Seattle Baroque Orchestra: The Four Seasons
Saturday, April 11, 2015, 8:00 PM
Preconcert lecture at 7:00 pm
Town Hall Seattle
Composed in 1725, The Four Seasons is arguably the most popular work from the Baroque period, and has become a format for the display of violin virtuosity. Vivaldi’s composition is also program music at its finest, displaying life’s sights and sounds perfectly in music, such as barking dogs, heat stroke, lightning storms, and sleeping drunkards. Guest flutist Janet See will augment the Orchestra, presenting two of Vivaldi’s best known programmatic concerti for flute, Il Gardellino and La Notte.
Violin soloist Carrie Krause is concertmaster of the Bozeman Symphony and New Trinity Baroque, performs regularly with Apollo’s Fire (Cleveland) and Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and is currently a student at the Julliard School’s program in historical performance.
Carrie Krause performing Vivaldi with New Trinity Baroque
Seattle Baroque Orchestra will perform The Four Seasons program in Richland, WA on Sunday, April 12 as part of Camerata Musica’s Chamber Music for the Tri-Cities series. Learn more at www.cameratamusica.com.
by Carrie Krause
Antonio Vivaldi, a colorful character, established concerto form through a huge output of nearly 500 works for a variety of instruments. Known as the “Red Priest,” the fashionable and passionate violinist was less than compliant in his capacities as a cleric. However, he was masterful in teaching the orphan girls of the Ospedale in Venice, providing musical instruction and wondrous repertoire.
Although Falconieri’s piece commemorates an unknown battle, surely it relates to the Thirty Years War (1618-48) which raged across Europe, in some locations wiping out three-quarters of the population. Hence, battle pieces were a staple genre, and in this programmatic work one hears the troops squaring off in formation heading into battle, the galloping of horses in the sections of triple meter, the clashing and thrusting of swords, and advance and retreat. The title commemorates a certain military leader in a less than flattering dedication, translated as Barabas, the son-in-law of Satan. The piece ends with a quote of Sentirete una canzonetta, a simple love song by Taquirna Merula, praising his darling’s mouth, nose, and toes upon their reunion.
Biagio Marini was a true cosmopolitan, having worked and traveled through Italy and Germany. Early in his career, the violinist was employed at San Marco in Venice under Monteverdi. This sighing, swirling Passacaglia from Marini’s final opus is known for its striking chromaticism, speckled with brief glimpses of sanguinity.
The second part of Vivaldi’s opera, La Senna festeggiante, is curiously titled “Ouvertur,” a certain reference to the French form. At a time when Venice was an independent city-state, it was wise to align to a more powerful maritime counterpart, and this serenata was composed for a specific Venetian holiday honoring the French King, Louis XV, in 1726. The serenata features certain French traits such as full string accompaniments in recitativo, as opposed to just continuo, and musical gestures that would not have been lost on the attending French diplomats. This “Ouvertur” opens with notably French dotted rhythms. The odd fugal section strangely begins in the bass on the tonic, unlike the conventional beginning in the violins on the dominant, accompanied by a chromatic second theme. These notes are “borrowed” from a four-part madrigal by Vivaldi’s contemporary and namesake, Antonio Lotti, although cleverly disguised via meter and orchestration. The final movement is a light hearted Gavotte honoring the French dance tradition.
Developed in France by Hotteterre, it took nearly half a century for the transverse flute to appear in Italy around 1715, and it was brought to the Ospedale through the appointment of oboe and flute pedagogue Ignazio Sieber. Vivaldi composed fifteen concertos for the flute, the most memorable included in his Opus 10 collection, published circa 1728 in Amsterdam by Le Cene. The Le Cene collection includes the first concertos ever composed for the transverse flute. The first three in Le Cene are programmatic, inspired by scenes of nature. The third work in the collection, Il Gardellino, traces the flights and fancies of the goldfinch. After the opening ritornello, the goldfinch’s warbles are ingeniously depicted by the solo flute in leaps, trills, repeated notes, and dotted rhythms. The subsequent solo section features imitative calls with a pair of violins, reminiscent of the opening movement of La primavera from the Four Seasons. The central movement, a sicillienne depicts a pastoral scene, closing with an effervescent Finale.
The second, La Notte opens with a mysterious, somewhat ominous night scene full of empty spaces where shadows lurk. Relentless dotted rhythms create suspense along with extended trills. The Fantasmi (ghosts) race in the quick sections with string tremolo and virtuosic flurries in the flute, in alternation with a calming Largo imitative of gentle night breezes and il sonno (sleep).
While Vivaldi composed nearly 250 concertos for the violin, the most famous are Le Quattro Stagioni, grouped in Op. 8, entitled Il Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Trial Between Harmony and Invention) and published in 1725. Described in accompanying sonnets, it is unknown whether the pieces or poems were initially conceived.
La primavera depicts a sweet pastoral scene with a trio of tweeting bird calls, a gentle flowing brook, and fleeting spring storm. The shepherd boy naps amid the rustling of leaves and a distant barking dog. Bagpipes convey a rustic peasant dance.
L’estate opens on a sunbaked scene, sweltering beneath the Venetian rays. Calls of a cuckoo and goldfinch waft on the gentle wind, suddenly interrupted by a violent storm, through which the cries of the shepherd boy are heard. He tries to sleep, while bees and wasps buzz, and the impending rumbles of a storm threaten ever nearer. Violently, tempest erupts in a flurry of wind, hail, lightning, and blazing rain.
Celebration of the harvest arrives with L’autunno, as the peasants give thanks to Bacchus for the free-flowing gifts which laud drunken stumbling, weaving, and snoozing. Slumber descends on all in a fanciful dream. Horns signal a hunt, in which a poor beast is chased by dogs and horses until finally expiring, its sweet spirit ascends.
L’inverno’s wind chills to the bone, with chattering teeth and stomping feet. Yet hardly a greater pleasure is known than sitting near a crackling fire with light rain pattering on the roof. Outside again running, sliding, and slipping on the ice, suddenly, the ice cracks. A brief tune of sweetness reminds of winter’s pleasures until an icy wind whips and whirls to the end.
Carrie Krause, guest director and violin
As described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, violinist Carrie Krause’s, “elegant, sparkling performance brought audience cheers.” Krause has appeared as concertmaster of the Bozeman Symphony, New Trinity Baroque, Helena Symphony, Pacific Baroque, and the San Francisco Bach Choir, as associate concertmaster of Apollo’s Fire, and with Clarion, American Classical Orchestra, and Concert Royale in New York, Chatham Baroque in Pittsburgh, NYS Baroque, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Passamezzo Moderno, and the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado.
Krause has worked under such conductors as William Christie, Jordi Savall, Tom Koopman, Richard Egarr, Nick McGegan, and Masako Suzuki. As a founding member of the Meritage String Quartet, she was featured in the Grammy award-winning TV series, 11th and Grant. Krause founded the I-90 Collective, a Baroque ensemble, which performs a house concert series across Montana and beyond, and was recently featured on Spokane Public Radio. Krause additionally founded the Second String Orchestra for adult amateurs in Bozeman, MT where she also taught a studio of thirty students. Krause received degrees from Carnegie Mellon under Andres Cardenes and the Cleveland Institute of Music in violin performance, and she is currently a graduate student in the Juilliard School’s Historical Performance program.
Janet See, flute
Janet See is one of today’s outstanding performers on Baroque and classical flute. For over 35 years she has performed as a soloist, in chamber music, and with orchestras throughout Europe and North America.
In London, See played principal flute for Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s two orchestras, and with these groups recorded the complete Mozart Operas, Beethoven Symphonies, and numerous other discs. In North America, See plays principal flute with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra and Pacific MusicWorks. In the summer of 2012, See was invited to perform at the Carmel Bach Festival, thus introducing audiences to the Baroque flute.
See is an active and enthusiastic teacher of early flutes and also of interpreting the nuance and language of Baroque and classical music on the modern flute. She received her degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and The Royal Conservatory in The Hague. See is a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique, having trained with Walter Carrington in London. She currently lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Carrie Krause, Photo: Heather McIntosh
Janet See, Photo: Michelle Smith-Lewis