Boldly Reexamining Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'

Friday night, during an audience-friendly analysis of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," from Opus 8, violinist Daniel Heifetz proved himself a man of strong conviction. Basing his interpretation of the programmatic music on the composer's own accompanying sonnets, and on descriptions Vivaldi left interspersed in the score, Heifetz offered personable, and highly individual performances of the four concertos. He prefaced the works with readings of poet Daniel Mark Epstein's skillful translations of the original texts.

The storytelling aspects entertained and the virtuosity impressed in the concert given in Marsee Auditorium at El Camino College in Torrance. Yet one could only wonder whether the composer would have expected the colorful exaggerations in which Heifetz and his six-piece backup group, The Classical Band, indulged--such as violist Ronald Francois' loud scratching for the barking dog depicted in the second movement of "Spring," violinists Marc Ramirez and Olivia Hajioff's pianissimo, nasal sul ponticello (bowing at the bridge) to portray the buzzing gnats and flies of "Summer," and the soloist's eccentric articulation and pacing as the drunken peasant of "Autumn."

The program began with J.S. Bach's Concerto for Violin and Strings in A minor, BWV 1041. After some faulty intonation was corrected after the opening Allegro moderato, Heifetz led his band with bold and rhythmically decisive determination.

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