Published on Sunday 13 November 2016
Written by Miranda Heggie
Always challenging the norms of classical music performance, Scottish Ensemble’s latest project, Anno, presents one of the best known works of the classical repertoire, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, in a startlingly fresh context. Its genesis, devised by soloist and Scottish Ensemble’s Artistic Director Jonathan Morton, this collaboration between the Ensemble, composer Anna Meredith, visual artist Eleanor Meredith, and, in a sense, Vivaldi himself, is a powerful musical portrayal of the natural world’s transitions throughout the year. Seated on stools in the centre of the space, the audience are cocooned into a multi sensory landscape. Layered strings evoke the melting of one season into the next, whilst Eleanor Meredith’s interpretations of the moon, at different points in its cycle, gradually multiply as they are projected over large screens, bringing light to the space like a slowly forming dawn.
The familiarity with which most of us listen to these concerti can render much of the original meaning of his Four Seasons slightly lost. The Scottish Ensemble’s invigorating portrayal of Vivaldi’s music in such a new artistic environment, coupled with Anna Meredith’s dynamic, driven compositions remind us that the natural world is not just a thing of beauty, but a powerful force to be reckoned with. Her music dovetails perfectly with Vivaldi’s, despite being written centuries apart, the thick musical tapestry gently jarring, yet at times also richly soothing.
Depicting the cyclical nature of the Earth and its seasons, the players move round the performance space, thus giving the audience varying aural angles, before silently peeling off as the lights and music slowly melt away, leaving the audience once again surrounded by a still, dark silence.