The Four Seasons (Vivaldi)
The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Composed in 1725, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi's best-known work, and is among the most popular pieces in the classical music repertoire. The texture of each concerto is varied, each resembling its respective season. For example, "Winter" is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas "Summer" evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often called "Storm" (as noted in the list of derivative works).
The concertos were first published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, Vivaldi's Op. 8, entitled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention). Vivaldi dedicated their publication to a Bohemian patron, Count Václav Morzin (of Vrchlabí 1676–1737), and in so mentioned the count's longstanding regard for these four, in particular (which had apparently been performed with the nobleman's orchestra, in Prague's Morzin Palace)—although his dedication may have been closely related to the completion of an Augustinian monastery that year, where Vivaldi, a priest himself, refers to Morzin, the church's dedicator, as "Chamberlain and Counsellor to His Majesty, the Catholic Emperor"—while (as Maestro di Musica in Italy) Vivaldi presents them anew, with sonnets or enhancements for clear interpretation. The first four concertos are designated Le quattro stagioni, each being named after a season. Each one is in three movements, with a slow movement between two faster ones (and these movements likewise vary in tempo amid the seasons as a whole). At the time of writing The Four Seasons, the modern solo form of the concerto had not yet been defined (typically a solo instrument and accompanying orchestra). Vivaldi's original arrangement for solo violin with string quartet and basso continuo helped to define the form of the concerto.
List of concertos and movements
- Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, "La primavera" (Spring)
- Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, "L'estate" (Summer)
- Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293, "L'autumno" (Autumn)
- Adagio molto
- Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter)
- Allegro non molto
Sonnets and allusions
There is some debate as to whether the four concertos were written to accompany four sonnets or vice versa. Though it is not known who wrote these sonnets, there is a theory that Vivaldi wrote them himself, given that each sonnet is broken down into three sections, neatly corresponding to a movement in the concerto. Whoever wrote the sonnets, The Four Seasons may be classified as program music, instrumental music that intends to evoke something extra-musical  and an art form which Vivaldi was determined to prove sophisticated enough to be taken seriously.
In addition to these sonnets, Vivaldi provided instructions such as "The barking dog" (in the second movement of "Spring"), "Languor caused by the heat" (in the first movement of "Summer"), and "the drunkards have fallen asleep" (in the second movement of "Autumn"). The Four Seasons is used in the 1981 film The Four Seasons along with other Vivaldi concertos for flute.
The Four Seasons by Vivaldi
The first recording of The Four Seasons is a matter of some dispute. There is a compact disc of one made by the violinist Alfredo Campoli which is taken from acetates of a French radio broadcast; these are thought to date from early in 1939. The first proper electrical recording was made in 1942 by Bernardino Molinari, and though his adaptation is somewhat different from what we have come to expect from modern performances, it is clearly recognisable. This first recording by Molinari was made for Cetra, issued in Italy and subsequently in the United States on six double-sided 78s in the 1940s. It was then reissued on long-playing album in 1950, and was once again reissued on compact disc.
Not surprisingly, further recordings followed. The next was in 1948 by the violinist Louis Kaufman, mistakenly credited as the 'first' recording, made during the night in New York using 'dead' studio time and under pressure from a forthcoming musicians strike. The performers were The Concert Hall Chamber Orchestra under Henry Swoboda, Edith Weiss-Mann (harpsichord) and Edouard Nies-Berger (organ). This recording helped the re-popularisation of Vivaldi's music in the mainstream repertoire of Europe and America following on the work done by Molinari and others in Italy. It won the French Grand Prix du Disque in 1950, was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2003 was selected for the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress. Kaufman, intrigued to learn that the four concertos were in fact part of a set of twelve, set about finding a full score and eventually recorded the other eight concertos in Zürich in 1950, making his the first recording of Vivaldi's complete Op. 8.
I Musici followed in 1955 with the first of several recordings of The Four Seasons with different soloists. The 1955 set with Felix Ayo was that ensemble's first recording of any music; subsequent I Musici recordings feature Felix Ayo again in 1959, Roberto Michelucci in 1969, Pina Carmirelli in 1982, Federico Agostini in 1990, and Mariana Sîrbu in 1995. The 1969 recording by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner, featuring soloist Alan Loveday, reputedly moved the piece from the realm of esoterica to that of program and popular staple.
Nigel Kennedy's 1989 recording of The Four Seasons with the English Chamber Orchestra sold over two million copies, becoming one of the best-selling classical works ever. Gil Shaham and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra recorded The Four Seasons as well as a music video for the first movement of "Winter" that was featured regularly on The Weather Channel in the mid-1990s.
The World's Encyclopedia of Recorded Music in 1952 cites only two recordings of The Four Seasons – by Molinari and Kaufman. By 2011 approximately 1,000 different recorded versions have been made since Campoli's in 1939.
Commensurably, it has become an aspect of these recordings for classical musicians to distinguish their version of The Four Seasons from others', with historically informed performances, and embellishments, to the point of varying the instruments and tempi, or playing notes differently from the listener's expectation (whether specified by the composer or not). It is said that Vivaldi's work presents such opportunities for improvisation.
Derivative works of these concerti include arrangements, transcriptions, covers, remixes, samples, and parodies in music—themes in theater and opera, soundtracks in films (or video games), and choreography in ballet (along with contemporary dance, figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, etc.)—either in their entirety, single movements, or medleys. Antonio Vivaldi appears to have started this trend of adapting music from The Four Seasons, and since then it has expanded into many aspects of the performing arts (as have other instrumental & vocal works by the composer). This contest between harmony and invention (as it were) now involves various genres around the world:
- 1726 (or 1734)
- Vivaldi re-scored his Spring allegro, both as the opening sinfonia (third movement), and chorus (adding lyrics) for his opera Dorilla in Tempe.
- Nicolas Chédeville (France) arranged Vivaldi's four seasons (as "Le printems, ou Les saisons amusantes"), for hurdy-gurdy or musette, violin, flute, and continuo.
- The French composer Michel Corrette composed and published a choral motet, Laudate Dominum de Coelis, subtitled "Motet à Grand Chœur arrangé dans le Concerto de Printemps de Vivaldi". The work, for choir and orchestra, consists of the words of Psalm 116 set to the music from Vivaldi's Spring movement with vocal soloists singing the solo concerto parts.
- Patrick Gleeson (America) recorded a "computer realization" of Vivaldi's four seasons.
- Arnie Roth (America) recorded "The Four Seasons Suite", including sonnets (recited by Patrick Stewart). This may or may not be considered a derivative work, depending on whether Vivaldi's translated sonnets were meant to be narrated with the music (versus being read in Italiano, or silently by the audience).
- French musician Jacques Loussier composed and recorded, with his trio, jazz-swing interpretations of the Four Seasons.
- The Charades (Finland) recorded Vivaldi's presto as "Summer Twist", for surf guitar ensemble.
- Innesa Tymochko (Ukrain) performed her crossover version of Vivaldi's summer presto, for violin.
- Riccardo Arrighini (Italy) recorded Vivaldi's four seasons for solo piano, in the style of jazz.
- Angels (Greece) performed their crossover version of Vivaldi's summer presto, for electric strings.
- Szentpeteri Csilla (Hungary) performed her crossover version of Vivaldi's summer presto, for piano.
- Tim Kliphuis (Netherlands) performed Vivaldi's spring allegro, as a crossover of world music styles.
- German-born British composer Max Richter created a postmodern and minimalist recomposition released as "Recomposed Vivaldi – The Four Seasons". Working with solo violinist Daniel Hope, Richter discarded around 75% of the original source material while the running time was reduced to 44 minutes playing time.
- Sinfonity (Spain) performed Vivaldi's four seasons for "electric guitar orchestra".
- The symphonic rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra used a portion of the first movement of the Winter Concerto in their song "Dreams of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night)" on their Dreams of Fireflies EP. The song also uses a portion of Mozart's "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen," which it had used previously.
- Augustinian Monastery, Vrchlabí, 1725 (Czech: Klášter augustiniánů).
- de:Walter Kolneder: "Antonio Vivaldi, His Life and Work", ISBN 0-520-01629-7, p. 90
- Everett, Paul (1996). Vivaldi: The Four Seasons and Other Concertos, Op. 8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0521404990.
- Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra program notes.
- Sinfini Music: The secret behind the Four Seasons
- Pearl GEMM CD 9151
- Two versions are available, one with more extensive sleeve notes giving the political background and history of the work's rediscovery issued by Ermitage ERC CD 12006-2.
- Concert Hall Records, CHS. set AR; reissued on Naxos Historical 8.110297-98.
- #CHS.CHC 1064 (#Nix.CLP 1061-1/2)
- Norman Lebrecht. The Life and Death of Classical Music. New York: Anchor Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4000-9658-9, p. 219.
- Wright, Steve (23 August 1999). "Not quite Vivaldi: Nigel Kennedy remembers Hendrix". CNN.
- Performing Vivaldi, Interview with Nemanja Radulovic, featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel)
- Performing Vivaldi, Interview with Aisslinn Nosky, featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
- Hopkins, Translated by Bill (1970). Antonio Vivaldi; his life and work. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-520-01629-3.
- Moe Koffman "The Four Seasons", GRT or Derby record label, Discogs listing.
- New Koto Ensemble "Koto Four Seasons", Discogs listing.
- Michael Franks, "Vivaldi's song", "Burchfield Nines" album.
- WoongSan, "Vivaldi's Song", album "Close Your Eyes" (Pony Canyon label).
- Ben Shedd, "Seasons", listed on IMDB; trailer featured on Vimeo (photagrapher's channel).
- Flute "Jean-Pierre Rampal Plays Vivaldi's Four Seasons", Sony Classical (53105), Allmusic listing.
- Arnie Roth, "The Compleat Four Seasons", listed on Allmusic.
- The Baronics "Get Bach!", on Discogs.
- The Great Kat, "Bloody Vivaldi", album.
- Vanessa-Mae "Storm", album.
- Chinese Baroque Players "Four Seasons", Xien Records (XNC2 44032), Allmusic listing
- Venice Harp Quartet "Four Seasons for Four Harps", Fine Classics (4423–2), Allmusic listing.
- Primavera Tango "Flamenco Fantasy", on Discogs.
- Brusch & Mikkelsen "The Four Seasons", Classico CLASSCD333
- Bond: Viva!/Wintersun.
- Ferhan & Ferzan discography "Vivaldi Reflections", EMI classics. Retrieved on 23 June 2013.
- Susan Osborn, "Winter/Vivaldi", album "Still Life" (Pony Canyon label).
- The Charades, "Vivaldi's Summer Twist", album "As Hot As Cool Can Be" (Power Records).
- Red Priest's "Four Seasons" (Dorian 90317), Allmusic listing.
- "The Four Seasons Mosaic" DVD is paired with Tafelmusik's L'estro armonico CD, featured on Vimeo (producer's channel).
- Frets on Fire "Dark Moor's winter", featured on YouTube (open source gameplay recording).
- Accentus "Transcriptions 2", on Discogs.
- Celtic Woman: A New Journey, "Vivaldi's Rain".
- PercaDu (Tomer Yariv and Adi Morag), "Vivaldi, winter arr for marimbas", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- LesGrandsBallets "Les quatre saisons", featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
- Tim Slade "4", listed on IMDB.
- Jaroslav Sveceny & Michal Dvorak "Vivaldianno MMVIII", featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
- Yves Custeau "Vivaldi Rock Spring", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Daisy Jopling, "Winter (hip hop)", album "Key to the Classics", "Winter (reggae)", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Innesa Tymochko, "Vivaldi's Storm", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Wez Bolton, "Winter (cover version)", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Patrick Chan, "2008 Nationals", featured on YouTube (channel for the skater).
- Absynth Against Anguish "The Four Seasons 2.0", creative commons audio.
- Riccardo Arrighini, "Le quattro stagioni", album "Vivaldi in Jazz".
- Christophe Monniot, "Vivaldi Universel, Saison 5", Cristal Records (CR 149).
- BlinDChriS "Vivaldi Dead Springs", creative commons media.
- Art Color Ballet "Vivaldi 4 Elements", featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
- David Garrett "Vivaldi/Vertigo", album "Rock Symphonies", featured on Vimeo (producer's channel).
- Black Smith "Vivaldi Tribute", Against all odds (DVD), featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Angels Ensembles, "Angels Summer", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Szentpeteri Csilla, "Storm – Crossover", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Leonel Valbom, "Summer Vivaldi", featured on SoundCloud (recording artist's channel).
- Tim Kliphuis "Spring – Gypsy Jazz and Celtic version", "Live at Iford Manor" (DVD), featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
- Gill, Andy (27 October 2012). "Album: Max Richter, Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Recomposed By Max Richter (Deutsche Grammophon)". London: Independent. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
- Aura discography "Le Quattro Stagioni", EPIC Records (ESCL 3932). Retrieved on 3 June 2013.
- Sinfonity "The Four Seasons", live in Madrid, featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
- Bachod Chirmof, "Midi Animation – Vivaldi", featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
- Tornado Classic, "Vivaldi Summer", featured on Vimeo (producer's channel).
- Richard Galliano, DG Label "Vivaldi" (featured on artist's site).
- Vito Paternoster "The Four Seasons in forma di sonata for cello" ("Baryton BRT 006", tracks featured on Magnatune).
- The Periodic project & Lennart Wittenhagen "Vier Jahreszeiten", featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
- A Vivaldi Compendium "Midseasons", creative commons media, featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
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- The Four Seasons: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Free scores of The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi at Mutopia Project nau.edu/ BinAural Collaborative Hypertext
- An in-depth overview and comparison of recordings of the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi on WETA 90.9's website
- Program notes on the Four Seasons on Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's website