- The Four Seasons
This set of musical four seasons has nothing to do with those of Vivaldi, Haydn, or Piazzolla. The title of this musical suite refers instead to the "four seasons" of life: childhood, adolescence, maturity, and wisdom, in the words of composer Pierre Schroeder. French-born, Schroeder lives in Los Angeles and has written music for films. That background shows in the evocative, programmatic quality of this 52-minute suite, but Schroeder's music is anything but typical film music; his methods of realizing his goals are unique. The work is notable for using elements of jazz piano and electronic pop while remaining stylistically distinct from the source genres of those influences. The elements of "The Four Seasons" are: 1) a small group of strings and winds, playing solo and together, 2) a jazz-inflected piano with percussion, 3) a digital sampler, used to provide background sounds appropriate to the theme of the movement involved (sounds of children's voices in the first movement, for example), and 4) French-language texts for each movement except "Maturity," which is textless. What makes the suite consistently absorbing is Schroeder's manipulation of these elements, which ebb and flow in prominence as the work proceeds. The text, where present, enters only toward the end of a movement, serving as a kind of quiet summary. It has a textural equivalence with the sampled sounds in the first two movements, weaving in and out of the background behind the acoustic instruments; in the final movement it is more independent. The jazz element diminishes over the course of the work as the hidden protagonist ages. There are fascinatingly small details as well in the way this novel idea is worked out, and the generally tonal idiom, based in jazz extended harmony, makes the music accessible for any listener. Jazz is an accent, however, not the essence of the work. The performers deserve kudos all around, but special notice should go to soprano Annie Kim, who executes an unfamiliar concept and a difficult part (in the first movement she has to deliver childlike shouts, quietly, at the top of her range) with confidence and flair. Strongly recommended, especially for those interested in jazz-classical fusions; this is one of a new kind.