A Four Seasons for the 21st Century – a multi-media experience celebrating the 300th anniversary of Vivaldi‘s work
An innovative and timely project from the ever-inventive Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS), Earthcycle finds a compelling way to engage with the threat of climate change and the human impact on the Earth’s environment and the disruption of its natural rhythms through music inspired by or evoking the natural world, the most obvious piece being Vivaldi’s evergreen Four Seasons, which celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2023.
Earthcycle is a major multi-media project encompassing specially shot contextual film, bespoke lighting, and sound design, podcasts with leading commentators and environmentalists, including George Monbiot, ‘Nurture Nature’ videos aimed at schoolchildren, and live performances.
In the liner notes to the album, violinist and OOTS Artistic Director David Le Page describes a freak weather incident in the Lincolnshire village where he lives which led to a broader reflection on climate change and a major inspiration for the Earthcycle project.
“The little stream at the bottom of my garden swelled from a benign trickle to a meter’s depth torrent which caused nearby houses and roads to flood. I wondered if this was just a freak weather event or a more ominous sign of disturbing changes in our climate.” David Le Page
To mark the tricentenary of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, OOTS has commissioned a new version from their Associate Artist, baroque/jazz musician and composer David Gordon. The work is a continually engaging jumping-off point for composers and musicians and remains perennially popular with audiences.
“The idea of combining a universal and consistently captivating theme with some of the most memorable and enduring music ever written was indeed a stroke of unwitting genius; I’m not sure Vivaldi could have guessed that three centuries later, these four concerti would be more popular than ever.” David Le Page
The Four Seasons is imaginatively interspersed with traditional folk songs relating to the theme of nature and the seasons, which both complement and contrast with Vivaldi’s concerti. They are performed by folk singer Jackie Oates, who possesses a wonderfully expressive, clear voice. David Gordon’s pieces Windigo, The Moth and the Elephant, Feeling the Chill and Winter’s Tears reveal his remarkably versatile and imaginative composing style, with hints of jazz and folk idioms interwoven with more familiar classical structures and harmonies.
The opening movement of Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ is vibrant and uplifting, with a freshness of gesture and sound as bright as sunshine after an April shower. Le Page’s seamless violin sound brilliantly lifts the music off the score. The entire album is replete with musical birdsong, rain showers, shafts of light, gusty autumn winds, swirling leaves, and many other delights, which create a compelling, engaging, and intriguing whole.
Earthcycle provides an important reflection on climate change while offering listeners chamber music of the highest order, imaginatively presented and beautifully performed.
Earthcycle is released on CD and streaming on 19 January 2024 on the Signum Classics label.
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