Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Music: The Seasons Project

Last night, my husband and I attended the awe-inspiring live performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by the Venice Baroque Orchestra. Led by soloist Robert McDuffie, the orchestra followed Vivaldi’s composition with Phillip Glass’ "Violin Concerto No. 2". This performance, called the Seasons Project, showcases Glass’ reconstruction and American adaptation of Vivaldi’s original composition. I cannot remember the last time I was so stirred and inspired by such a performance. The sensory feast lay not just in the emotional power of sound, but in the visual effects of men and women whose music playing becomes their sole purpose of being.

The violinists stood to perform. During Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the group swayed and bent in the emotional heights and tinglings of Baroque. Like fields of tall grass that ruffle and splay in wind, musicians alternately seemed to bow under the roll of music. Clusters of complementing accompanists nodded in wordless communication to each other. McDuffie himself, his eyes often closed and his face unable to restrain the effects of his own playing, conversed with his fellow musicians through leaning, turning, and bowing gently. Music swelled and receded. Notes painted pictures of falling leaves, rain, and yawning summer fields. My husband, with his leg pressed against my own, closed his own eyes under the dancing and tumbling notes. Crescendo after decrescendo, he fought to remain seated against the tide of harmonious string.

After intermission, McDuffie and the orchestra plunged into Glass’ concerto. One can easily trace the elements of Vivaldi that appear, but Glass’ composition is not at all as delicately structured as Vivaldi’s Baroque pieces. Glass is American by birth and his music is as dramatic and powerful as the reputation this country has developed. There is strength the sound of his simplified orchestration. Musicians suddenly no longer worked in conversation, but drew together as a unified team and moved sharply together. The seasons seemed to not be so separate as much as they merged, and the feeling, which is most American, can only be summed up by this word: forward.

A little glimpse of Glass’ concerto is here http://modlin.richmond.edu/events/great-performances/the-seasons-project.html as it is discussed by the conductor working with the symphony in the video. For those of you who don’t think you are familiar with Glass, if you click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4-W4qjsBi4 you can listen to Glass’ composition, "Truman Sleeps", for The Truman Show. A segment of the composition for the pinnacle of the film, which you are most likely to have heard, is this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBu9l_EKWVs&feature=related.

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