San Francisco Ballet enchants receptive Festival Napa Valley crowd

Sarah Chang
Napa Valley Register

From the reception the highly lauded and respected company received last Friday night, I suspect San Francisco Ballet has found a home away from home.

For its debut at Festival Napa Valley, artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s amazing band of dancers and choreographers put on a show that had the packed Lincoln Theater audience under their spell from the first allegro.

Acclaimed violinist Sarah Chang returned to Festival Napa Valley last week to bring us up to speed on her fondness for the tango, namely the works of Argentina’s Astor Piazzolla.

Chang chose to showcase Leonid Desyatnikov’s arrangement of Piazzolla’s “Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas” (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) for violin and string orchestra, interspersing quotations from Antonio Vivaldi’s beloved “Four Seasons” throughout the update.

Piazzolla’s four distinct pieces feature intermittent soloistic passages that make them somewhat more concerto-like than most of his output. Nevertheless, they were not written as an homage to Vivaldi. Composed at various times between 1964 and 1970, they were not even intended as a single suite, although Piazzolla performed them together from time to time. They offer an ideal introduction to the unique tango-classical fusion created by this Argentine master. It was Desyatnikov who brought them together as a fiery symphonic salute to the Argentine master.

Of course, it would fall to virtuoso Sarah Chang to put this “nuevo tango” into its proper light. Aided by conductor Joel Revzen and the impressive Festival Orchestra Napa, Chang offered a dizzying, dazzling reading of this rarely performed work, following it up with — what else? — some of the Vivaldi. Clever.
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