Vivaldi's Four Seasons
This Omaha Symphony performance was recorded live at Joslyn Art Museum's Witherspoon Concert Hall on May 10, 2015.
Art imitates life
Perhaps one of the most well-known works in The Canon, Vivaldi's The Four Seasons both brings a familiar comfort with each listen as well as new musical surprises. Even during the strange times we're currently experiencing, we watch spring blossom in full, which will yield to summer, fall, and then winter. Vivaldi's musical rendering of our physical seasons lends a similar comfort and beauty we can hold on to — and you can listen to your Omaha Symphony's full performance recorded live right here.
Everyone knows The Four Seasons, even if they don’t know that they know them – their inclusion in over 100 movies and tv shows, along with their incredibly vivid auditory illustrations – has helped them transcend their form as 18th-century concerti to universal culture.
… but wait, there’s more.
Lots more: Vivaldi wrote over four hundred concerti, and these are just four of them. On a much smaller scale, The Four Seasons is part of a set of twelve concerti titled “The Contest of Harmony and Invention,” a personal project for Vivaldi to see how far he could push his creative genius while maintaining contemporary compositional guidelines. The result may have been beyond even Vivaldi’s expectations: he had composed the gold standard for programmatic music, long before it became either popular or popular practice. In other words: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony? Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben? Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije Suite? All in great debt to a composer who happened upon a set of anonymous sonnets and decided to give himself a challenge. Each season is a set of three movements or ‘scenes,’ following the traditional “fast-slow-fast” tempo structure; here’s what you’ll hear:
Spring: Birdsong dominates over the rumble of a potential thunderstorm; a sleeping goatherd lazes with his loyal canine, who barks – and yes, the violin soloist has to individually interpret “bark” – and a country dance concludes the first set.
Summer: the weather has become hot in the way that makes you appreciate every little breeze and hate every little mosquito bite, and a thunderstorm rolls right through to cool everyone down.
Autumn: The country dancing is back, and so is drinking and hunting!
Winter: The nice weather has gone, and in its place is vicious, bone-chilling, teeth-chattering cold. Luckily, there’s time to watch the rain come down by a cozy fire between outdoor forays. However, the time comes when you have to go back outside and the cold – and the ice – are waiting for you.
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