Work: The Four Seasons
About This Work
Having produced hundreds of examples, Antonio Vivaldi must be regarded as the indisputable king of the Baroque instrumental concerto. In writing such works for a multitude of different instruments -- violin, viola d'amore, cello, mandolin, flute,
oboe, bassoon, trumpet, horn, and others -- both alone and in various combinations, Vivaldi was a seminal figure in the development of a genre that attained Classical perfection in the works of Mozart and Beethoven, reached its pinnacle in the Romantic works of Paganini, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, and enjoyed continued currency throughout the twentieth century in the works of composers diverse as Berg, Prokofiev, and Ligeti. Given the sheer quantity of Vivaldi's concertos for violin -- he wrote at least 35 in the key of D major alone -- it's not surprising that many have lapsed into near-total obscurity. On the other hand, it is a grouping of four concertos from Vivaldi's Op. 8 (1725) -- known collectively as The Four Seasons -- that remains the composer's best-known and most characteristic work. Aside from the features that have come to be associated with most of Vivaldi's music -- grace, virtuosity, energetic motoric rhythms -- the concertos of The Four Seasons are remarkable for their extraordinary programmatic imagination, which is counterbalanced by close attention to formal structure. Each concerto is accompanied by a descriptive poem whose imagery becomes an essential element of the musical fabric. The birds that greet the season "with their joyful song" in La primavera (Spring), for example, are colorfully depicted in the work's elaborately ornamented figuration. L'estate (Summer) is painted in similarly vivid colors that portray both the piping of a shepherd and a gathering storm. L'autunno (Autumn) is marked by a folksy harvest celebration and the galloping of a hunting party on horseback. The bleakness and dissonance of L'inverno (Winter) create a severe but expressive portrait that provides a striking summation of Vivaldi's pictorial ingenuity in these four works.
-- All Music Guide
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