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Volume 28 Issue 4 | February - March 2023

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Volume 28 no.4, covering Feb, March and into early April '23! David Olds remembers composer John Beckwith; Andrew Timar reflects on the life and times of artistic polymath Michael Snow; Mezzo Emily Fons, in town for Figaro, on trouser roles, the life of a mezzo-soprano on the road and more; Colin Story on the Soft-Seat beat; tracks from 22 new recordings added to our Listening Room. All this and more.


EARLY MUSIC To Everything there is a Season ... or Four Like the “O Fortuna’’ chorus from Orff’s Carmina Burana and the first bars of Rossini’s William Tell Overture, Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons) has a ubiquitous presence in the soundtrack of our lives via films, television commercials, malls and elevators. Thanks to the desire of audiences to experience these concerti repeatedly, and the ambition of many virtuoso violinists to play them, there are many thousands of recordings to date and countless yearly performances of symphonies all over North America and Europe. In fact, Toronto audiences who were quick enough off the mark will have their next opportunity to hear this classic work revisited on February 7 when Anne-Sophie Mutter and Mutter Virtuosi perform it at Roy Thomson Hall. I will be among them. STEPHANIE CONN Anne-Sophie Mutter and Mutter Virtuosi at Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Bogotá, Colombia (2019) Our endless fascination with this set of four violin concerti from Vivaldi’s Opus 8 suggests that, rather than being overplayed as some suggest, perhaps they contain layers of nuance and meaning that are worth unpacking again and again almost 300 years after their creation. First published in Amsterdam in 1725 as part of Vivaldi’s Op.8 Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest between Harmony Anne-Sophie Mutter and Invention), the four concerti known as Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) had been composed years before and their manuscripts were already circulating. Vivaldi brought them together for Il cimento, Op.8 and added descriptive sonnets to accompany each of the movements, meant to suggest the characteristic of each season that Vivaldi illustrates in music; these are of unknown authorship but thought to be the JUAN DIEGO CASTILLO BARTEK BARCZYK CHORAL PASSIONTIDE DEVOTION PALM SUNDAY, APRIL 2, 2023 AT 4:30 p.m. A vocal and instrumental expression of faith for Holy Week and Easter. Presented by the Yorkminster Park Choir with William Maddox, Organist and Director and Sharon Beckstead, Associate Musician 1585 Yonge Street | 416-922-1167 | 22 | February & March, 2023

work of Vivaldi himself – unlike his music, they are considered to be derivative and not of the highest quality. The poems refer to not only bucolic details like the murmuring breezes of spring or the songs and dances of fall festivals, but also the shooting of guns and the barking of dogs. (As I sit writing this, the lines in “Winter” (L’inverno) describing “nevi algenti” (freezing snow) and “orrido vento” (horrible wind) speak to me most directly.) Vivaldi himself was, of course, a highly skilled violinist and he had already forged many elements of the style we hear here in his previous violin concerti published as Opus 3, but even in Vivaldi’s time and place the first concerto, “Spring” (La Primavera) was particularly admired, and it became a popular showpiece throughout the 18th century and all over Europe. On the record As with all classic works, opinions are divided on which recording of The Four Seasons is best, but with so many to choose from there really is something for everyone — and who dares say which one is more authentic, if I may use that loaded term, or comes closest to expressing Vivaldi’s vision. The historical-performance movement of the last few decades has been divisive for both players and listeners with some claiming it has freed us, others suggesting it fetters. It has, however, reminded us more forcefully of the merely contingent authority held by any score (as Henry Kingsbury put it) and the role that oral tradition plays in the performance of music from any period. After all, in the 17th century this was new music; meant to “move the affects,” to provoke, excite and challenge its listeners. The performer was a partner with the composer as is the case in all music with an improvisatory element. Playing this music still “takes an act of imagination because the scores leave so many choices open to the players,” as Giovanni Antonini of Il Giardino Armonico has pointed out. His ensemble’s 1993 recording with Enrico Onofri caused a stir when it was released, and I still remember the excitement we all felt at hearing the liberties he took with tempi and the way they attacked From Tafelmuisik’s 2014 Four Seasons: Cycle of the Sun: (l to r) Inuit throat singers Beatrice Deer and, Sylvia Cloutier; Wen Zhao, pipa; Jeanne Lamon, violin; and Aruna Narayan Kalle, sarangi. Christina Mahler, cello, is seated behind the soloists. some sections almost with abandon. Its verve and physicality offered a very different interpretation than some of the more sedate performances we had heard from larger, modern-instrument symphony orchestras, prompting Alex Ross to write a New Yorker review titled “Violent Vivaldi.” Some performances experimented even more: in their 2013 London concert, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment had their orchestral musicians interact with dancers on stage in an attempt to bring the sonnets’ poetic images to life even more tangibly; and on his recording Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Richter responded to the original Vivaldi concerti with his own 2022-2023 Season: A Golden Anniversary Celebration CANTICUM CANTICORUM MARCH 10 & 11 AT 8PM A Concert by Canticum Trombonorum The most poetic book of the Bible, Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) is in fact a dialogue between two lovers. Canticum Canticorum follows the journey of these famed lovers, through spoken excerpts from each chapter, motets set by late-Renaissance and early-baroque Italian composers, instrumental interludes, and exploring the different possible combinations of two trombones, organ, and a high voice. Tickets starting at only TRINITY-ST. PAUL’S CENTRE, 427 BLOOR ST WEST Buy Tickets at February & March, 2023 | 23

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