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Penguin Guide, January 2009

If Tchaikovsky’s 12 Seasons are to be arranged for violin, Takako Nishizaki is surely their ideal exponent, for she plays with delicacy and charm. She readily catches their moments of nostalgia as in January (‘By the Fireside’), Russian melancholy, as in March (‘Song of the Lark’) and their miniaturism, as in the April portrait of a ‘Snowdrop’,and she is in her element in the engaging ‘Barcarolle’, which Tchaikovsky chose for June. The scherzando for August, picturing ‘The Harvest’, also neatly scored, and in all the gentle numbers Peter Breiner’s orchestrations are felicitous. If the fully scored items (the February ‘Carnival’ and the brassy picture of the September ‘Hunt’) are rather inflated by the resonant acoustic, these arrangements overall can be counted a modest success, alongside those of the piano pieces from Op. 40 (the Danse russe will be recognized from Swan Lake), while the closing Rêverie has a proper salon daintiness.

Ivan March,
Gramophone, July 2003

"If they are to be transcribed for violin and orchestra, Takako Nishizaki is surely their ideal exponent, for she plays with delicacy yet fully displays the nostalgic charm of 'January' (subtitled 'By the Fireside'), and the springlike freshness of 'March' ('Song of the Lark').

The fanciful miniaturism of the 'April' portrait of a 'Snowdrop' is delightful, too, and she is in her element in the favourite [sic] number, the gentle romantic 'Barcarolle' which Tchaikovsky chose for 'June'. All these pieces are afforded discreetly scored accompaniments and the scherzo for 'August', depicting 'The Harvest', is also felicitous...The piano pieces from Op. 40...come off very pleasingly in their new livery, while the closing Reverie has a proper salon daintiness. Takako Nishizaki is a stylish and sweet-timbred exponent. Enjoyable performances."

John Phillips
MusicWeb International, June 2003

Most of us will be familiar with the piano solo version of The Seasons, and there has been an orchestral version (orchestrated by Gauk, conducted by Svetlanov, on Melodiya), but as far as I am aware, Naxos has scored a first with these arrangements for solo violin and orchestra.

At the time of composition, monthly magazines had become all the rage, and Tchaikovsky was asked to write these pieces for publication every month over a 12 month period. Notoriously lackadaisical with respect to commissions, Tchaikovsky must have found this commission from Nikolay Bernard of the periodical Nouvelliste somewhat irksome. Tchaikovsky instructed his servant to remind him each month that the next piece was due for completion, and it is just as well, as this action probably ensured that the commission was fulfilled.

Peter Breiner’s arrangement of these delightful pieces is very good, and should give pleasure to all who buy this disc. Generally the violin is given the principal theme in each movement with the orchestra playing the left-hand notes plus a few other harmonies. Breiner, born and trained in Czechoslovakia, now lives in Toronto. He has produced other transcriptions, such as Beatles tunes arranged in the Baroque style, and he both teaches and conducts, and has hosted TV music-based programmes. He is obviously therefore a well travelled musician, and these transcriptions of The Seasons get their first recording here.

In addition to The Seasons, Peter Breiner has also given us similar transcriptions of some other Tchaikovsky piano pieces for the same forces. We have five of Tchaikovsky’s 12 Morceaux Op. 40. One wonders why more were not included on this disc since there is plenty of time remaining on the disc for additional pieces.

Perhaps the best known movement, No.6 June is scored for violin with woodwind accompaniment supported generally by strings, and the remainder of the orchestra, with a few fireworks thrown in the middle. Fireworks is perhaps too extreme a description given that all these pieces are miniatures, and Peter Breiner has maintained this character in his arrangements.

The soloist, Takako Nishizaki plays with her usual ability, but there is no earth-shattering material to tax her undoubted skills here. Much the same goes for the orchestra, which accompanies the soloist admirably, but again the material is all very simple, and so they cope well without being stretched.

This is a very pleasant disc, well worth seeking out if you want some undemanding listening and you prefer an orchestral garb to the well known Tchaikovsky salon pieces.

W. S. Habington
La Scena Musicale

It is a pity that Torontonian Peter Breiner had to go all of the way to Australia to get his arrangements of Tchaikovsky piano miniatures recorded, but this disc was worth the effort. It is an unashamed delight to listen to. Breiner's orchestrations are soundly and unpretentiously conceived. The key element is restraint. Neither Breiner nor his excellent violin solist, Takako Nishizaki, stretch the music out of shape. It emerges naturally and every tune is recognizably Tchaikovsky. The Queensland Symphony join in the spirit of the enterprise with vigour and pointed wit. Peter Breiner immigrated to Canada from Czechoslovakia (as it was then) in 1992. He studied composition with the great Slovak symphonist, Alexander Moyses, at the Higher School of Music in Bratislava. He has an international profile as a composer, arranger, conductor and broadcaster. Based on the evidence of this disc, recordings of Breiner's original compositions would be worth hearing.

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