Our “Season of Seasons”

The four concerti known as The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi are his best-known works and are among the most popular pieces in the classical music repertoire.  Published in Amsterdam in 1725 as part of Vivaldi’s Op. 8 (The Contest between Harmony and Invention), these concerti were accompanied by poetry describing each of the seasons, and the score included all of the descriptive notations (barking dog, sleeping goatherd, flies and wasps, rain on the roof, etc.) that are brought to life by Vivaldi’s vivid musical text-painting.  In addition to turning up on many concert programs, The Four Seasons have been used as background music in a variety of films and in countless advertisements so that, almost three hundred years after they were written, they are instantly recognizable by most of us.

The Four Seasons remind us of just how much that music has the power to drive emotions and to create and underscore mood.  In songs, theater and film, we expect the combination of music, text, and visuals to convey an idea or create a feeling.  In the Annapolis Chorale’s own performances, all one has to do is to consider Messiah’s Hallelujah Chorus (in the “bright” key of D Major with brass and timpani) or Bach’s use of the chromatic, descending line known as the “lamento” bass to set the Crucifixus in his great Mass.  A tradition of program music, in which composers use purely musical gestures to convey extra-musical ideas—think Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony or Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”—plays off of the ancient idea of musical Affect and, in many respects, starts in earnest with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

And so this year, in our “Season of Seasons,” we celebrate the power of music to convey ideas.  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons will be the linchpin of our Chamber Series, which also features music inspired by these concerti, such as the “American Four Seasons” by Philip Glass, the “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla, and Vivaldi “Recomposed by Max Richter.”  Our Cantata Vespers will explore Bach’s use of musical figuration to convey theological ideas, and will feature key cantatas for the liturgical seasons, including Cantata 20, which began Bach’s first annual cycle of choral cantatas at St. Thomas in Leipzig.  And our Masterworks Series, which includes Bach’s St. John Passion as well as the perennial favorite Messiah, will present some of the most powerful musical images in the Western canon, from Bach’s dramatic musical confrontation between Pilate and the angry mob (his famous “turba” choruses) to the immortal Hallelujah Chorus.

Finally, we have commissioned composer Kathy Wonson Eddy to craft something of an “Annapolis Seasons,” using the writings of local authors and images of the Chesapeake. This commissioned work (premiering on April 6, 2019) celebrates spring on the Chesapeake. The first movement, "The Green Hand of an Ancient Oak," sets the mystical, haunting poetry of Chesapeake poet M. Kei and includes hints of spring birdsongs and peepers in the orchestration. The second movement, "You Are," is a setting of a poem by Roland Flint, former Maryland Poet Laureate. It is a love song with nautical imagery and lush harmonies. The third movement, "Chesapeake Alleluia," is both an expression of praise for the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay and an urgent call to committed stewardship of this fragile and radiant gift.  One of the selected texts ends with these beautiful words:

Let me steep myself 
in the briny breach
and be born
anew this day 

Join us this season as we steep ourselves in this timeless music, so that you through listening, as we hope to be through performing, are refreshed and “born anew.”