'Seasons' intertwines Baroque, sizzling works

Violin soloist Danielle Belén says she has been running to build up her stamina for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra's "The Four Seasons" concert. She will be playing the entire concert and performing it four times.


The titles are nearly the same, but Vivaldi's Baroque masterpiece "Four Seasons" and Piazzolla's sizzling tango-infused "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires" are wildly different.

That didn't stop Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer from weaving the two works together several years ago, creating one big cosmic exploration of spring, summer, autumn and winter.

His idea has been copied by orchestras in the years since, with many of them turning to Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov's string arrangement of Piazzolla's "Four Seasons" complete with nods to Vivaldi.

This weekend, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra will follow Kremer's lead with California violin soloist Danielle Belén and guest conductor Michael Hall.

"It keeps the audience on their toes," said Belén, a Sphinx Competition winner making her TSO debut. "(Desyatnikov) is very clever in the way that he works in the Vivaldi quotes into (Piazzolla's) pieces. So it's really fun."

Hall came up with the idea to perform the two pieces as one when the TSO asked him to guest conduct the Masterworks concert. Hall has been a go-to guest conductor for the orchestra's holiday pops concerts over the past seven years, but this is the first time he has taken the baton to lead a TSO classical concert.

Although he has conducted the Vivaldi, Hall has never performed the Piazzolla, he said.

"What's exciting about the way that we're going to structure it is that there are a lot of similarities between the Vivaldi and the Piazzolla seasons," Hall explained. "We are going to mix them up in such a way that the Vivaldi season will follow the Piazzolla: Vivaldi spring, then Piazzolla summer, then the Vivaldi summer and the Piazzolla autumn, et cetera."

Hall and Belén, discussed strategy via Skype last week before each arrived in Tucson earlier this week.

"It's very exciting to go back and forth, back and forth," said Belén, a graduate of Colburn Conservatory in Los Angeles where she teaches full-time. "We don't pair them by exact season to exact season. In Argentina, the summer there is the winter here and the winter here is the summer there so we took that into account in the order."

Belén likens marrying the two works to a rapper sampling songs.

"You will hear the (Vivaldi) quotations, but they won't be in the same context at all," said Belén, 29, who also is concertmaster of California's New West Symphony.

"Instead of compartmentalizing it, you have the Baroque and the tango merged," added Hall. "For the soloist it is quite taxing ... because you have to move from one style to another quite quickly."

Belén said the TSO concerts will feel like a marathon; most soloists do one piece in a concert; she will be doing the entire concert - and performing it four times, beginning with tonight's concert in Green Valley. In addition to hours a day practicing, Belén said she has been running to build up her stamina.

"I'm very excited about it. A lot of people have not heard (the Piazzolla) before and I'm really excited to share it with people who are not familiar with it," she said.

If you go

• What: Tucson Symphony Orchestra "The Four Seasons."

• Featuring: Violinist Danielle Belén and guest conductor Michael Hall.

• When and where: 7:30 p.m. today at Green Valley Rec Center West, 1111 Via Arcoiris; 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte, and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Catalina Foothills High School, 4300 E. Sunrise Drive.

• Tickets: $39 in advance for Green Valley, 625-0288; specially priced $30 to $40 for Oro Valley, 797-3959 Ext. 1; and $40 to $50 for Catalina Foothills, 882-8585 or tucsonsymphony.org

• Program: Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." Piazzolla's "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires."