The pastoral and tango sway in Teatro Real’s “Seasons” program

Thu Jun 27, 2024 at 1:01 pm
Leticia Moreno performed music of Vivaldi and Piazzolla with members of the Teatro Real Orchestra Wednesday night at Zankel Hall. Photo: Jennifer Taylor

In Buenos Aires, people shiver in the bitter August wind. But October showers bring November flowers.

The seasons are different down South, all right. And, as musicians from Madrid’s Teatro Real reminded listeners Wednesday night, so is the beat.

In a concise, colorful program titled “The Eight Seasons by Vivaldi and Piazzolla” at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, sixteen string players from the Royal Opera of Spain, fronted by the fiery violinist Leticia Moreno, matched the Venetian master’s lilting sicilianos and torrents of scales against the Argentinian’s syncopated nuevo tango stomps.

Vivaldi’s familiar foursome of violin concertos revealed the ensemble’s broad tonal range, as it glowed with enervating summer heat, then thinned out to a dozy autumn evening. Picturesque details received their due, notably the shepherd’s dialogue with his faithful dog (a softly barking viola) in the Largo of “Spring.”

The shift from Le Quattro Stagione to Cuatro Estaciones Porteñasporteño being the affectionate term for a denizen of Buenos Aires—also brought a change from pastoral scenes to the jazz clubs of a 20th-century city. While the ensemble punched out the tango beat with snap pizzicatos and lashing attacks, violinist Moreno did her best to evoke the reedy bite of Piazzolla’s bandoneon.

Photo: Jennifer Taylor

Billed as conductor as well as violinist, Moreno did little in the way of gesturing toward the other players during the concert, but led the performance with a bold rendering of her ever-present solo part. Her virtuoso leaps, string-crossing, and fierce tremolos were a force of nature evoking Nature in the Vivaldi concertos, while her silvery tone and long melodic line captured the contentment of a day’s work done.

Still, the actual hand (and arm) of a conductor might have helped in places. Piazzolla’s marked rhythms helped keep his four pieces on track, but the opening dance tune of Vivaldi’s “Spring” wavered and rushed a bit, and some entrances were not quite together. On the other hand, Moreno made the most of her freedom to engage in spirited dialogue with a cellist in the first movement of “Autumn.”

Wednesday’s string-ensemble arrangement of Piazzolla’s porteño “Seasons” has been around since 1998, when composer Leonid Desnyatnikov adapted it for violinist Gidon Kremer from the jazz-quintet original, throwing in a few sly allusions to Vivaldi for good measure. While this foursome consists of individual pieces, not three-movement concertos, on Wednesday it proved to be every bit as volatile in mood as its illustrious predecessor.

“Summer,” for example, began in low, chugging sonorities, but ended with the soloist hurling glissando lightning bolts across the sky. “Autumn” opened sinuous and seductive like Carmen’s habanera, then launched into a Bartókian folk dance, and finished with a high-flying violin cadenza.

“Winter” danced vigorously and low to the ground, the better to set off another brilliant solo cadenza. Perhaps the best-known piece of the four, “Spring” tossed its jagged, leaping theme among the instruments, sparked by enough dissonance to bring thoughts of Stravinsky’s even more famous spring.

Moreno and her players acknowledged the near-capacity audience’s enthusiastic applause with an encore, a dreamy rendition of Piazzolla’s “Oblivion.”

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