Coventry virtuoso challenges the world – and himself – to reading one of the most celebrated classical opuses with six strings only.
For Si Hayden one acoustic guitar is a key to virtuosity, as he proved so many times before on records such as "Supercharger", yet tackling a piece as famous as Antonio Vivaldi’s quartet of violin concertos with no overdubs, for the first time on CD, feels like a feat – with no heroics attached. It’s a reverential interpretation faithful to the 18th century composer’s original, although the limitations of Hayden’s instrument float to the exquisite surface in certain chromatic passages, which purists may find sacrilegious, but these inroads only add to the filigree and sensuality of Si’s approach. There’s transparency to his finger work as the maestro wisely doesn’t try to imitate the massed strings of each concerto’s faster parts like “Presto” of “L’estate” or opening “Allegro” of “La Primavera” in favor of weaving the light lace that turns weightlessly lucid on the slow ones, the adagios, to bare the opus’ folk undertow.
Thus, the guitarist adds a new layer to the classic without either embellishing or downgrading it, and it’s immensely interesting, up to intriguing, to see the varying angles from which he comes to recurring themes to peak with “Allegro non molto” when the winter time arrives. Where not so brave would follow the path of leading solo violin, Hayden also takes in the orchestral movements, sometimes even straying onto the harpsichord’s territory and running from high to low pitch in the autumnal part of his aural painting. Still, it’s not his boldness that impresses the most but the sheer beauty and wonder of the musical gauze being born, or rather reborn, before our very ears. A quiet triumph.