Coup de Grâce

On my green and pristine back lawn, a solitary fallen leaf lies captive among the blades, a sure sign of the coming fall. A summer lengthened by oppressive heat is mercifully at its end. Fellow bloggers eagerly write about crisp mornings, cool nights, and college football games. But here’s a better nod to the upcoming season, a beckoning more sublime than anything “pumpkin spice”. Have a listen to Antonio Vivaldi’s violin concerto “Autumn”, from his best-known work, “The Four Seasons”.

Sure, I could bore you with the details of a classical composition written over four hundred years ago. “The Four Seasons” was cutting edge for its time because the music reflected real-life events: singing birds (“Spring”), soft breezes (“Summer”), and icy paths (“Winter”).  But today’s post is not really about “Autumn” and its drunken dancers.  It’s about the performance of the piece by Frederieke Saeijs.

Ms. Saeijs

I’d never heard of Frederieke Saeijs before I watched the eleven minutes of her violin solo in the video above but I must confess, I’m absolutely smitten.  Frederieke (pronounced exactly like it reads, unlike her last name), is Dutch by birth but worldly in every other respect, including her education, performances, and teaching.  Her list of accomplishments and awards suggests there is nothing further she can achieve with her instrument… and she’s only forty-two.

But I digress (and can you blame me after seeing her photo?)  Let’s get back to this performance of “Autumn”.  Here is what I found so captivating.  First, Frederieke’s eyes and her movements with her violin are unabashedly expressive as she plays, clearly one with the music.  She is a picture of grace with her slender frame, elegant hairstyle, and striking purple gown.  In other words, you could watch this video on mute and still be impressed.  But please don’t.  You need to hear the music, even just a few minutes of it.  I admit to distraction by some other things on my computer screen yet I kept coming back to this performance until I’d completed all eleven minutes.

If I haven’t yet persuaded you to spend a few minutes with Frederieke, consider this.  She plays the entire piece from memory (which, in ‘Autumn’s more furious moments, is mind-boggling).  Also, her performance – as well as those of the smallish orchestra around her – is captured from a dozen different angles.  This was a busy production, both in front of and behind the camera.

I kept waiting for something – anything – to bring this performance back to earth so I could describe it as less than perfect.  Except for a cough in the audience minutes from the end, I don’t see how the concerto could’ve been purer.  Seriously, have you ever wondered how a soloist of this caliber avoids a sneeze or a cough, or even slips a little on her high heels?  Perhaps this explains why Frederieke is a world-class violinist and I am not.

Finally, if you made it to the end of this performance like I did, you’ll find it interesting the video concluded before the audience applause (and standing ovation, no doubt).  I say “good call” to whoever posted the video.  The silent fade-to-black conclusion only makes the performance more powerful.

Mr. Vivaldi

A coup de grâce is defined as “a decisive blow”, and further, “one delivered mercifully to end suffering”.  I love the double meaning here.  The season of autumn delivers a merciful end to the suffering of a hot summer.  More to today’s topic, Ms. Saeijs’ violin performance speaks of force and grace as one.  In other words, she offers you a most sublime welcome to fall.

The poem which inspired Vivaldi’s “Autumn” concerto includes the line, “… And (by) the season that invites so many, many…”  After watching today’s video I feel very much invited.  I suggest you raise a glass of hot cider to the calm of fall.  While you’re at it, give thanks for the breathtaking talent of Frederieke Saeijs.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

17 thoughts on “Coup de Grâce

    1. I felt the same way, Margy, as if she was looking for a response from the other musicians during her solo. So expressive! Come to think of it, there was no conductor, was there? You may be on to something!

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    1. I can hear it! Or at least, if “Autumn” wasn’t in the soundtrack of Bridgerton, the music they chose was from the same time period. Now that I look at her again Frederieke looks like a character straight from the cast 🙂

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  1. I’ve heard snippets of “Autumn” before, likely for a commercial or backdrop to a story. I did listen and watch – it was very beautiful. How difficult to position that violin and play for that length of time and I guess she was grateful for playing slowly, almost stopping … a rest after after some vigorous bow tweaking earlier. Thank you for sharing this Dave.

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    1. I should’ve realized, Linda, “Autumn” was just one-quarter of Frederieke Saeijs’ performance. “The Four Seasons” is performed as four concertos in succession. Makes it all the more impressive, doesn’t it?

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      1. Yes it was – I had never seen a violin concerto before and watching her stamina in holding the violin in place, the placement of the bow for over 11 minutes’ time was admirable. I did worry about that strapless gown when she had the bow vigorously moving on the faster portions. What if she missed and caught that beautiful gown?

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  2. A stunning performance to be sure! I also noticed there was no conductor–she kept them all together with the movements of her body. I grew up listening to classical music–my father was passionate about it! To this day it’s still my favorite genre. I googled “what percentage of American adults listen to classical music, and found 35%. I’m surprised it’s that high! But that means we do have some company!

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  3. I’m with you, Nancy – classical music is timeless. I’ve supported our local classical music radio station in an effort to keep the genre in grade school education (even if band/orchestra is not). I thank my mother for giving me this gift as a child, through piano lessons. I never learned to play the violin but I appreciate the difficulty of this performance and the beauty of this music.

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  4. I was not familiar with the violinist but this is a familiar and loved selection for me. I will listen to the whole thing later and thank you for reminding me that I have been neglecting classical music lately and need to remedy that.

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  5. Shame on me for not recommending readers listen to all of Vivaldi’s Seasons (not just “Autumn”). The piece was meant to be heard in its entirety, about forty-five minutes. Magnificent!

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