The KSO's Masterworks series will continue its musical travels across Europe this Thursday and Friday at 7:30 at the Tennessee Theatre, under the direction of James Fellenbaum. This week's focus will be the music of three Italian composers. I'm being careful not to describe it as “Italian music” in an ethnic sense, since each of the three composers-- Vivaldi, Rossini and Puccini-- were active in such different eras, and bound by those eras' conventions. The great Italian vocal tradition is the binding force in the repertoire, as all three wrote operas, with Puccini's and Rossini's fame, at opposite ends of the Romantic Era, relying almost exclusively on opera.
Rossini's Overture to Semiramide (“sem-ee-rom-a-day”) exhibits structural formula and transparent textures left over from the Classical period. The concitato, or agitated style of rapidly repeated notes, took root with Monteverdi in the 1640s, lived on in the Vivaldi Four Seasons from 1723, and the Rossini from 1823. Later in the Romantic period it was no longer uniquely Italian and was largely abandoned by the time the grand scale and vocal sweep of Puccini's music made the scene in 1884.
The Capriccio Sinfonico is Puccini's thesis composition for the Milan Conservatory, written at age 24 in 1883. It includes material from three of his first four operas; Le villi (“The Fairies”), Edgar, and La bohème. The Intermezzo that opens Act III of his third opera, Manon Lescaut, supplies the second work by Puccini on the concert.
The Four Seasons by Vivaldi is the solo work on this concert, with violinist Giora Schmidt as soloist. (His first name is pronounced “Ghee-or-a,” with a hard “g” sound as in “guitar”). It will be easy to notice Vivaldi's operatic tendencies in the Seasons, because of the highly picturesque portrayal of the four seasons as “characters-” it's program music at its finest and the stile concitato is everywhere. Vivaldi employs major keys for the bulk of the Spring and Fall segments, expressing joy in the more temperate seasons, and minor keys for Summer and Winter, reflecting the harshness of the extremes of weather. Listen carefully to the second movement of Spring, where the (muted) violas portray far-off barking dogs on a cold early spring night. The concerti will be separated, with Spring and Summer on the first half followed by the two Puccini works (split by an intermission), and ending with Fall and Winter.