A minute with Alice Hallstrom: A Seasoned Finale with Vivaldi’s Classic

Orchestra of Indian Hill wraps up its season featuring some of Indian Hill’s best on Saturday, April 22! The program features Ginastera (Variaciones Concertantes), Tchaikovsky (Capriccio Italien), and Vivaldi’s classic Four Seasons with soloist Alice Hallstrom, OIH concertmaster. Indian Hill Music School 2017 Concerto Competition winner Justin Gu, 15, will also take the stage to perform the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No 2: Mvt I.

Alice Hallstrom has served as concertmaster of the Orchestra of Indian Hill for the past five seasons, and is an active performer in the Boston area where she plays freOIH_AliceHallstrom_CREDIT_AliceGeburaquently with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra.  She has also served as assistant concertmaster of the Portland Symphony and assistant concertmaster of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic.  As a featured solo performer, she has played concerti with the Southwest Symphony, Juilliard Baroque Ensemble, Purchase Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra of Tennessee.  She has recorded with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, BMOP, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole, Chamber Music Atlanta, Train, Ephraim’s Harp, and The Cartoon Network. Alice received her master’s degree from The Juilliard School and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of music from SUNY Purchase.  She lives in Bedford, MA with her husband Michael and son Spencer.  She took a minute to give us her take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

How are you bringing a fresh perspective to the popular Four Seasons?

Vivaldi put many interesting nature sounds, programmatic elements, and visual images in these pieces.  It has been a lot of fun to explore ways to bring these out and really create an auditory picture with the violin.  Some of the musical decisions I have made for this performance will be different from past performances that the audience may be familiar with, but I hope that they will serve to highlight the effects that Vivaldi was creating through his music and the poems that he included in the score.  In my work on these concerti, I did a lot of thinking about how best to emphasize the sound effects, characters, and stories that are interspersed throughout each season.

How do you personally connect to the piece? 
In preparing to perform the Four Seasons this past year, I decided to work seasonally and focus mainly on practicing the season we were currently in.  Having Vivaldi’s view of the seasons in mind shaped my experience with nature, and my own experiences with the season shaped my interpretation of the piece.  For instance, Vivaldi portrays a much more harsh and stormy picture of summer than we typically think of in our day.  While we associate it with summer vacation, swimming, lemonade, and leisure, Vivaldi captured exhausting heat and fierce, terrifying storms.  Drawing on my own experiences of oppressive heat, no air conditioning, and the scary storms I’ve lived through put me in mind of the images that Vivaldi was evoking of summers in Italy in the 1720s.  I remember one day in particular last summer when a huge storm came up.  A tornado watch was issued for our area, and I found myself hunkered down in the basement with my son thinking of Vivaldi’s poor shepherd quivering with fear. And so on with the other seasons.  The thing that’s so wonderful about Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is that they invoke images, concepts, and feelings that we are all very familiar with, and put them into a beautiful and fascinating musical setting.

If you had to choose a “season” as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
If I had to choose a favorite season, it would probably be Spring for its bright, fresh and joyful melodies.  Although the drunkard in the first movement of Autumn and the icy sounds of Winter are also favorites.

What do you hope the audience will come away with from this piece?
These pieces are so fun to play and to listen to!  I would hope that audience members would come with their own experiences of the seasons and combine those experiences with Vivaldi’s vivid musical portrayal of his view of the seasons.  Most of all, I hope the audience will have as much fun listening to the Four Seasons as we have playing them!

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