Saturday, December 8, 2018 8 pm Glenn Gould Studio
The Eight Seasons 

Two x Four Seasons = two years of beauty,
all in one night of spellbinding violin virtuosity

VIVALDI The Four Seasons
PIAZZOLLA The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires 

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Sony Classical artist and Winner of the 2012 Juno Award, Alexandre Da Costa was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He showed an uncommon interest for both the violin and piano at a very early age. By the age of nine, he had the astonishing ability to perform his first concerts with stunning virtuosity on both instruments, which brought him recognition as a musical prodigy. His chosen professional career as a violinist began very early and, after encouragement from Charles Dutoit, he was soon performing regularly as soloist with orchestra as well as in recital.

At age 18, he obtained a Master’s Degree in violin and a First Prize from the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec. Concurrently, he also obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Interpretation from the University of Montreal. Subsequently, told he had to choose one instrument, he studied in Madrid at the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia with a legendary violin teacher who became his mentor, Zakhar Bron (whose previous students famously include the likes of Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin). He later pursued post-graduate studies at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst of Vienna, Austria, with G. Schulz, C. Altenburger and R. Honeck, and is currently completing a research PhD. Among the many other prizes that followed were the Sylva Gelber Foundation Award from the Canada Council for the Arts, and in 2003 the Council’s Musical Instrument Bank decided to go further and award him the “1689 Baumgartner Stradivarius”. In 2010, he received the prestigious Virginia-Parker Prize, one of Canada’s highest cultural distinctions.
Winner of many national and international first prizes, including the International Violin Competition Pablo Sarasate, Alexandre Da Costa has given close to two thousand concerts and recitals throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. He has performed the major halls of Vienna (Musikverein), Berlin (Philharmonie), New York (Carnegie Hall), Beijing (Poly-Theater) and beyond. He has played and recorded as guest soloist with more than a 100 different orchestras including London’s Royal Philharmonic, Sinfonia Toronto, the Vienna, Berlin and Montreal Symphony Orchestras, the Dresden, Bergen, Buffalo and Prague Philharmonic Orchestras, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the National TV and Radio Orchestra of Spain, the YOA Orchestra of the Americas and many more. Conductors he has played under include Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Leonard Slatkin, Lorin Maazel, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Tugan Sokhiev, Vasily Petrenko, Matthias Bamert, John Axelrod, Johannes Wildner and Peter Oundjian. His live performance broadcasts have aired on BBC, WestDeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), CBC, NPR, ORF and many others. Da Costa has given world premieres of works by Elliott Carter, Michael Daugherty, Lorenzo Palomo, Paul Sarcich, Jean Lesage and Airat Ichmouratov. Alexandre Da Costa is also active as a chamber musician and has recently recorded the complete Brahms sonatas, alongside pianist Wonny Song. Da Costa has performed alongside acclaimed chamber musicians such as Menahem Pressler, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Matt Haimowitz and Hélène Mercier. 

As a recording artist, he has recorded 25 CDs with Sony Classical, Warner Classics, JVC/Victor, Naxos, Acacia Classics/Universal, ATMA, XXI-21 and Octave/Universal, among them the world premiere recordings of the Violin Concertos by Portuguese composers Freitas Branco and Fernandes. In 2012, he won the JUNO award for “Classical Album of the Year” for his recording of the concertos by American composer Michael Daugherty, with the Montreal Symphony under Pedro Halffter for Warner Classics. The Washington Post selected his recording of the Beethoven concerto with Klezmer cadenzas by Ichmouratov as CD of the Year. He now records for Spectra and Sony Classical. His latest release Stradivarius at the Opera, recorded with the Vienna Symphony, quickly attained the best-seller status, and was converted into a multimedia concert booked around the world. 

Alexandre Da Costa is Music Director of both the Acacia Ensemble (Canada) and the Indian Ocean Ensemble (Australia). He also regularly performs as guest soloist and conductor (Play & Conduct) with ensembles such as the Queen Sofia Royal Chamber Orchestra, the Virtuosos of Venezuela Symphony and the Vienna Symphony (Wiener Symphoniker). 

In addition to his soloist activities, Alexandre Da Costa is Associate Professor and Head of Strings at the Edith Cowan University and regularly gives masterclasses at various universities and conservatories around the world. Institutions he visited include the Sydney Conservatorium, the University of Toronto and the Superior Conservatories of Montreal, Madrid and Shanghai. He also served as benchmarking consultant for the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and guest speaker for TEDx. As Concertmaster, he regularly leads orchestras such as the Wiener Symphoniker, the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse and the Singapore Symphony, under conductors such as Philippe Jordan, Tugan Sokhiev, Günter Herbig and Lorin Maazel. He currently holds the position of Artistic Director of the Laurentians International Festival of Canada and Artistic Director at Acacia Classics Productions. Alexandre Da Costa plays the “Deveault” Stradivarius of 1701 loaned by his friends Guy and Maryse Deveault.


Il Quattro Stagioni - The Four Seasons    Antonio Vivaldi  (1678-1741)
Vivaldi’s string concertos began influencing the evolution of European musical history almost as soon as he began writing. The 12 works in his Opus 3, L’estro armonico inspired many composers, including JS Bach, and helped raise instrumental music to equal status with vocal music, a development that had started during the Baroque and blossomed fully only with Beethoven. Vivaldi’s Opus 4, La stravaganza also consisted of concertos for violin and strings and again confirmed the worth of the form with his contemporaries. Opus 8, the aptly-named Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione, “The Challenge of Harmony and Invention,” pushed further along the same path, and the first four concertos of the collection, the now-famous Four Seasons, eventually sparked the revival of interest in Vivaldi during the mid-20th Century. 

Especially in view of Vivaldi’s influence on other composers, it seems surprising that his works languished in obscurity for so long. In addition to his concertos’ general impact, The Four Seasons helped establish the sounds of nature as a rich source of musical inspiration. Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Respighi and many others are his musical descendants in this respect. Vivaldi even wrote descriptive sonnets in the score for each season, creating a clear narration for listeners and a helpful guide for performers.

We begin with tranquil sunshine in Spring, then welcome a gentle April shower. In the second movement shepherds drowse, untroubled by the buzzing of insects and the noise of dogs barking. The last movement depicts a cheerful village dance, with bagpipes impersonated by drone lines in the lower strings.

Summer shimmers with dry heat; lethargy overtakes the village while the solo violin plays the intermittent interruptions of the quiet landscape by cuckoos and turtledoves, the murmur of breezes, and an occasional rush of gusty wind. A delicate solo line carries the slow movement Adagio above trembling figures in the orchestra that hint at the weather change that will arrive in the last-movement Presto: a summer storm complete with musical flashes of lighting, thunder-crashes and torrents of rain.

The first movement of Autumn celebrates the harvest with vigorous dancing and likely quite a lot of drinking, causing the villagers to fall deeply asleep for the second movement, napping right through one of Vivaldi’s most harmonically inventive creations. Everyone wakes up when the solo violin sounds a hunting horn to open the last movement, though, and rides off in pursuit of fall game with dogs baying and muskets firing.

Winter arrives, with a first movement full of snow, freezing cold and ice – harsh, yet possessing a chilly beauty. The second movement cuddles comfortably near the fire inside as icy rain falls outside, until the last movement unleashes all the boisterous winds and rapid freezing-thawing that anticipates spring with still more treacherous conditions. The solo protagonist tiptoes out, trying to keep his balance on the ice, but without success!

The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires      Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla  (1921-1992)
Arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov  
The Four Season of Buenos Aires is an unusual and fascinating work. It combines Piazzolla’s beloved tango style with the architecture of Vivaldi’s famous Baroque concertos. It shares with Vivaldi not only the basic concept of painting the four seasons with musical colours, it also features a virtuoso solo violin part within an orchestra texture. But in fact this work was originally written for a folk ensemble rather than violin solo and orchestra. In the late 1990’s Leonid Desyatnikov arranged the version for full string orchestra with solo violin, and at the same time incorporated more obvious references to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.     

Desyatnikov’s references are ingenious. For example, summer in Piazzolla’s homeland of Argentina occurs during winter in Vivaldi’s Italy. Desyatnikov interpolated quotes from Vivaldi’s Winter into Piazzolla’s Summer. For listeners familiar with the Vivaldi, the interpolation is clearly apparent and offers an enjoyable shock of recognition.  

Vivaldi gave each season three short movements. Piazzolla gives each season only one movement, but each movement ranges through several different moods. His Summer blends the ironic, rhythmic tango with more straightforward echoes of the Baroque. An expansive, mournful cello solo regrets that summer must give way as it introduces Fall, which is followed by a sensuous and highly rhythmic Winter. 

Winter includes many cadenza-like displays of virtuosity by the solo violin, recalling Vivaldi’s solo passages depicting his protagonist slipping on wintery ice. At the same time, it nods again to Italy’s opposite season as Desyatnikov weaves quotes from Vivaldi’s more relaxed Summer into Piazzolla’s intensely emotional Winter. Spring in Buenos Aires is an ecstatic, festive season, represented by a movement full of exciting rhythms that bring the work to a brilliant conclusion.