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Melissa White tells a new story through a longtime classic

Melissa White tells a new story through a longtime classic

Katherine Roberts
Special to The Aspen Times
Violinist Melissa White
Courtesy AMFS

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi once said, “There are no words, there is only music there.”

Yet his most famous composition, “The Four Seasons,” is based on a series of sonnets and, according to violinist Melissa White, is about “delivering an experience” through the story of music. That experience will be presented by White both performing and leading a group of musicians at the Benedict Music tent as part of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s summer 2022 season.

The idea of White both conducting and playing violin was a concept presented to her by the AMFS. When she was younger, she saw Nigel Kennedy present “The Four Seasons” in the same format, and so she was immediately drawn to the idea. While she said she doesn’t consider herself a conductor, she is looking forward to showcasing “a fun, creative space for the audience.”



And because the music tells a story, she wants to paint a picture with the piece.

“I have an idea about making these concepts visual from a technical point of view,” she said. “Once I share these thoughts with the other musicians, I’m excited to hear what their ideas are.”




That’s right, White will only be meeting her cohort of performers just days before the live concert, and they’ll work together to put on a show.

“It will be very fresh, personal and present for the audience, as we’re performing and interacting in real time,” she says.

Which is not easy to do for a piece of music that has been so broadly available in the public domain, heard in everything from elevators to diamond and car commercials over the years.

“With the ‘Seasons,’ it’s a story that people perhaps know, as it’s so widely heard,” White said.

But she’s also quick to point out that a live performance is quite different from listening to a recorded version that’s meant to be palatable for all ears.

“The ‘Seasons’ leave room for interpretation, but with a live show, you’re together in an experience,” she said.

And White is no stranger to collaborating on an all-senses stage, as she was the musician behind the single violin track on the nail-biting Jordan Peele film “Us.”

“The comments that I would get from the booth as I was redoing takes over and over were very specific. ‘Can (you) get scary sooner, or can it be more explosive?’ It was less about delivering a perfect note performance and more about providing audiences with a feeling, a reaction” for the thriller, she said. “It will be fun to take that concept back to this concert hall performance.”

Melissa White
Courtesy AMFS

She asserts that storytelling though music has continued year after year since Vivaldi made sonnets into concertos.

“I think storytelling through song is something that has been around for so long; if you think about black-and-white movies, it was often the music that drove the narrative,” she said.

A simple story even brought White to music in the first place. She begged her parents, who were not musicians, for her instrument of choice for two years straight, starting at the age of 4, after watching Itzhak Perlman tell a tale of “the difference between things that are easy and hard” on an episode of “Sesame Street.”

“I was relentless, and I never wanted anything but a violin,” she said.

And that laser focus has now brought her to a new, never-before-seen place. This is White’s first time in Aspen, and she’s looking forward to that shared experience of “newness” alongside the audience in the tent.

“Hearing this particular music on a recording but never live is a lot of people’s experience with Vivaldi,” she said, “so I’m glad to provide an avenue for audiences to enjoy the performance in a new and exciting way.”

If you go …

What: An evening of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with Melissa White, violin and conductor

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11

Tickets: $75

More info: aspenmusicfestival.com

Melissa White
Courtesy AMFS

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