The Four Seasons Reimagined

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Some composers advocate music pure and non-imitative, with no program, no agenda, and no mission other than to be music. The three works by Sigurðsson, Richter, and Vivaldi featured in the August 11, 2018 concert of the better-by-the-minute Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra are narrative creations in which music takes on a storytelling task.

Seven excerpts from Dreamland by Valgeir Sigurðsson occupied the first half of the cohesively planned program. Sigurðsson’s composition was created for a 2009 documentary film that deals with the impending ecological disaster Iceland faces, as its government sets out to dam several of that country’s pristinely preserved rivers to create energy for its aluminum industry. Sigurðsson’s score is hauntingly beautiful, some of it inspired by Icelandic folk songs.

Vivaldi’s set of four violin concertos, which he named Le Quatro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) and for which he even wrote some lovely poems, sadly fell into oblivion as the Baroque Era gave way to Classicism. Fortunately the Italian master’s four masterpieces eventually found their rightful place in the concert repertoire.

The choice of The Four Seasons could not be more refreshing given the wretchedly hot summer we’ve been having, and the further selection of Max Richter’s similarly titled re-composition of Vivaldi’s original is nothing short of brilliant programming.

Richter mines the contemporary sound vocabulary while overlaying, looping, quoting, manipulating and recreating some of Vivaldi’s cloudbursts, chirping birds and snowfalls in his own fashion. In a daring move, Eckart Preu programmed Richter and Vivaldi back to back, movement by movement, season by season in the same musical weather system, so that, within each of the four concerti, one per season, we heard Richter respectfully riffing on Vivaldi.

And then there was the musically inspired choice of soloist: Celeste Golden Boyer, the CCO concertmistress, a superb soloist in her own right. She played all the familiar movements of the four concertos with bravura, style and flawless technique.

For all our readers who will be in Cincinnati through the end of the month I encourage each and every one to take in one or more of the CCO offerings of off-the-beaten path repertory played with classy professionalism. If you have not yet been to one, beware that when you come you will be drawn back again and again.

Rafael de Acha

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