Friday, March 9, 2012

What makes it great?

Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678
The Spring and Summer concertos of Vivaldi's Four Seasons were deconstructed to the delight of our eyes and ears at the TSO tonight.

Conductor and NPR music personality Rob Kapilow spent the first hour breaking down the music and explaining 'what makes it great'.  The musical themes, textures, layers and techniques.  After intermission it was spring and summer full on, and I listened to this classic with new appreciation.

Springtime is upon us. 
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,

Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.
- Spring Sonnet, from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Allegro

Solo violinist Jennifer Koh was truly amazing to watch.  The speed of her bowing at some points almost blurred to invisible.  Such control, and yet sometimes it seemed the violin might float away from her and become a separate creature...

Both spring and summer concertos featured birds and birdsong.  Turtledoves, finches, warblers.  The shepherd's barking dog.  Wind in the trees.  Water in the stream.  Ahhhhhh... I can't wait for warmer weather!

The strings are my favourites, and these concertos are the perfect showcase.  A harpsichord was centre stage.  That particular instrument takes me back to the first concert I ever saw, when my grandfather brought me to the symphony as a kid.  It was a wonderful night out.  Just me and him, which was a rarity indeed.  That's probably why I love classical music so much to this day.

Kapilow talked about the music, but also made profound references to the gnostic gospels and quoted Goethe to underscore the importance of living in the moment and savouring the joy and power that surround us everyday. The magic, too, of how bringing all these musicians together can produce so much more than solo efforts.

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