Vivaldi - Le quattro stagioni
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian composer and violinist who left a decisive mark on the form and the style of late Baroque music. His works ooze the perfection of the 17th-century Italian opera and concerto formats.
Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” or “Le quattro stagioni” in Italian is a collection of four concertos. Most consider these concertos as being a conversation between a solo instrument or multiple solo instruments and a wider ensemble. Vivaldi used the violin as the sole instrument in these four concertos.
“Spring” or “La primavera,” starts with the clarity and crispness of a typical spring day, joined by the choirs of birds and streams. It is interrupted by a sudden thunderstorm, but the singing birds soon reclaim dominance. The movement ends with a country dance and people celebrating the return of fauna and flora after a long and cold winter.
The “L’estate” or “Summer,” offers a slow start, showing the weather as too hot for any movement. The air is nearly at a standstill, the birds chirping away idly until a breeze gathers up, whipping the warning of an imminent storm. The most striking moment is served in the third movement, as a hail storm mercilessly rains down, offering a perfect contrast to the previous movement.
“L’autunno” or “Autumn,” makes a return to the clarity resembling that of “Spring,” with similar musical themes in the first movements and the country folk rejoice once again. The tempo drops considerably, in parallel to the peaceful sleep that engulfs the people. The final movement illustrates a “hunt” or “Caccia” - where songs were utilised to glorify hunts via voice canons.
The concertos finish with “L’inverno” or “Winter.” The opening movement represents a shivering person, stamping his feet in rhythm to stay warm. The middle movement portrays the pleasure of getting warm inside through a crackling fire. The final movement depicts people outdoors walking down icy paths, while people inside houses feeling the relentless chill finding its way inside.
For those of you who don't think you'll be able to trudge through all 40 minutes of these concertos, I'd recommend listening to the presto in the Summer concerto played by Mari Samuelson. It really keeps you on your toes and it is definitely one to watch. Her precision and articulation (for those familiar with classical music) is outstanding and I really aspire to reach that level of agility.
This has truly been one of the most enticing and thrilling concertos I've heard. Definitely would love to see this live soon!