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Featured Album March 2024: Orchestra Of The Swan "Earthcycle"

Featured Album March 2024: Orchestra Of The Swan "Earthcycle"

We have now been running our monthly Featured Album campaign for a full year, and what better way to celebrate than with an album that takes us through the year in musical form? The new album from Orchestra of the Swan, Earthcycle, is this month's featured album. Presenting Vivaldi's iconic Four Seasons along with new compositions and arrangements of traditional songs, all of which tie into the themes of the seasons, this is an exciting and innovative programme from an ensemble at the top of their game. Read on to find out more about the album...

Orchestra of the Swan


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Following their acclaimed mix-tape series on Signum Classics, Earthcycle is the fifth album from Orchestra of the Swan and David Le Page. Earthcycle is an innovative and timely project which finds a compelling way to engage with humanity’s most urgent threat. Through three initial performances, a recording and a film, Earthcycle contemplates our impact on Earth’s environment and the disruption of its natural rhythms. To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons they have commissioned a new version from our Associate Artist, baroque/jazz musician and composer David Gordon which is interspersed with traditional folk songs related to the theme of the seasons and performed by singer Jackie Oates. Earthcycle highlights the 21st century’s greatest concern whilst celebrating nature and our place within it.


Why The Early Music Shop loves "Earthcycle":

In recent years, many have developed their own interpretations of Vivaldi’s iconic Four Seasons, ranging from Max Richter’s “Recomposed” version with Deutsche Grammophon, to Erik Bosgraaf’s arrangement for recorder and strings which we heard at last year’s London International Festival of Early Music.

The latest amongst them, however, is that of Orchestra of the Swan, who perform the concerti on their latest album for Signum Classics, Earthcycle. Where others have sought to rearrange Vivaldi’s music, however, Artistic Director David Le Page has excelled in the programming context in which they are presented. Each concerto is preceded by a traditional song, sung by folk singer Jackie Oates, and a new composition by celebrated jazz-harpsichordist David Gordon, which both tap into themes of the corresponding season.

Underpinning the project is an admirable concern for the climate, and indeed what better work than The Four Seasons to tie into this theme. Through this message, Orchestra of the Swan make Vivaldi’s 300-year-old music tell a strikingly current story. Earthcycle delivers this with a refreshing optimism, and the music feels like it carries a considerable amount of hope for the future.

Opening the album with echoes of the birdsong ornamentation from the E Major La Primavera concerto is a clever compositional move, as it is eight minutes until the famous theme emerges in full. In the meantime, the beautifully clear tones of Jackie Oates’ voice take us through The Birds in the Spring, which wallows in the delight of the nightingale song. Later, we hear a spirited Bright Phoebus which tells of the hunters of autumn, and a sumptuous wintery arrangement of The Robin’s Petition, collected by Cecil Sharp from Romany singer Emma Glover in 1909. Oates’ vocal is pure and unaffected, and her soft tone is a perfect match for the delicacy and intricacy of the string arrangements.

David Gordon’s new compositions also add much to this innovative programme. Gordon’s jazz sensibilities shine through in his ‘spring’ piece, Windigo (or Gradually and Suddenly), where the harpsichord adds a striking percussive element, while The Elephant and the Moth pairs Oates’ voice with piano for a modern atmosphere where the string parts reflect the flitty moth and heavy elephant. Autumn’s Feeling the Chill builds to a stirring frenzy which proves to be the ideal prelude for the spritely opening to the F Major L'autumno concerto.

Of course, none of this would matter if The Four Seasons themselves didn’t deliver. As cornerstones of Baroque repertoire, these concerti are familiar to so many ears that interpreting them is often considered a daunting task. Thankfully, the strings of the Orchestra of the Swan perform them with energy and precision. Vivaldi’s vivid imagery (which is reinforced by the texts the composer provided with the scores) is ever-present and Le Page and his musicians paint a picture with every movement, the bows acting as their paintbrushes and the acoustics of St John the Evangelist, Oxford, as their canvas. The solo violin performance from Le Page is considered and flows remarkably easily given the complexity of this music. From “festive song” to “great hailstones” to “chill north winds”, Orchestra of the Swan effortlessly remind us why this music has such longevity within the classical music canon.

With a thoughtful programme note by Le Page appearing in the booklet with this plastic-free 2CD package, this album is a powerful and virtuosic performance for our times. It’s arguably early to call this, but Earthcycle will undoubtedly prove to be one of this listener’s albums of the year.


Earthcycle is available now from The Early Music Shop online or in our Snape Maltings showroom.

Click here to order now!

Watch the video below to find out more about the album:

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