"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Music Tuesday: Spring from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi

It’s been such a hard winter around here.  I don’t know if this makes it as the coldest on record, but if it isn’t it’s close.  I know it’s not the snowiest on record, but we’ve had a good share of that too.  Every time we think spring is finally here, the weather regresses back.  Most people are begging for spring to come.

Well, if you’re begging, here it is, the “Spring” Concerto from the set of concertos by Antonio Vivaldi named The Four Seasons. 

Here’s some background information.  Vivaldi is considered one of the great composers of the Baroque era, a favorite of Johann Sebastian Bach.  His nickname was the il Prete Rosso, “the red priest” because he was a priest and had red hair.  A Venetian and the the musical director of at an woman’s orphanage where many women went on to be musicians, he reached notariety from his violin virtuosity and then as a composer. 

Vivaldi wrote many violin concerti, and one factoid that surprised me in my research was that Vivaldi in his conceretos established the fast/slow/fast tempos of a concerto’s three movements.  This became a general rule, and not just for concertos.  So many pieces of music are set to a fast/slow/fast pattern, down to our very day. 

The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) are a set of concerti where each of the seasons are an individual concerto.  Each concerto is rendered to reflect a sense of its respective season.  It has been claimed that each season was based on a series of sonnets, also respective to a season, but the sonnets are so dreadful as literary works, a counter claim has been made that the sonnets were backformed from the musical work.  Nonetheless whether the music was based on the sonnet or on elements of the season, it does make the concerti program music.  

Here is the Spring Sonnet from which the composition was supposedly based on. 

Allegro
Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

Largo
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

Allegro
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

So in the first Allegro movement, which is in ritornello form, birds singing make up the theme while stream and thunder motifs offer a contrast.  In the slow Largo we have a picture-scape with goats and dogs.  And in the final Allegro we have a folk spring time dance.  I’ve never been a fan of program music.  I hardly ever see the pictures or drama they are supposed to be represent. 
 
But this is such a joyful work.  Here is the great Itzhak Perlman with the israel Philharmonic.
 


So did you catch the birds singing, the thunder resonating, and the dogs barking? 

4 comments:

  1. I did not know that Vivaldi was a priest!

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    1. Until last year, I didn't either.

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  2. ((( So did you catch the birds singing, the thunder resonating, and the dogs barking? )))

    I must have been watching too many Cartoon Capers as a child cause while I was listening to the beginning of ,Itzhak Perlman with the israel Philharmonic playing, I thought I could see a putty cat chasing a yellow bird in spring! :)

    And then I recalled you saying last year in so many words that your wife didn't like that kind of music much and wondered if she might just sooner enjoy listening to, Jack Benny playing Bach > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EofKXc-EOo < instead?

    Forgive me Manny! :(

    I hear YA! You're lucky that it is Lent Victor! (lol)

    God Bless

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    1. Haha, that was great. Jack Benny was one of the best comedians. They just don't have comedians like him any more. But he played pretty well. His pitch seemed off, but he did keep up with the orchestra. Thanks Victor.

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