A celebration of strings
Allow me to be biased for a minute. If I had to come up with a repertoire to please everyone -- young and old, men and women, Democrats and Republicans, I would feature the violin big time. And my wishes are about to come true this weekend, as we present one of music's most beloved pieces, Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." It's such a popular work, you'll find it arranged for every style in every place, from jazz to pop to rock, from movies to cell-phone ringtones.
In concert: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 4 p.m. Sunday
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $15 to $65
Call: 792-2000 or visit www.honolulusymphony.com
But you can't just let anybody play the "Seasons" and expect the audience to go gaga. Imagine a jeweler working on a diamond. An unskilled cutter will ruin the gem. You need an expert to make the diamond shine its brightest. Ditto with this piece -- it needs a virtuoso who understands how to work with ensembles.
Enter our guest artists, Daniel and Todd Phillips, better known as the Orion Brothers. The two have been touring the world as founding members of the Orion String Quartet. A string quartet is the ultimate form of chamber ensemble, in which each player's awareness of the others is most demanding. The Phillipses, who also tour as soloists, will share their unique and brotherly expertise this weekend.
Here's a little technical trivia to enhance your evening: The "Four Seasons" belongs to the category of "program music," because it clearly attempts to portray a scene or story. It's not meant just to sound pretty, but to fulfill a rational purpose. Vivaldi also wrote sonnets for each season, explaining what he was portraying through the music.
For instance, the violin solo welcomes the listener with bird songs, demonstrated by quick, repeated trills. Those cheerful greetings are soon taken over by lightning and thunder from the orchestra, created by separate bow strokes at breakneck speed. A soothing melody from the soloist depicts someone content at home, by the fire. It might be warm and cozy inside, but outside the rain is pouring. Those raindrops you hear are musicians plucking their strings, a technique known as pizzicato.
Bach and Mozart also provided revered violin masterpieces, but both were also adept at the viola. The violin's bigger sibling, the viola possesses a lower and darker voice, a bit like the difference between milk chocolate and cocoa.
After opening with Bach's Concerto for Two Violins, the Phillips brothers will give the limelight to the partnership between the violin and viola in Mozart's "Sinfonia Concertante." I encourage the listener to pay close attention to the viola, which deserves to share the stage on equal footing with its more glamorous sibling.
Ignace "Iggy" Jang
is the Honolulu Symphony's concertmaster. His column will appear on the Monday prior to each concert of the season to illuminate works to be performed. E-mail comments and questions to Jang at firstname.lastname@example.org