Two Gripping Evocations of the Seasons

United StatesUnited States Vivaldi, Piazzolla: Emily Cornelius (violin), Vivek Jayaraman (violin), Solomon Liang (violin), Rachel Sandman (violin), Canton Symphony Orchestra / Gerhardt Zimmermann (conductor), Umstattd Hall, Canton, Ohio, 19.11.2016. (TW)

Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
Piazzolla – Las Cuarto Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)

At one point on this blustery evening, the opening lines of the American holiday classic “Let It Snow” came to mind, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.” But inside Umstattd Hall, there was a fire of another sort to gather around, provided by the Canton Symphony Orchestra.

One of the many facets that make the CSO so consistently exciting—abundantly evident here—is the warmth and expressivity of its strings. Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann and four soloists (each with a CSO history) injected the often stale familiarity of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with remarkably fresh, exhilarating color.

Solomon Liang, principal second violinist, was the picture of spritely panache as he pranced through “Spring,” replete with the trills of birdsong, placid sounds of a flowing brook, and a brooding sky in an approaching storm. For “Summer,” first violinist Emily Cornelius deftly conjured the weight of heated air thick with sweetly cooing doves, chirping finches, and the swirling of fierce winds. CSO alumna Rachel Sandman’s “Autumn” was a swaggering romp through what Vivaldi described as the sleep of drunkards, along with stampeding horses and barking hounds during a hunt. And finally, Vivek Jayaraman, the current CSO concertmaster, masterfully delivered a wintry scene that included evocations of chattering teeth, stamping of cold feet, and the patter of icy rain.

Each of these gifted artists exceeded the technical demands of their respective concertos. Beyond their virtuosity, they showed an uncanny ability to depict emotional subtleties in Vivaldi’s landscapes.

Even more electrifying was the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, by Astor Piazzolla, creator of the “Nuevo Tango” style. Unlike the Vivaldi concertos, each of Piazzolla’s seasons transpires in a single movement, and while gave nods to Vivaldi’s charming paean to Mediterranean weather, Piazzolla is from the southern hemisphere, with corresponding meteorological differences. His focus wasn’t so much on pictorial description as it was on mood-painting, on a profoundly engaging level.

The ensemble’s emotive power was in full force, a gripping evocation of tango sensuality. Violinist Jayaraman returned, and with an equally impassioned CSO principal cellist Brian Klickman, articulated ravishing melodies—witty, sexy, and melancholy—that soared amidst relentlessly rumbling bass lines and shifting tempos.

Tom Wachunas 

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