Arts Review: Anno

Comp. Anna Meredith, Tramway, 10th – 11th November

Anno is the result of a collaboration spanning three decades between contemporary composer Anna Meredith, artist Eleanor Meredith, the Scottish Ensemble and Antonio Vivaldi. The piece situates Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in a novel setting that challenges viewers’ perceptions of classical and modern music and how we enjoy and value them.

A standard 13-piece baroque string ensemble is accompanied by a laptop and positioned in a semicircle around the audience. Projected onto screens behind them are animations reflecting the music played. Parts of the ensemble move around over the course of the piece, so wherever one is sat in the venue will give a noticeably different and unique experience.

The mixture of old and new is very apparent at first. One can imagine Meredith’s electronic machinery sounding completely alien to an 18th century audience, her use of dissonance and rhythm likely punishable by law at the time. This is a massive juxtaposition with the straight playing of the first movement of Vivaldi’s Spring, a bastion of proper baroque sensibilities.

Interjected with Spring are samples of birdsong with accompanying visuals on the screens. As Spring goes on and the chirping fades out the screens present more abstract figures. The relationship between the image and music is gently revealed to demonstrate the relationship between the old and new – the colour and the shape of the modern music to the Vivaldi fan may seem unrecognisable and vice versa, but the audience is invited to break down these notions.

The juxtaposition narrows to an ecstatic point during the concluding movement of Summer where Vivaldi’s wall of strings is joined by techno chords and a pounding bass as the screens show a series of block watercolours. This is the climax at which the two meet, and for the rest of the piece the colour and shapes enter a dialogue attempting to consolidate the old and new, structure and anarchy.

Where Vivaldi already challenged listeners between the gentle pretention of Spring and the thrash core of Winter in his Four Seasons, Anno carries this spirit on in astonishing fashion. A marvellous spectacle of light and sound.

[Jimmy Donaghy -@JimmyDonagee]

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