Recorded on 10/01/2010, uploaded on 10/01/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Live in Prague World premère
The four concertos known as The Four Seasons are Antonio Vivaldi’s best-known works. Composed in 1723 and published two years later in Amsterdam, they are actually part of Vivaldi’s larger opus 8, entitled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'invenzione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention), a set of twelve concerti for solo violin, string orchestra and continuo. A unique aspect of The Four Seasons is the sonnets Vivaldi supplied as an aid to the scenes depicted in the works. The author of the sonnets is unknown and it is possible that Vivaldi himself may have written them. Each divides neatly into three sections, correspondingly exactly to the three movements of each concerto.
Generally, when one thinks of a picturesque summer it is of green fields and lazy days beneath the shade of a tree. With this is mind, the G minor tonality of Vivaldi’s portrayal of the season in the second concerto of The Four Seasons may seem at first out of place. Thankfully, the accompanying sonnet provides us the visual imagery to associate with Vivaldi’s musical intentions. The portion of the sonnet depicted by the first movement describes summer as “the harsh season scorched by the sun,” and the music opens with only the fragments of melody that can’t seem to get started. The pace quickens and the middle portion of the movement is dominated by the imitation of bird calls. Towards the end, the rumblings of an approaching thunderstorm are heard.
The second movement depicts the shepherd unable to rest for fear of the approaching storm and pestering swarms of flies and hornets. Marked Adagio, the movement’s principal melody is tense, adequately representing the shepherd’s restlessness, and is punctuated by measures in a Presto tempo—the continual rumblings of the storm. The Presto tempo is maintained for the finale; the storm has arrived. Unmelodic, the movement abounds in rapid figurations for both soloist and ensemble, driving the music on with the fury of a tempest. Joseph DuBose
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