Music News & Reviews

Wichita Symphony gives ‘Four Seasons’ a Kansas touch

The Wichita Symphony will perform Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” accompanied by 350 photos by Larry Schwarm showing Kansas in winter, spring, summer and fall.
The Wichita Symphony will perform Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” accompanied by 350 photos by Larry Schwarm showing Kansas in winter, spring, summer and fall. Courtesy photo

Acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine says there’s “not a season that goes by” that she hasn’t performed Vivaldi’s classic “The Four Seasons.”

But her two performances of that work this weekend will include accompaniment she’s never shared before: a photographic display illustrating “The Four Seasons of Kansas.”

“I’m really interested in seeing it. It’s a creative idea,” Pine said from her Chicago office. “It’s a way to introduce people to the meaning of the music.”

The images of the state in winter, spring, summer and fall are all from Kansas photographer Larry Schwarm, who contributed about 350 photos, which will be projected above the orchestra playing at Century II, to illustrate the score.

Schwarm said about half the photos came from his collection from the past 40 years, and the rest were taken in the 12 months since symphony officials asked whether he’d be interested in a musical/photo collaboration.

A professor of photography at Wichita State University since 2013, Schwarm said he approached the “Four Seasons” project – in which images would be projected for just a few seconds – differently than he would a gallery show or a published compilation.

“I wanted something with a strong visual impact that says what it is: ‘This is spring,’ ‘This is summer,’ ” he said. “I tended to go for more dramatic and – I hate to use the word ‘pretty’ – but pretty pictures.

“My personal work tends to be more subtle and more abstract,” he added.

Growing up on a farm outside Greensburg, Schwarm said, he has always appreciated landscape photography.

“Some of these things I photograph constantly, I just never show them,” he said. “I feel like my work is very land-based, agricultural-based.”

Wichita Symphony music director and conductor Daniel Hege said the mix of Schwarm’s photography and Vivaldi’s score is an ideal marriage.

“We’re looking for visuals to go along with what we’re playing, but we don’t want to put just anything up,” he said. “We want to do something that’s really relevant, where each art form can aid the other.”

Once Hege saw Schwarm’s photos, Hege knew they were the ideal companion.

“We were just blown away at the incredibly high level of photos we saw. It was almost mind-boggling,” Hege said.

“I had seen a lot of Kansas, but I had not seen it in this kind of grandeur and beauty,” he added.

“The Four Seasons,” believed to have been written in 1723 by Vivaldi, is accompanied by poetry that also will be presented, Hege said.

Pine said she will also give a bit of explanation to each of the quadrants the work represents.

“No matter how many times you’ve heard them, you probably don’t know every little bit of the storyline as it goes along,” she said.

Pine said that her mission as a performer, especially with “Four Seasons,” is to present Vivaldi’s intentions to the audience and help illustrate the music with her violin, whether it be birds flying, water running or horses galloping.

“There’s very little repertoire that we regularly play that is quite as movie soundtrack-ish,” Pine said of the work.

The 42-year-old Pine, who has been in the national spotlight since 1981, said she is planning on recording “Four Seasons” for the first time in about four years. With nearly 30 albums to her credit, Pine said she has mapped out plans for 10 releases over the next five years.

Among Pine’s credits is “Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries” in 1997 with the Encore Chamber Orchestra, directed by Hege.

Pine, who last performed in Wichita in 2003, says she’s intrigued by the mix of Vivaldi and visuals.

“If it can make the audience engaged and bring new people into the hall, they can love what they’ve heard and come back,” she said.

‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons of Kansas’

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 27 and 3 p.m. Jan. 29

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

What: Classical music mainstay with photographs by Kansas artist Larry Schwarm; the all-baroque program also includes Handel’s “Water Music Suite” and Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 3”

Admission: $25 to $70

Info: Tickets are available at www.wichitasymphony.org, by phone at 316-267-7658 or in person at the symphony box office. Box office hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays

Family concert

What: Wichita Symphony performing Vivaldi’s “Ring of Mystery,” the story of a young violinist sent to an orphanage in 17th-century Venice to study with composer Antonio Vivaldi.

When: 4 p.m. Jan. 28

Where: Century II, 225 W. Douglas

Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for ages 3-12

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