If the midwinter blahs have you down, there’s a cure at the Saenger Theatre (6 S. Joachim St.) in late January. That’s when Mobile Symphony Orchestra will magically take attendees through a couple of calendars’ worth of music with the assistance of lauded international talent.
One of the time-travel architects is Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi and the vessel is his best-known work. Known collectively as “Four Seasons,” the quartet of violin concertos have become a “go-to” piece for a wealth of modern media, from films to television ads.
Written shortly after Vivaldi’s three years as maestro of the court of the governor of Mantua, Italy, “Four Seasons” was published in 1725. Added to the four operas he produced the same year, it proved a particularly fertile period for him.
“Four Seasons” was also one of the earliest examples of narrative thread and went on to influence centuries of artists. Mobile-native Ward Swingle and his famous combo The Swingle Singers served up their own take on their 1969 album “The Joy of Singing.”
The Vivaldi is followed by the same idea from a different perspective, less florid but spicier. Groundbreaking Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla penned “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” as part of his experimentation with fused classical, jazz and tango sounds.
Though born in South America, Piazzolla actually grew up in New York City, where he initially dismissed the sounds of his parents’ homeland. Once he learned to play a traditional South American concertina called a bandoneon, he returned to those musical roots and Argentina itself, but alive with ideas for “nuevo tango.”
A quarter century after Piazzolla’s calendar romp coalesced in 1970, Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov rearranged the four pieces. He converted each into three sections and scored them for solo violin and orchestra in order to link to Vivaldi’s earlier composition.
Fittingly, the third piece on the MSO program is Olsvaldo Golijov’s “Last Round,” written as a tribute to Piazzolla following his 1992 death.
Solo violin buoys all of the European and South American works, especially in this strings-only version of MSO. It’s only fitting they will turn to yet another continent to fill a seminal role.
South Korean violinist Chee-Yun makes her third appearance with MSO but it’s only the latest appearance in her nearly lifelong and stellar career. Her first public performance was at the tender age of 8 in Seoul after winning the grand prize of the Korean Times Competition.
At 13, Chee-Yun came to the United States and was invited to perform in a Young People’s Concert with the New York Philharmonic. Two years later, she appeared as a soloist with the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
After studying at Juilliard, she won the Young Concert Artists International auditions in 1989. Chee-Yun snagged an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990 and Korea’s “Nan Pa” Award in 1993.
She performs regularly with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the London Philharmonic and the Toronto, Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh and National symphony orchestras. She also has appeared with the Haifa Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the London Festival Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and with distinguished conductors such as James DePriest, Michael Tilson Thomas, Krzysztof Penderecki and Neeme Järvi.
Her orchestral highlights include a concert with the Seoul Philharmonic that was broadcast on national network television, a benefit for UNESCO with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Avery Fisher Hall and U.S. tours with the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas and Japan with the NHK Symphony.
Chee-Yun’s past faculty positions included serving as resident Starling Soloist and Adjunct Professor of Violin at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Visiting Professor of Music (Violin) at Indiana University School of Music. In 2007, she was appointed Artist-in-Residence and Professor of Violin at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
She’s boasts frequent appearances on public broadcasting – radio and television. In 2009, the violinist even made an episode of HBO’s comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Chee-Yun last appeared in the Azalea City in May 2015 when she played with the Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra for their season finale.
Attendees who want more than the performance itself are invited to dip into MSO’s pre-concert Take Note program in Room 1927, next to the Saenger’s main entrance. An hour before the conductor’s baton is raised they can hear a talk on the show’s background from MSO personnel.
The Jan. 20 show is at 7:30 p.m.. Sunday matinee is at 2:30 p.m..
Tickets run $15 – $75. For more information, call 251-432-2010 or go to mobilesymphony.org.