Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, Carlos Aonzo to play Vivaldi

The concert will also feature a symphony by Tchaikovsky

by Elizabeth Garrison | 2/8/18 12:15am

To kick off Winter Carnival weekend, the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra will perform a new interpretation of one of the most popular pieces of baroque music, Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” This Friday, guest artist Carlos Aonzo will play the traditional violin solo on the mandolin, giving “The Four Seasons” a new and exciting sound. The DSO will also play Tchaikovsky’s first symphony. This lesser-known piece also explores the theme of the seasons and is titled “Winter Daydreams.”

Filippo Ciabatti, music director of the DSO, selected “The Four Seasons” for the winter program when he heard about Aonzo’s adaptation using a mandolin. Ciabatti thought that the cultural operation of adapting the violin solo for another instrument captured the spontaneous spirit of the baroque period during the piece’s original conception. Therefore, to share musical innovation with the Dartmouth community, Ciabatti invited Aonzo to perform with the DSO.

“The audience has the opportunity to hear a world-renowned artist that plays an unusual instrument that is not often heard, and they’ll get to experience ... Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ ... in a completely new and interesting way,” Ciabatti said.

Ciabatti said that the technical differences between the violin and the mandolin presented an interesting musical challenge.

“The violin is a string instrument played with a bow, so it has the capacity to hold notes and to shape notes into being,” Ciabatti said. “The mandolin, like a guitar or even a piano, does not have a way to hold the value of the notes. Instead, when the mandolin has to muse, has to play, has to linger with the long slow phrases, it uses a sort of vibrato or vibration to create that musical effect.”

Vivaldi’s piece contains four distinct sections: “Spring,” “Summer,” “Autumn” and “Winter.” Each concerto is designed to tell a story and capture the specific sights and sounds of the corresponding season. The four concertos will be accompanied by four sonnets projected on a screen during the concert.

Eleni Mora ’18 is an environmental studies major with a biology minor and is the principal violist in the DSO. Mora said that “The Four Seasons” has always been a personal source of inspiration throughout her life.

“It’s always fun to work on a piece but I do think that Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ is special,” Mora said. “For me, it was actually the piece that I listened to when I was six that made me fall in love with orchestra, so it’s really cool to get to play that my senior year.”

The second piece in the concert, “Winter Daydreams,” is not one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular works, but it represents one of his early works. In contrast to Vivaldi’s piece, it is less focused on telling a specific story but tries to musically evoke the feeling of winter in general. Leslie Sonder, professor of earth sciences and violist with the DSO for 25 years, said she was moved by “Winter Daydreams” and believes that it is a magnificent work.

“It evokes winter in a more abstract way, a less tangible way than ‘The Four Seasons,’ but it still gives you the sense of the sweeping of cold and snow and it is just a beautiful piece in its own right,” Sonder said. “When I play it, I’m struck by how Tchaikovsky orchestrates things, the structure of the piece and the sheer scope of his ideas.”

Ciabatti said modern audiences may not have heard Tchaikovsky’s first symphony before but may relate to it.

“At the winter concert, the audience will get to hear an underrated — not often performed — beautiful school of melodies, passion and emotion in this symphony of Tchaikovsky.” Ciabatti said. “Tchaikovsky is a favorite of everybody, being such a popular and modern composer in the way that he relates to the modern man. Being a tortured soul from the beginning of his life, his music making reflects a mix of emotions that is still so relevant today.”

The DSO’s winter concert will be held in Spaulding Auditorium at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9.