Louisville Orchestra: Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
Eunice Kim, violin – “La Primavera” (Spring)
Dayna Anderson, violin – “L’estate” (Summer)
Luosha Fang, violin – “L’autunno” (Autumn)
Nikki Chooi, violin – “L’inverno” (Winter)
Review by Shaun Kenney
Entire contents are copyright © 2015 Shaun Kenney. All rights reserved.
Music from the Baroque period easily lands at the top of my list. I love Bach and Handel and their exaggerated, ornamental styles. I love the energetic, driving, and dotted rhythms. It is truly one of my favorite musical time periods. I was specifically drawn to this particular program of the Louisville Orchestra for these reasons.
Before I begin discussing the works of the evening and their performances I feel compelled to bring up a part of the experience that neither the musicians nor the conductor have any control over: the audience. I found certain people in the audience (at least the audience surrounding me) to be a tad rude, somewhat inattentive, and very talkative. Perhaps I am hyper-sensitive to these things but my opinion is this; if you’re attending a concert or recital of this nature you should be on time (numerous people were late, some as late as 15 minutes past the hour), you should pay attention (after all, these performers worked long and hard to share this music with us), and most of all, you should be quiet. This is not a pop concert or a work of interactive theater. Why even bother to come if you’re going to spend the entire evening whispering to the person next to you? And if you’re an usher who is standing next to said talkative people, please lean over and ask them to be quiet so that everyone can enjoy the show. Okay. I’m done. Thank you for listening to my rant. I will step down from my soapbox now.
The first selection of the evening was a suite of incidental music by Jean-Baptiste Lully entitled Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. Lully composed the work for a Molière play by the same name in 1670. We were treated to the overture and several dance movements from the piece. I found my favorite part of this selection to be the conductor himself, Teddy Abrams. Many works of this time period were not conducted in the modern sense by someone standing in front of the performers with a baton, but instead were led from within by one of the performers themselves. Abrams stayed true to this tradition by taking a seat at the harpsichord, simultaneously playing and conducting the members of the ensemble. The work was lively and rhythmic and instantly transported me to 17th century France. I found myself smiling at the visible energy of everyone on the stage. The ensemble clearly enjoyed playing this piece as much as I enjoyed listening to it.
One of the compositions listed in the program, Le Tambeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel, was, unfortunately, not performed. Mr. Abrams explained that the work was not performance ready due to the weather causing several missed rehearsals. Though we were treated to a very impressive, virtuosic, and improvisational harpsichord performance by Abrams himself I would have liked to hear the Ravel work as it would have provided a nice Neo-Baroque counterpoint to the Lully and the Vivaldi.
On the Guarding of the Heart by Djuro Zivkovic was composed in 2011 and in 2014 Zivkovic was awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for the work. University of Louisville faculty, a panel of professional musicians, and a committee of new music enthusiasts decide upon the award annually. This composition, though it did provide a very dynamic contrast to the other selections in the program, was the one I enjoyed least. In my observation of the audience during the performance I feel confident that I was not the only patron to feel this way. Please do not misunderstand. The piece was clearly a very technical and difficult composition and was expertly performed and conducted. I did enjoy the unique techniques dictated by the composer and employed by the performers on stage. The three brass instruments (horn, trumpet, and trombone) all used their mutes in extremely interesting ways, rendering sounds very unlike their usual tones. The piano was not only played traditionally on the keys but the strings were also finger plucked from within and hammered by mallets. The percussionist used a bow on both a cymbal and the vibraphone bars to create ethereal yet sharp tones and he was somehow able to bend the pitch on the chimes, the method of which I regrettably could not see from my vantage point in the audience. In this way, the performance was very interesting and I’m grateful that Mr. Abrams put the piece on the program but I do not think I would have enjoyed the work at all had I simply listened to a recording.
Call me a fan-boy but Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is a favorite of mine. I fell in love with it during my freshman year of high school when the string ensemble performed “L’inverno” (Winter) in F minor during the winter concert. I was immediately struck by the imagery the composition created. You can almost literally feel the cold of the winter landscape in the first movement, the warmth of a crackling fire in the second, and the icy wind stealing your breath in the third. This performance of The Four Season was no exception, eliciting vibrant images of each individual season. I particularly enjoyed the fact that all four sections featured a different violin soloist, guest artists from the Curtis Institute of Music. Each artist lent his or her own interpretation to the section, highlighting the vast differences between each season. Like the Lully, Abrams led the ensemble from the harpsichord where he played a continuo accompaniment to each section. This was the perfect way to close the performance on a chilly winter evening.
Vivaldi “The Four Seasons”
March 7, 2015
W.L. Brown Theatre
315 W. Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
[box_light]Shaun Kenney was born and raised in Maine but has lived in Kentucky since 2002 and is proud to call himself a Louisvillian. Shaun holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Campbellsville University. Also a theater lover, he works with Finnigan Productions each year on the Finnigan’s Festival of Funky Fresh Fun.[/box_light]