1723: Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, age 45

FRIDAY, August 6, 2021 – 12:23 AM

You need a recording that does not sound old…

I wanted to find something special, because most of the recordings I’ve heard sound safe, predictable and rather boring. These live recordings are stunning, and there is so much in these that I’ve never heard that I was just captivated. In the first part of Autumn he plays so wretchedly out of tune that it blew my mind. Why? Because that point he was supposed to be drunk – too much wine!

The Four Seasons, age 45

Spring (La primavera)

  • 0:05 Allegro (in E major)
    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.
  • 10:24 Largo e pianissimo sempre (in C♯ minor)
    On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches
    rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps,
    his faithful dog beside him.
  • Allegro pastorale (in E major): Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes,
    nymphs and shepherds lightly dance
    beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

Summer (L’estate)

  • 0:06 Allegro non molto (in G minor)
    Under a hard season, fired up by the sun
    Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine
    We hear the cuckoo’s voice;
    then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard.
    Soft breezes stir the air, but threatening
    the North Wind sweeps them suddenly aside.
    The shepherd trembles,
    fearing violent storms and his fate.
  • 5:52 Adagio e piano – Presto e forte (in G minor)
    The fear of lightning and fierce thunder
    Robs his tired limbs of rest
    As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.
  • 8:34 Presto (in G minor)
    Alas, his fears were justified
    The Heavens thunder and roar and with hail
    Cut the head off the wheat and damages the grain.

Autumn (L’autunno)

  • 0:04 Allegro (in F major)
    Celebrates the peasant, with songs and dances,
    The pleasure of a bountiful harvest.
    And fired up by Bacchus’ liquor,
    many end their revelry in sleep.
  • 5:52 Adagio molto (in D minor)
    Everyone is made to forget their cares and to sing and dance
    By the air which is tempered with pleasure
    And (by) the season that invites so many, many
    Out of their sweetest slumber to fine enjoyment
  • 7:37 Allegro (in F major)
    The hunters emerge at the new dawn,
    And with horns and dogs and guns depart upon their hunting
    The beast flees and they follow its trail;
    Terrified and tired of the great noise
    Of guns and dogs, the beast, wounded, threatens
    Languidly to flee, but harried, dies.

Winter (L’inverno)

  • 0:06 Allegro non molto (in F minor)
    To tremble from cold in the icy snow,
    In the harsh breath of a horrid wind;
    To run, stamping one’s feet every moment,
    Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold
  • 3:43 Largo (in E♭ major)
    Before the fire to pass peaceful,
    Contented days while the rain outside pours down.
  • 5:34 Allegro (in F minor)
    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 course through the home
    despite the locked and bolted doors…
    this is winter, which nonetheless
    brings its own delights.

Popular for 294 years, but also forgotten for awhile…

The first recording may be from 1939, but the details are not clear, and it seems to have come from a French radio broadcast. The Four Seasons was very popular when Vivaldi wrote it. Yet Vivaldi’s music fell into relative obscurity for around 200 years, and in fact he died without a cent to his name. His music was losing relevance before he died, although from what I’ve read JS Bach was very interested in Vivaldi’s music, enough to transcribe some of his compositions.

Credit to Bach…

Bach may have helped spark the 20th century revival of his music, which becomes especially interesting because Bach’s music started to fall into relative obscurity until Mendelssohn and others helped the world rediscover his music.

After WWII…

The first recording actually made as a recording was in 1942. The first American recording was in 1947, and this recording seemed to have sparked the beginning of a swell in popularity which remains to this very day.

According to IMDb, there have been at least 100 different films and television shows that have used Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in some way, so picking a performance was not easy.

10 thoughts on “1723: Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, age 45

  1. Wow. Just wow. Sato owns the violin in a way I hadn’t quite heard before… and I”m talking Heifetz, Perlman, that crowd. That’s what I grew up with, and Sato is doing things none of the old guard did. I’ve been captivated by this group for a couple of years now. Bach did do quite a bit with Vivaldi’s music, and I keep finding more. Found an organ concerto the other day that was born as a Vivaldi violin piece.

  2. Heard often, but remains a tireless classic. I had no idea about Bach’s music waning in popularity. I wonder what might have become of his music and reputation without interference.

  3. The drama, excitement, and energy put into this performance really brought this music to life. Sato and his group are fantastic!!!

    Thank you for posting this Gary.

  4. I’m listening now to the performance directed by the violinist who also plays solo in it, Shunske Sato – period instruments – I don’t know if that was what I listened to in 2019 – it is totally fresh to me. The Autumn – deliberately playing out of tune – that takes special courage as well as tremendous skill. Mesmerizing.

  5. There is too much to like to put it into words. That performance seems to combine the best of two worlds of the old and new. I think parts of the “summer” have always been my favourite.

    I noticed that when you click on the Youtube choice, somebody a bit further down gives a link to each section so you can jump straight to that one.

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