Edison presents The Seasons Project Oct. 15

Robert McDuffie and Venice Baroque Orchestra perform new Philip Glass concerto in world-premiere tour

The Venice Baroque Orchestra joins acclaimed violinist Robert McDuffie for the world-premiere tour of The Seasons Project, featuring works by Antonio Vivaldi and Philip Glass. The performance, presented by the Edison Ovations Series, will come to the university’s 560 Music Center Oct. 15. Photo Credit: Matteo da Fina. Download hi-res version.

Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is among the best-loved works in the classical repertoire and a foundation of the Baroque concerto.

In 2002, celebrated violinist Robert McDuffie approached Philip Glass, arguably the most acclaimed composer working today, about writing a companion piece. The result is Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons, which McDuffie debuted last year.

Friday, Oct. 15, McDuffie and the Venice Baroque Orchestra, one of the world’s finest period instrument ensembles, will perform both compositions back-to-back as part of the Edison Ovations Series at Washington University.

Titled The Seasons Project, the concert will begin at 8 p.m. in the university’s 560 Music Center. Tickets are $35; $30 for seniors; $25 for Washington University faculty and staff; and $20 for students and children.

Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. The 560 Music Center is located in the Delmar Loop at 560 Trinity Ave.

For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or e-mail edison@wustl.edu.

The Seasons Project

Violinist Robert McDuffie. Download hi-res version.

First published in 1725, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons comprises the first four concerti — representing Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter — from a set of 12 collectively titled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione, Op. 8 (“The Contest between Harmony and Invention”).

Each concerto is divided into three movements, alternately quick, slow and quick — the characteristic “Vivaldian mode.” And, as a pioneering work of “programmatic” orchestral music, each reflects the subject matter of an accompanying sonnet, replicating the sounds of a murmuring stream, a thundering storm, the call of hunters and the chatter of teeth amidst freezing snow.

Glass’ American Four Seasons pays homage to its predecessor but remains very much its own work. For example, the piece unfolds in four movements rather than Vivaldi’s total of 12, with a short violin solo preceding each.

And though largely retaining Vivaldi’s instrumentation, for a Baroque-sized chamber orchestra, Glass replaces the traditional harpsichord with a modern synthesizer.

“Bobbie was interested in music that would serve as a companion piece to the Vivaldi,” Glass explains in his program notes. “I agreed to the idea of a four-movement work, but at the outset was not sure how that correspondence would work in practice.

“When the music was completed I sent it on to Bobby, who seemed to have quickly seen how the movements of my Concerto No. 2 related to the Seasons,” Glass continues. “Of course, Bobby’s interpretation, though similar to my own, proved to be also somewhat different.

“This struck me as an opportunity, then, for the listener to make his/her own interpretation. Therefore, there will be no instructions for the audience, no clues as to where Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall might appear in the new concerto – an interesting, though not worrisome, problem for the listener.”

Following its world premiere, which McDuffie presented with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in December 2009, the Toronto Star called The American Four Seasons “one of the most exciting musical evenings of the year,” adding that “Glass gives the soloist little respite as he alternates between joining with and separating away from the rest of the all-string orchestra. … The four movements vacillate between a dark-undertoned mechanistic frenzy and slow, mesmerizing meditation. Each section is joined together by a violin solo that really gave McDuffie a chance to shine.”

Robert McDuffie

McDuffie is a Grammy-nominated soloist who has appeared with most of the world’s major orchestras. In addition to the 30-city, world-premiere tour of The Seasons Project, he will perform The American Four Seasons as soloist with the Düsseldorf Symphony, the Prague Philharmonia at the Prague Spring Festival, the National Symphony of Mexico, the Poznan Philharmonic of Poland, and the Nashville, Louisiana and San Antonio Symphonies.

A CD of the UK premiere, recorded last spring with Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was scheduled to be released Oct. 12 on the Orange Mountain Music label.

McDuffie’s previous recordings include violin concertos by Glass as well as Felix Mendelssohn, Max Bruch, John Adams, Samuel Barber, Miklós Rozsa, Leonard Bernstein and William Schuman.

As founder of the Rome Chamber Music Festival, McDuffie recently was awarded the city’s prestigious Premio Simpatia for cultural contributions. He also holds the Genelle and Mansfield Jennings Distinguished University Professor Chair at Mercer University in his hometown of Macon, Ga.

McDuffie lives in New York with his wife and two children. He plays a 1735 Guarneri del Gesu violin, known as the “Ladenburg.”

The Venice Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Harald Hoffmann, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon. Download hi-res version.

Venice Baroque Orchestra

Founded in 1997 by Baroque scholar and harpsichordist Andrea Marcon, the Venice Baroque Orchestra has received wide critical acclaim for its concert and opera performances throughout North America, Europe, South America and Japan.

Committed to the rediscovery of lesser-known 17th- and 18th-century masterpieces, the orchestra has given the modern-day premieres of Francesco Cavalli’s L’Orione (1653); Vivaldi’s Atenaide (1728) and Andromeda liberata (1726); and Benedetto Marcello’s La Morte D’Adone (1719) and Il trionfo della poesia e della musica (1733).

In 2000, the orchestra staged George Frideric Handel’s opera Siroe (1728) with Teatro La Fenice in Venice. In 2001, it staged Antonio Cimarosa’s L’Olimpiade (1733), followed, in 2006, by Baldassare Galuppi’s 1747 version of the same libretto. In 2009, the orchestra delivered the modern-day premiere of Luigi Boccherini’s La Clementina (1786).

The orchestra’s extensive discography includes The Four Seasons and two albums of previously unrecorded Vivaldi concertos as well as the world-premiere recording of Andromeda liberata; two recordings of violin concertos with Giuliano Carmignola; and an album of Vivaldi sinfonias and concertos for strings.

Additional recordings include Vivaldi motets and arias with soprano Simone Kermes; two discs — Handel arias and Vivaldi arias — with Magdalena Kožená; and Vivaldi concertos for two violins with Viktoria Mullova and Giuliano Carmignola. Their newest album, of Italian arias with Patricia Petibon, was released in August.

For its recordings, the orchestra has received the Diaspason D’Or, the Choc du Monde de la Musique, an Echo Award and an Edison Award. Their concerts have been filmed by the BBC and NHK and broadcast by RadioFrance, France Musiques, BBC3 and National Public Radio, among others.

Edison Theatre

Founded in 1973, the Edison Ovations Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis.

Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors. The Ovations season is supported by The Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Robert McDuffie and the Venice Baroque Orchestra

WHAT: The Seasons Project

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15

WHERE: E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall, 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Ave., at the intersection of Trinity and Delmar Boulevard

TICKETS: $35; $30 for seniors; $25 for WUSTL faculty and staff; and $20 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.

SPONSOR: Edison Ovations Series

INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543 or edisontheatre.wustl.edu