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Program Notes: The Four Seasons

For The Four Seasons, our January program at Washington National Cathedral, we are combining works based on the four seasons from three centuries.


While audiences need no introduction to Antonio Vivaldi's famous set of four violin concerti, one for each season, it is always refreshing to hear this piece with a nimble and inventive soloist (Julie Andrijeski) and orchestra using 18th century instruments and the spontaneous performance style so appropriate for this irresistible music. 


Christopher Simpson, the 17th century viol player and composer, was the author of some of the best virtuoso string music of his time. His own set of suites on the seasons (he also did a set of twelve on the individual months) each contains an air and two dances. We will perform a movement from each suite along with the Vivaldi. These pieces are scored for two bass viols, violin, and continuo and are dazzling displays of virtuosity.


John Cage was one of the most important American composers of the 20th century. He is best known for his chance and electronic music, his use of prepared piano, and musical thought experiments like 4'33". However, Cage also had a life-long affinity for modern dance. He met Merce Cunningham in the 1930s and remained very close with him. The final component of our program is the ballet Cage wrote for Cunningham's company in the late 1940s, also titled The Seasons. While Cage arranged this beautiful atmospheric work for piano as well as for full orchestra, we will be performing our own new arrangement for baroque orchestra, keyboard, and percussion.


—Robert Eisenstein

Robert Eisenstein

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