Every week, my classical station , with which I have a long and complicated love-frustration relationship, features a “CD Pick of the Week.” The twelfth time in a week you hear the same piece, you realize “Oh! It’s the CD Pick!” It’s great when it’s an omnibus of Beethoven’s piano music, or the Liebeslieder Waltzes, or even the Washington Saxophone Quartet.
This week it is Vivaldi. Played on the mandolin.
Where is the Valium?
I am sure Avi Avital is a nice guy, a really nice guy, and an instrumentalist of unquestionable skill, but why O why did someone with skill to burn have to pick this instrument, the one that for all the world sounds like an unmanicured cat dancing on the top octaves of an open grand piano, and then play on it Vivaldi, the Titan of overly caffeinated deedle-deedle music whose every measure is either an ostinato, a trill, or an octave jump? (I know my old friend Zeus is now loading his crossbow with a fowling quarrel, but I’m sorry: Vivaldi wrote the most simultaneously boring and nerve-racking music in the European corpus.) It sounds like someone suffering from hives with fleas who have jock itch. How he can carry on about the soul of it, while making heavy-metal faces as he performs, is beyond my comprehension.
This has been going on all week. There’ll be an asskicking performance of a Brahms Symphony, the Holberg Suite say — and then this. I’m hanging on by my fingernails.