Orchestra to experience all ‘Four Seasons’ in one concert

February 6, 2019

If it feels like we’re missing one or two of the four seasons around here, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra can fill in the blanks.

The orchestra will present a concert, “Four Seasons Serenade,” Saturday and Sunday at Lourdes High School.

Front and center in the concert will be Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Also on the program for this all-strings concert is Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings.”

“Strings are the core of the orchestra,” said Jere Lantz, director of the symphony. “It wasn’t until the 18th century that things got going with other instruments.”

If you’re going to plan a concert highlighting only strings, the place to start is Vivaldi’s musical exploration of the four seasons.

“Vivaldi was a genius with strings,” Lantz said. That especially comes to light in this piece, which stands somewhat outside Vivaldi’s oeuvre. “He wrote more than 400 concertos,” Lantz said. “Critics would say he wrote the same concerto 400 times. He just moved the stencil around on the music paper.”

But with the need to develop four separate themes for “The Four Seasons,” Vivaldi had to throw aside his tendency to repeat himself. “It seemed to bring out the most imaginative side of his muse,” Lantz said.

Indeed, “The Four Seasons” remains popular with audiences year after year after year.

Chances are, however, that local audiences have never heard “The Four Seasons” in the configuration planned for Saturday’s concert. The original score includes a sonnet for each of the four seasons. “We’re going to have the appropriate parts of the sonnet read” during each movement, Lantz said.

“I’ve heard ‘The Four Seasons’ many times, conducted it, but I’ve never heard the sonnets in the performance,” he said.

Soloist for the piece will be Michal Sobieski, the orchestra’s concertmaster, who had a 34-year career with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. “He knows the piece and has recorded it,” Lantz said.

Vivaldi composed “The Four Seasons” in Venice, which, while not tropical, certainly has little in common with Minnesota’s four-seasons climate. “Nobody in Venice ever dreamed of winter like we have,” Lantz said.

Fittingly, the orchestra will end the performance with the “Winter” section. The evocative middle movement of that section is one of Lantz’s personal favorites. “I love the image of people grouped around the fire,” he said.

While Vivaldi’s music gets the headlines for this concert, the second work, Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” is not to be overlooked. It bears all the hallmarks of Tchaikovsky’s best compositions, in particular beautiful melodies.

“This is my favorite work for strings,” Lantz said. “It may be the most gorgeous thing he wrote, and that’s saying a lot because he wrote a lot of gorgeous pieces.”

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