Annual Vivaldi Concert Returns to Powell Rotunda

3 min read
Powell Library Rotunda

First-year violin student Emily Taylor knew about UCLA’s annual Vivaldi at Powell concert long before she enrolled. “I went to Santa Monica High School,” she explained, “and I knew students who had graduated, gone to UCLA and played in the concert. It was a big deal.” Taylor left no doubt about its importance. “It’s a little nerve-wracking to know that I will be performing.”

Taylor and other first-year students will headline the Vivaldi at Powell concert on May 4, 8:00 p.m. in the rotunda of the Powell Library. The concert will feature a baroque music lineup, including the Four Seasons, as well as solo pieces written by Vivaldi, Telemann, and Popper. They will perform with their teachers, the world-class faculty of the Herb Alpert School of Music.

“It gives us an opportunity to treat the students as collaborators, as comrades,” said cello professor Antonio Lysy. “A student will perform the solo violin part in Vivaldi’s Spring, and then return to the chamber orchestra to play with the violins while another student performs Summer.”

UCLA’s Vivaldi at Powell concert is one of a kind. No other school of music in the country gives its first-year students this kind of performance space, coupled with the opportunity to perform with and be accompanied by faculty. It is a unique opportunity for students to develop not just their performance chops, but also their artistic voices.  

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is one of the most recognizable musical compositions in the world. It is performed roundly, and iconic enough that the indie-band Weezer is releasing a quartet of albums this year that pay homage to Vivaldi’s masterpiece. Chances are you have heard the famous melodies from the Four Seasons multiple times. But surprises may be in store for the audiences at this year’s Vivaldi at Powell concert.

“Baroque music was improvisational,” said first-year cello student Kaya Ralls, who will be performing the Vivaldi Concerto for two cellos with classmate Ariadne Walker. “We’ve had to add dynamics, add ornamentation. You get to play composer and invent things to create variation.”

Past students remember fondly the experience of performing with their world-class instructors and what it did for their artistic development. Christian Gonzales (class of 2022) performed the solo violin in “Winter,” a piece which he recalled was picked by his violin professor because it matched his personality.

“There’s an inner electricity when you perform with professionals,” said Gonzales, recalling his experience as a first-year student performing at the Vivaldi at Powell concert. “It gives you a greater self-awareness.” Gonzales’s artistic trajectory has certainly reflected this growth. As the 2022 winner of the Atwater Kent String Concerto Competition, he will be performing the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77, on UCLA’s Stradivarius violin, the “Duke of Alcantara,” with the UCLA Symphony later this Spring. In the Fall, he will be attending the Juilliard School to pursue a master’s degree.

The annual Vivaldi concert has been a longstanding tradition at UCLA. The pandemic interrupted this tradition in 2021, as it did most live music events. And so, for the first time, this year’s concert will include first- and second-year students. Fortunately, the concert will return to the Rotunda of the Powell Library, a warm and vibrant space that is a natural home for the chamber music of the baroque era.

The Vivaldi at Powell concert this year will feature another first—it will be a Music for Food concert. The Los Angeles chapter of Music for Food has sponsored concerts around the city, at museums and farmers’ markets. Their model is simple. Musicians play music and concertgoers are asked to donate money in support of the cause. All proceeds will go to support The Midnight Mission, the oldest human service organization in the Los Angeles area. Centered in skid row in downtown Los Angeles, Midnight Mission provides food, shelter, and emergency services to people in need.  

“We have been so hungry for live music,” said violin professor Movses Pogossian, who is also the head of the Los Angeles chapter of Music for Food. “It’s important to bring back the Vivaldi at Powell tradition, and to celebrate our excellent first- and second-year students. And we are also pleased to connect this concert to the great cause of bringing food and nourishment to the community.”