Antonio Vivaldi (04.03.1678 – 28.07.1741) was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher, and a priest. Vivaldi is widely recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers and his influence spread throughout Europe during his lifetime. His output of works was very large and he wrote many instrumental concertos, for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas. However his most popular work is a series of violin concertos known collectively as the Four Seasons.
The Four Seasons or Le quattro stagioni is a group of four violin concertos, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. They were first published in 1725 in Amsterdam, together with eight further violin concertos, as Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione. The first concerto, Spring, borrows motifs from a Sinfonia in the first act of Vivaldi’s contemporaneous opera Il Giustino but the other three are wholly original. This set of concertos provides one of the earliest examples of a composer representing nature in music. We discover flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd whilst his barking dog is depicted in the viola section, storms, drunken dancers, icy landscapes, and cosy winter fires among other things. Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying sonnets (possibly of his own writing) that with accompanying sonnets (possibly written by the composer himself) that illuminated the spirit of each season that the concerto was intended to evoke in the listener. These four concertos provide one of the earliest and most detailed examples of what was later to be called ‘program music’.
To add to our collection we have no hesitation in recommending the recording by Rachel Podger and her Brecon Baroque group that we reviewed in April.