The Four Seasons with Jun Iwasaki

Vivaldi's Four Seasons with Jun Iwasaki

This Sunday evening presents a special opportunity for classical music fans as the Nashville Symphony performs Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons for one night only. The instantly recognizable collection of four concertos — each capturing a different time of year — has been used in well over 100 movies and television shows, which is a feat for any piece of music.  Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki will not only be a soloist during the performance, but he’ll also lead the performers onstage. While not uncommon for Baroque-era pieces, it will be a unique experience for concertgoers at the Schermerhorn to see one of the musicians also lead the ensemble.

In preparation for the concert, we caught up with Jun to get his thoughts on The Four Seasons and why it has continues to capture listeners’ imaginations three centuries after it was first written.


Question: What makes Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons special to you?

Answer: It’s such a recognizable piece of work that playing it is always a delight.  The fact that I am able to play it with my colleagues in our own hall makes it even more exciting.


Q: This work has been featured in film a countless number of times. What makes it so popular for use in movie soundtracks?

A: [I'm] not sure exactly why it is used in so many soundtracks, but my guess is that it brings visuals to life.  The Four Seasons are a type of program music that tells a story, so maybe movie directors try to use them to tell their story in movies.


Q: For this performance, you will serve as a leader and a soloist. What all does this role entail, and how does that make it unique compared to other performances at the Schermerhorn?

A: This is not uncommon for Baroque music, and it basically means I will be leading the group while playing.  It will be chamber music in a larger setting.  We rarely get to do this kind of stuff in a large hall, so it will be an exciting endeavor for all of us.


Q: With The Four Seasons being so recognizable, how do you prepare for this performance? Have you performed it before?

A: I don't have a long history with these concertos, but I have played all of them throughout my career.  This will be the first time that I tackle all of them in one performance, so preparing for it has been a little different.  Also, knowing that I will be leading the tutti [full orchestra] parts has me studying the score a lot more.


Q: The work captures the feel of all four seasons throughout the year. What emotions can audiences expect to feel throughout the performance? 

A: I hope each audience member feels something unique.  The fact that Vivaldi himself wrote four sonnets to accompany the seasons can help the listener through the concertos if they wish to read them.  

Spring – Concerto in E Major

Springtime is upon us. 
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

Summer – Concerto in g-minor

Allegro non molto
Beneath the blazing sun's relentless heat 
men and flocks are sweltering, 
pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo's voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air….but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.

Adagio e piano - Presto e forte
His limbs are now awakened from their repose by fear of lightning's flash and thunder's roar, as gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

Alas, his worst fears were justified, as the heavens roar and great hailstones beat down upon the proudly standing corn.

Autumn – Concerto in F Major

The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in.
The cup of Bacchus flows freely, and many find their relief in deep slumber.

Adagio molto
The singing and the dancing die away
as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep
without a care.

The hunters emerge at dawn,
ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.
Their quarry flees while they give chase.
Terrified and wounded, the prey struggles on,
but, harried, dies.

Winter – Concerto in f-minor

Allegro non molto
Shivering, frozen mid the frosty snow in biting, stinging winds;
running to and fro to stamp one's icy feet, teeth chattering in the bitter chill.

To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.

We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling. 
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up.
We feel the chill north winds coarse through the home despite the locked and bolted doors…
this is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights.

Many thanks to Jun Iwasaki for taking the time to answer these questions. You won't want to miss Vivaldi's Four Seasons on Sunday, September 27th. Visit the concert detail page to purchase tickets and get information on Date Night packages for the evening.

September 23, 2015