Ahhh, Vivaldi and the beautiful Venice. The great video below, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, from “I Musici“, a film by Anton van Munster, probably one of the best classical music performances on the Internet. Enjoy.
I Musici, also known as I Musici di Roma, is an Italian chamber orchestra from Rome formed in 1951. They are well known for their interpretations of Baroque and other works, particularly Antonio Vivaldi and Tomaso Albinoni. In the 1970s, I Musici recorded the first classical music video and, later, the group was the first to record a compact disc for the Philips label.
The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Composed in 1723, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi’s best-known work, and is among the most popular pieces in the classical music repertoire. The texture of each concerto is varied, each resembling its respective season. For example, “Winter” is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas “Summer” evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often called “Storm” (as noted in the list of derivative works). The concertos were first published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, Vivaldi’s Op. 8, entitled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention).
Vivaldi dedicated their publication to a Bohemian patron, Count Václav Morzin (of Vrchlabí 1676-1737), and in so mentioned the count’s longstanding regard for these four, in particular (which had apparently been performed with the nobleman’s orchestra, in Prague’s Morzin Palace)—although his dedication may have been closely related to the completion of an Augustinian monastery that year, where Vivaldi, a priest himself, refers to Morzin, the church’s dedicator, as “Chamberlain and Counsellor to His Majesty, the Catholic Emperor”—while (as Maestro di Musica in Italy) Vivaldi presents them anew, with sonnets or enhancements for clear interpretation. The first four concertos are designated Le quattro stagioni, each being named after a season. Each one is in three movements, with a slow movement between two faster ones (and these movements likewise vary in tempo amid the seasons as a whole).
- Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, “La primavera” (Spring)
- Largo e pianissimo sempre
- Allegro pastorale
- Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, “L’estate” (Summer)
- Allegro non molto
- Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
- Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293, “L’autunno” (Autumn)
- Adagio molto
- Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, “L’inverno” (Winter)
- Allegro non molto
Unusually for the time, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying poems (possibly written by Vivaldi himself).
“Giunt’ è la Primavera e festosetti
La Salutan gl’ Augei con lieto canto,
E i fonti allo Spirar de’ Zeffiretti
Con dolce mormorio Scorrono intanto:
Vengon’ coprendo l’ aer di nero amanto
E Lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti
Indi tacendo questi, gl’ Augelletti;
Tornan’ di nuovo al lor canoro incanto:”
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 e pianissimo sempre
“E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato
Al caro mormorio di fronde e piante
Dorme ‘l Caprar col fido can’ à lato.”
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.
“Di pastoral Zampogna al suon festante
Danzan Ninfe e Pastor nel tetto amato
Di primavera all’ apparir brillante.”
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.
Allegro non molto
“Sotto dura Staggion dal Sole accesa
Langue l’ huom, langue ‘l gregge, ed arde il Pino;
Scioglie il Cucco la Voce, e tosto intesa
Canta la Tortorella e ‘l gardelino.
Zeffiro dolce Spira, mà contesa
Muove Borea improviso al Suo vicino;
E piange il Pastorel, perche sospesa
Teme fiera borasca, e ‘l suo destino;”
Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat
men and flocks are sweltering,
pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air….but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.
Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
“Toglie alle membra lasse il Suo riposo
Il timore de’ Lampi, e tuoni fieri
E de mosche, e mossoni il Stuol furioso!”
His limbs are now awakened from their repose by fear of lightning’s flash and thunder’s roar, as gnats and flies buzz furiously around.
“Ah che pur troppo i Suo timor Son veri
Tuona e fulmina il Ciel e grandioso
Tronca il capo alle Spiche e a’ grani alteri.”
Alas, his worst fears were justified, as the heavens roar and great hailstones beat down upon the proudly standing corn.
“Celebra il Vilanel con balli e Canti
Del felice raccolto il bel piacere
E del liquor de Bacco accesi tanti
Finiscono col Sonno il lor godere”
The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in.
The cup of Bacchus flows freely, and many find their relief in deep slumber.
“Fà ch’ ogn’ uno tralasci e balli e canti
L’ aria che temperata dà piacere,
E la Staggion ch’ invita tanti e tanti
D’ un dolcissimo Sonno al bel godere.”
The singing and the dancing die away
as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep
without a care.
“I cacciator alla nov’ alba à caccia
Con corni, Schioppi, e canni escono fuore
Fugge la belua, e Seguono la traccia;
Già Sbigottita, e lassa al gran rumore
De’ Schioppi e canni, ferita minaccia
Languida di fuggir, mà oppressa muore.”
The hunters emerge at dawn,
ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.
Their quarry flees while they give chase.
Terrified and wounded, the prey struggles on,
but, harried, dies.
Allegro non molto
“Aggiacciato tremar trà neri algenti
Al Severo Spirar d’ orrido Vento,
Correr battendo i piedi ogni momento;
E pel Soverchio gel batter i denti;”
Shivering, frozen mid the frosty snow in biting, stinging winds;
running to and fro to stamp one’s icy feet, teeth chattering in the bitter chill.
“Passar al foco i di quieti e contenti
Mentre la pioggia fuor bagna ben cento”
To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.
“Caminar Sopra ‘l giaccio, e à passo lento
Per timor di cader gersene intenti;
Gir forte Sdruzziolar, cader à terra
Di nuove ir Sopra ‘l giaccio e correr forte
Sin ch’ il giaccio si rompe, e si disserra;
Sentir uscir dalle ferrate porte
Sirocco Borea, e tutti i Venti in guerra
Quest’ é ‘l verno, mà tal, che gioja apporte.”
We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling.
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up.
We feel the chill north winds coarse through the home despite the locked and bolted doors…
this is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights.