Tonight's concert pick: Vivaldi meets Glass in a four-season string spectacular at Roy Thomson Hall
American violinist Robert McDuffie returns to Roy Thomson Hall tonight to perform Philip Glass's Violin Concerto No. 2, "The American Four Seasons," which he commissioned. Rather than playing with a modern symphony orchestra, McDuffie is performing with the Venice Baroque Orchestra in a programme that also includes Antonio Vivaldi's inextinguishable "Four Seasons" concertos.
It should make for a fantastic evening of music. For all the concert and ticket details, click here.
I heard McDuffie's Canadian premiere of the Glass concerto last December, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. This was my verdict in the next day's Star:
It's not every day that one gets to hear the live premiere of a major new work by one of the world's most influential composers, 72-year-old American composer Philip Glass.
The first performance of the work - Violin Concerto No. 2, "The American Four Seasons" - was so spectacularly played by the new piece's muse, American violinist Robert McDuffie, at Roy Thomson Hall Wednesday night, that the event turned into one of the most exciting musical evenings of the year.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, led by its music director Peter Oundjian, was also in top form, helping McDuffie carve and shape Glass's collection of repeated and layered short musical motifs into an expressive work of art.
McDuffie deserves a medal for his stamina. Glass gives the soloist little respite as he alternates between joining with and separating away from the rest of the all-string orchestra (augmented by a synthesizer keyboard). 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.
Both composer and players showed off their very best work, although one would be hard-pressed to find many allusions to Vivaldi's familiar Four Seasons in the piece.
To give you an idea of the sort of sounds that are waiting for the audience tonight, here is an Arte promotional clip of the Venice Baroque Orchestra playing Vivaldi's "La Tempesta di Mare" violin concerto in E-flat major at the 2010 Schwetzingen festival, followed by a promotional clip made last spring by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Marin Alsop for a performance of Glass's concerto: