German classical violinist and pianist Julia Fischer and Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble perform Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni), a group of four violin concerti. Conductor: Kenneth Sillito. Filmed in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, July 2011; director: Rhodri Huw.
The four concerti were written about 1720 and were published in 1725 in Amsterdam, together with eight additional violin concerti, as Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (“The Contest Between Harmony and Invention”).
The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi’s works. Unusually for the time, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying poems (possibly written by Vivaldi himself) that elucidated what it was about those seasons that his music was intended to evoke. It provides one of the earliest and most-detailed examples of what was later called program music—music with a narrative element.
Vivaldi took great pains to relate his music to the texts of the poems, translating the poetic lines themselves directly into the music on the page. In the middle section of the Spring concerto, where the goatherd sleeps, his barking dog can be marked in the viola section. Other natural occurrences are similarly evoked. Vivaldi separated each concerto into three movements, fast-slow-fast, and likewise each linked sonnet into three sections. His arrangement is as follows:
- 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
Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is an English chamber orchestra, based in London.
John Churchill and Sir Neville Marriner founded the orchestra as The Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields in London as a small, conductorless string group. The original group numbered 11, all male. Their name comes from Trafalgar Square’s St Martin-in-the-Fields church, where the orchestra gave its first concert on November 13, 1959. In 1988, the orchestra dropped the hyphens from its full name. Marriner holds the title of Life President.
The initial performances as a string orchestra at St Martin-in-the-Fields’ church played a key role in the revival of baroque performances in England. The orchestra has since expanded to include winds. It remains flexible in size, changing its make-up to suit its repertoire, which ranges from the Baroque to contemporary works.
Neville Marriner continued to perform obbligatos and concertino solos with the orchestra until 1969, and led the orchestra on recordings until the autumn of 1970, when he switched to conducting from the podium from directing the orchestra from the leader’s desk. On recordings, besides Marriner, Iona Brown and Kenneth Sillito have led the orchestra among others. Since 2000, Murray Perahia has held the title of principal guest conductor of the orchestra, and has made commercial recordings with the orchestra as pianist and conductor.
Since 2011, the Music Director is the American virtuoso violinist and conductor Joshua Bell (as of September 2015).