Friday, March 4, 2011

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons & Four Sonnets (Revisited)

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)

Happy Birthday, Vivaldi!  
Happy Birthday, Arielle!  
Happy Birthday, Blog!

It was exactly one year ago today that I started my blogging journey with a very short post on music listening.  I remember hitting that "Publish Post" button with trepidation.  Although nobody actually knew I existed, I was putting myself out there for anyone who potentially wanted to see!  In retrospect, I must say that it has been a very fulfilling blogging year.  There's a certain sense of satisfaction that comes with wrapping up a cooking or baking project, adventure, or just a thought with some nicely arranged photos and some carefully chosen words.  Even if the rest of my life is full of chaos, my blog can still look neat and tidy!

Last year, the kids and I started our music listening project with The Four Seasons.  This piece was chosen, because Arielle discovered that she and the composer, Antonio Vivaldi, shared the same birthday: March 4th, only 326 years apart!  This common birthday made this remarkable piece so relevant to Arielle that she has already asked to borrow the CD so she can share it with her class!  I wanted to revisit The Four Seasons today, because, since our first listening session, we have learned so much more about the piece!

Music written around  our four seasons was popular in Baroque music, but nothing had been written in such precise pictorial detail as Antonio Vivaldi's  Four Seasons Concerto.

As a descriptive basis for his Four Seasons, Vivaldi took four Sonnets, apparently written by himself.  Each of the four sonnets is expressed in a concerto, which, in turn, is divided into three phrases or ideas, reflected in the three movements (fast-slow-fast) of each concerto.  The published scores are marked to indicate which musical passages are representative of which verses of the sonnet.  It is helpful, upon first hearing this piece, to follow the sonnets and music together.  The words and music are wrapped up together so beautifully to an extent that has rarely been heard either in other baroque music or subsequently.

Of all the movements, Concerto No. 1 (Spring) is by far the most popular.  I, however, relish Concerto No. 4 (Winter).  The romantic passion of the Allegro non motto hardly leaves me shivering in the cold!  Blame it on my Nordic blood!

Following is the English translation that coincides with each concerto and movement:


THE FOUR SEASONS

Spring - Concerto No. 1 in E Major

Allegro
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.

Largo
On the flower-strewn meadow, with
leafy branches rustling overhead, the
goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog
beside him.

Allegro
Led by the festive sound of rustic
bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly
dance beneath the brilliant canopy of
spring.

Summer - Concerto No. 2  in g-minor

Allegro non molto
Beneath the blazing sun's relentless
heat
men and flocks are sweltering,
pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo's voice; then sweet
songs of the turtle dove and finch are
heard.
Soft breezes stir the air...but
threatening north wind sweeps them
suddenly aside.  The Shepherd trembles,
fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.

Adagio e piano - Presto e forte
His limbs are now awakened from their
repose by fear of lightning's flash and
thunder's roar, as gnats and flies buzz
furiously around.

Presto
Alas, his worst fears were justified, as
the heavens roar and great hailstones
beat down upon the proudly standing
corn.

Autumn - Concerto No. 3 in F Major

Allegro
The peasant celebrates with song and
dance the harvest safely gathered in.
The cup of Bacchus flows freely, and
many find their relief in deep slumber.

Adagio molto
The singing and the dancing die away
as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep
without a care.

Allegro
The hunters emerge at dawn,
ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.
Their quarry flees while they give
chase.
Terrified and wounded, the prey
struggles on,
but,harried, dies.

Winter - Concerto No. 4 in f-minor
Allegro non molto
Shivering, frozen mid the frosty snow in biting, stinging winds;
running to and fro to stamp one's icy
feet, teeth chattering in the bitter chill.

Largo
To rest contentedly beside the hearth, 
while those outside are drenched by
pouring rain.

Allegro
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 coarse
through the home despite the locked
and bolted doors...
this is winter, which nonetheless brings
its own delight.


We didn't have the sonnets when we first listened to it, but the kids were definitely on track with their comments!  This magnificent piece is definitely worth revisiting again and again!

KID CRITIQUE:

Ella:  Look, I'm playing my (imaginary) violin!
Anna:  I know this song!
Samuel:  Why does summer sound sad?  Maybe it's the end of summer.
Arielle:  Maybe it's a thunderstorm!



3 comments:

  1. Happy 1st Blog Birthday! I've loved reading your entries, seeing your photos, and smelling (I swear, I can!) the baked goods. It's been fun to become blogging buddies this past year.

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  2. That actually was rebecca, not william, typing the above comment. Did not know The Hubs had a google account!

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  3. Still surprises after all these years! :-) Thanks for all your encouragement!

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