On Vivaldi and his masterpiece “The Four Seasons”



Fri, 30 Jun 2017 - 06:30 GMT


Fri, 30 Jun 2017 - 06:30 GMT

Image CC via Unsplash/ Larisa Birta

Image CC via Unsplash/ Larisa Birta

CAIRO – 30 June 2017: For many, music has the power to take them to another world. It might be a world of mystery, a world of adventure, anger or even bliss. But unless the music is accompanied by another element, it is hard to assume that everyone would be transferred to the same world. Some claim that is precisely what grants individuality to the experience – the fact that not two people can listen to absolute music and go through the same exact experience. However, for years composers have gone out of their way to make their tunes commonly and collectively understood.

In the eighteenth century, Venice was a music hub for travelers and locals. Like other cities in the region, Venice adopted Baroque music which was popular since the seventeenth century. Even though Baroque was originally developed in France, Italians altered it drastically. Francois Raguenet, a writer and priest, published a comparison between Italian and French Baroque titled “Parallels des Italiens et des Francois en ce qui regarde la musique et les operas” (Parallels between the Italian and the French Music and Opera).

The Baroque era came to life following the Renaissance era and preceding the Classical one and Vivaldi was born amid it all.

Antonio Vivaldi, a Venetian composer was born in 1678. In his twenties, Vivaldi was ordained priest and was appointed as a master violinist in Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage which some claimed was just a home for illegitimate daughters of noblemen in which he taught young women music. Between his compositions of concerti, operas and sonatas, Vivaldi worked for the church, the Ospedale and multiple institutions around Europe. With almost 500 productions, Vivaldi was a major contributor to the Baroque period. The Four Seasons is his most prominent work.

The Four Seasons

As picturesque as the name of The Four Seasons may sound, Vivaldi chose to leave little to his audience’s imagination. His seasonal cycle of four violin concerti is meant to be played along with a poem. The poem, which might have been authored by Vivaldi himself, is composed of sonnets for each season; each is divided into three sections to go with Vivaldi’s fast-slow-fast composition of each concerto, explaining some hallmarks of each season he intended to capture.

Reading the poem simultaneously with hearing the music, one would find a beautiful synchronization between the poetic description of each season and the musical imagery. And this makes The Four Seasons one of the very first examples of what was later named program music, which is a kind of music intended to convey an impression of a definite series of images, scenes, or events, according to dictionary.com

Throughout the masterpiece, the narrative music along with the sonnets capture various scenes, like those of birds singing happily to welcome the spring, a thunderstorm breaking out, a peasant celebrating the rich harvest at the start of autumn by dancing and singing, and even one’s teeth chattering through the freezing cold of winter, among others.
The piece is usually performed by various string instruments from the violin family and a harpsichord.

The poem can be found here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Four-Seasons-by-Vivaldi



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