I just spent the most exquisite evening in front of the telly. CBC’s Opening Night presented a documentary about the collaboration between Tafelmusik and four musicians from diverse cultures to perform an adaptation of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. The guest musicians were a Wen Zhao on the pipa (a Chinese lute-like instrument), Lakshmi Ranganathan on the veena (an Indian bowed string instrument), and the Inuit throat singing duo Aqsarniit. The Four Seasons is already one of my all-time favourite pieces of music, but to have it paired with instruments from such rich and diverse cultures, well, it blew my mind.
They followed as the Chinese and Indian musicians returned to their homelands to visit and play with their teachers. It was truly touching, and Jean Lamon (Tafelmusik’s director) spoke about how music is the last traditionally taught discipline in the West; like everywhere else in the world, music-making is still passed down from teacher to student, one on one. In another segment we heard a chamber group consisting of a violin, baroque guitar, pipa, and veena. Sheer heaven/nirvana/etc. Alas there is no recording (yet?) of this wonderful music. I guess you had to be there.
After the documentary was an adaptation of a ballet based on The Four Seasons, featuring Rex Harrington. I am no connoisseur of ballet but this ballet was not to my taste. I could have done without the sound of feet hitting the stage. I was also distracted by the lead dancer’s prima donna (so to speak) attitude. He reminded me of Michael Flatley (enough said). The strongest section was winter, with a lovely movement including some senior (as in senior citizen) dancers who still had the moves, although the ladies didn’t go en pointe, of course. I wasn’t too upset when the main character succumbed to the old man’s friend at the end, cradled by mothers and maidens. Of course the music was wonderful and I was lost in it half the time. All in all it was not a bad way to spend the evening.