire from a young age, presenting skillful adaptations that expanded the instrument’s possibilities. The mandolin’s repertoire may be relatively small, but Jacob’s dedication to the virtuosic violin pieces added a dazzling quality to his playing. His dream of performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on the mandolin, despite its inherent challenges, set the stage for an album that promises listeners an entirely fresh perspective on familiar compositions.

The collaboration with Jacob is a testament to the fusion of our distinct musical journeys. While he navigated the intricacies of virtuosic violin music, I immersed myself in a comprehensive Mozart project, focusing on the continuo. Having played over 200 shows of Mozart operas in the past six years, I found myself exploring new contemporary approaches to continuo. This shared commitment to pushing boundaries and seeking freshness in our respective roles paved the way for the innovative interpretation found in “The Mandolin Seasons.”

The creative process unfolded organically as we sought to intertwine the continuo element seamlessly. Drawing from my experience with continuo in Mozart and Jacob’s virtuosic adaptations, we crafted a unique approach for both Vivaldi and Piazzolla. In the absence of a continuo part in Piazzolla’s work, I took the liberty to create one, treating it as if it were Baroque music. The result is a Piazzolla piece with a Baroque touch, while Vivaldi adopts a modern approach to the continuo, providing a captivating blend of two musical worlds separated by 200 years.

The orchestration played a pivotal role in unifying the two distinct pieces. Leveraging my skills on the accordion for Vivaldi and the cembalo for Piazzolla, the orchestrated elements served as a bridge, connecting the compositions in a novel and exciting manner. By maintaining a consistent interpretive key for both composers, I aimed to create a cohesive narrative that highlights the hidden nuances within each piece, offering listeners a musical experience they might never have imagined.

The challenges posed by the worldwide pandemic inadvertently became an opportunity for our project. The availability of the Gewandhaus hall and musicians, due to the orchestra’s temporary hiatus, allowed us the luxury of time and commitment. Unlike other recordings, where squeezing in sessions amidst a busy schedule can be challenging, we had the full support and dedication of the orchestra musicians. This unique circumstance provided an ideal setting for our improvised approach to recording, allowing us to explore and experiment with different interpretations.

Every aspect of this project, from the collaboration with Jacob Reuven to the incorporation of improvisation, contributed to a profoundly creative process. While I had prepared some ideas, the spontaneity of our approach added an extra layer of excitement. Recording a take, reflecting on the improvisation, and making decisions on the fly created an environment where each note felt alive and connected to the moment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, “Vivaldi & Piazzolla: The Mandolin Seasons” represents not just a recording but a celebration of artistic exploration and collaboration. Jacob Reuven’s virtuosic mandolin playing and my innovative approach to continuo have converged to breathe new life into these timeless compositions. As listeners embark on this musical journey, I hope they discover the hidden intricacies, the vibrant interplay of instruments, and the joy of experiencing familiar music in an entirely new light. This album is a testament to the power of artistic collaboration and the endless possibilities that emerge when musicians come together with a shared passion for pushing boundaries and creating something truly extraordinary.

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