Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons receives a unique touch

Posted by Kimberly on October 21, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times

October 21, 2007, page 2 (541 words)

The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s rendition of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons last night at the Dom Pedro V Theatre was more than just the composer’s contributions.
It was an insightful and original mix of music incorporating instruments and voices from countries such as China, Quebec, Greenland and India and providing an interpretation of mother nature through the eyes of other cultures.
Vivaldi’s “La primavera” was instantly recognisable by most surely, as it’s one of those pieces of music that tends to be used quite frequently in advertisements.
The solo piece of violin by Patricia Ahern gives an unusual edge, as this part has been done with several string instruments.
Nevertheless, her skill with the instrument is a sight to behold, her concentration utmost, each note tightly held and executed to perfection.
Lucas Harris on lute showed an enviable proficiency, his solo start a simple introduction to the instruments lyrical sound.
Meanwhile, the inclusion of Zhao Wen Xin on pipa was a mater touch, giving an element of Chinese culture to the offering.
Her movements were swift and sure, the gentle strains of ‘White Snow in Spring’ flowing out to the enthralled audience.
The climax of the piece saw her fingers fly across the strings of the instrument, increasing in tempo till they seemed almost a blur against the pale wood.
Making up part of the concept of Summer, Aruna Narayan used the sarangi to portray the tune of ‘Monsoon Raag.’
The violin-like sarangi emitted sounds similar to a sitar, another popular Indian musical instrument.
It seemed an almost mournful piece of music to begin with but yet, at times, when the tempo increased, so did the notes, to something happier.
Vivaldi’s concerto in G minor, ‘L’estate’ finished off summer with violinist Julia Wedman.
The piece’s notes were short, sharp and yet with a distinct edge of melancholy, until suddenly, the tempo changed, the mood lifted and it was all one would expect to be associated with summer.
When the remaining string isntruments join in, it’s a burst of impressive sound. Yet just as suddenly, the melancholy, and Wedman’s solo, return.
Then the cycle begins again, the strings and then the seemingly spontaneous burs. The oscillation is remarkable to witness, the ending a musical flourish.
Autumn came in the form of Concerto in F major, ‘L’autumno’, with Christopher Verrette on violin.
The violinist is backed up by the orchestra in another easily recognisable piece, the only musical element of that season performed.
Winter is left till last, to allow for the uniqueness of the performance by Inuit singers of Aqsarniit, a group that comprised of members from northern Quebec, eastern Artic and Greenland.
The performance was undoubtedly a first for most, if not all, members of the audience, and is most commonly referred to as ‘throat-singing.’
It’s one of the most unusual types of singing ever heard, the composition designed by Toronto composer Mychael Danna, a pioneer in fusing western orchestral music with non-western sound sources, with the group creating a variety of sounds from nature and tools such as a saw.
With a verbal interpretation prior to each season’s music pieces, it wasn’t simply an orchestral performance, it was a learning curve, and a highly entertaining one at that.

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