Listening to Henning Kraggerud lead the Pacific Symphony strings in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” on Thursday night, I felt something like a California native transplanted to, say, Scandinavia and experiencing real weather for the first time.
Guest conductor and violinist Kraggerud and the other musicians attacked Vivaldi’s most popular – and familiar – work with vigor and nuance and were able to bring from it fresh revelations.
The exuberant and dynamic reading of the often-heard first movement of the first, Spring, concerto was a rich and wonderful start, setting a precedent that carried through to the final movement of the fourth, Winter, evoking stormy winds with the hint of a new spring to come.
This was no “late night and early morning low clouds giving way to sunshine with highs in the 70s.” You felt the oppressive heat and buzzing insects of summer, you were nestled before a warm fire while freezing rain pelted the roof in winter.
The audience was helped along by Kraggerud’s short explanations before each concerto, delivered with Scandinavian directness tinged with humor (“In this part, you will hear a barking dog. The dog is, of course, the violas.”). And the four sonnets, perhaps written by Vivaldi also, that inform and give words to the music are reproduced in the program.
Then there was Kraggerud’s fine, expressive violin. Clearly the master of the challenging technical aspects of the Vivaldi, he was adept, though his phrasing, dynamism and even body language, at making the well-known music into a fresh and exciting experience.
The first half of the program consisted of the “Christmas” Concerto of Corelli, a contemporary of Vivaldi, and Grieg’s Holberg Suite, with its nod to Baroque stylings and conventions. These were well delivered, but do not pack the punch of the Vivaldi.
At the end, leaving the Segerstrom Concert Hall, I found myself thinking, “Now that was a real ‘Four Seasons.’”