Are you sure about what you know?
The power of a new perspective.
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we develop fixed ideas about things. Big things, or little ones. Membership of the EU, or whether or not you like peas. Call them assumptions, opinions or prejudices, we’ve acquired these ideas somehow and it can take a lot to shake them out.
Take Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, for example.
If you’re at all interested in classical (small ‘c’) music, you’ll be familiar with this piece. Even if you’re not, you’ll have heard bits of it, as excerpts have been used countless times in advertising and on film soundtracks. I’m not going to give you a list; plenty of other people have done that. Go and have a look, it’s what the internet’s for.
It’s so ubiquitous that it’s easy to take it for granted. Here it pops up in the ad break, there it’s in the Classic FM Hall of Fame…it even puts in an appearance in the soundtrack to Pretty Woman (apparently – I need to go and check that out).
So I’ll confess to having got a bit snobbish about it. Oh, it’s classical music-lite. Not that old chestnut…again. Thank you, Nigel Kennedy, that’ll do now.
Until last weekend. I was at Kent’s Stour Music Festival, a little gem of a festival that takes place over two weekends in June, in a little church in the middle of a field. It’s a delight. You can’t camp, or even glamp, that I know of. But you can book dinner in the marquee between early and late concerts, which is all deliciously civilised.
La Serenissima were playing – they’re Vivaldi specialists, and I’d last heard them play in St John’s Smith Square sometime in the 1990s. Or so my mother tells me. I’d gone along because the first half had some interesting-sounding concertos for bassoon and something called a violin in tromba marina, about which I knew nothing and it turned out to be rather interesting. That deserves a whole separate post.
Second half – Le Quatrro Stagioni. OK, I thought. Ho hum.
Wrong. Wrong. WRONG.
First off. What a performance by Adrian Chandler (director, violin soloist) and his band. Perfect ensemble, despite a cracking pace, and bravura solos from all those concerned. I’d forgotten, through all those half-listened to, ‘too familiar to take proper notice of’ bits I’d heard over the years, about the sonnets that go with each concerto. So not only did this performance knock my socks off, but reading the sonnets while I listened, brought to life the extraordinary, revolutionary-for- their-day depictions in Vivaldi’s composition. There’s the birdsong, the barking dogs, even the creaking, cracking ice of deepest winter. It’s full of drama and technically challenging fireworks. It demanded full attention and a re-evaluation of what I thought I knew about the work. And it captivated everyone there. I came away exhilarated and thoughtful.
So it made me wonder. What else do I think I know about, take for granted, or dismiss about the world we live in? Beyond music, have I closed my eyes, ears and mind to new ideas, to different experiences, to people?
I’m going to be giving that some thought.
What’s made you wonder lately?
This piece wasn’t conceived as a plug for La Serenissima, but since I’m on the subject, you might as well know that they’re playing several other festival dates this summer. And that their new recording of The Four Seasons comes out in September. Details are on the La Serenissima website. Enjoy.