Renowned early music string ensemble Concerto Köln performed an exhilirating full rendition of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on Saturday night at the Alix Goolden Hall, an event hosted by the Early Music Society of the Islands. Photo by Harald Hoffmann

REVIEW: Victoria audience experiences ‘The Four Seasons’ at its best

Germany-based Concerto Köln musicians light up the stage at Alix Goolden Hall

There were no doubt many regulars in the audience Saturday night when the Early Music Society of the Islands hosted the latest performance in its 35th season.

Few could have anticipated the level of quality exhibited on the night by the world-renowned Concerto Koln, with violinist Shunske Sato performing the solo sections in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, which made up the bulk of the program for the evening at Alix Goolden Hall.

Sato’s boundless energy and enthusiasm for the music was on full display, and he was flawless in his delivery of the key passages in Vivaldi’s masterpiece. Those familiar with The Four Seasons know it is filled with flourishes and many subtle string voices. Sato and fellow concertmaster, violinist Mayumi Hirasaki traded off stunning solos, as the other musicians provided beautiful support.

Cellist Alexander Scherf, who also serves as general manager and artistic director of Concerto Köln, was equally adept at navigating the material, thrilling the appreciative crowd with his physical performance.

Before the start, James Young, the society’s artistic director, gave those gathered a sense of just how special this concert was by listing where this leg of the North American tour was taking Concerto Koln: San Diego, New York, Chicago – and Victoria!

The program, billed by EMSI as the first time The Four Seasons would be played here fully on period instruments, also included Vivaldi’s spirited “Concerto in B minor Op. 3,” Geminiani’s “Concerto Grosso in D minor, La Follia; and baroque master Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins in D minor.”

But the crowd was here to see this ambitious collection of musicians tackle the The Four Seasons, with its distinctly different “seasons,” performed two per half. The audience showed their appreciation of Sato and company in a big way, rising to their feet on more than one occasion.

The Early Music Society of the Islands continues to provide high-caliber musical offerings and has two more concerts scheduled for the coming months at the Alix Goolden Hall.

Vivaldi in Paris, featuring Martin Bernstein on recorder, Anna Marsh on bassoon and Byron Schenkman on harpsichord, is set for March 14, while on April 18, Plaisirs de la Chambre brings together the Victoria Baroque ensemble and up-and-coming early music soprano Emma Hannan, performing the music of Boismortier, Hotteterre and Marais.

Find tickets and more information at earlymusicsocietyoftheislands.ca or rmts.bc.ca at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, 900 Johnson St.

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