Antonio Vivaldi, ‘The Four Seasons’ – ‘Summer’, I Musici

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, “Summer”, “The Four Seasons” / “Le Quattro Stagioni” – “L’Estate” – Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315
00:00 I. Allegro non molto
05:30 II. Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
08:11 III. Presto

Performers: I Musici Group
Violin Solo – Federico Agostini, 1988
Anton van Munster Film (1934-2009)

Antonio Vivaldi must be regarded as the indisputable king of the Baroque instrumental concerto. Four concertos, known collectively as The Four Seasons, were first published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, Op. 8, entitled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention) and remains the composer’s best-known and most characteristic work.

Aside from the features that have come to be associated with most of Vivaldi’s music – grace, virtuosity, energetic motoric rhythms – the concertos of The Four Seasons are remarkable for their extraordinary programmatic imagination, which is counterbalanced by close attention to formal structure. Each concerto is accompanied by a descriptive poem whose imagery becomes an essential element of the musical fabric. The birds that greet the season “with their joyful song” in La primavera (Spring), for example, are colorfully depicted in the work’s elaborately ornamented figuration. L’estate (Summer) is painted in similarly vivid colors that portray both the piping of a shepherd and a gathering storm. L’autunno (Autumn) is marked by a folksy harvest celebration and the galloping of a hunting party on horseback. The bleakness and dissonance of L’inverno (Winter) create a severe but expressive portrait that provides a striking summation of Vivaldi’s pictorial ingenuity in these four works.

The four violin concertos in The Four Seasons were each inspired by an Italian sonnet, possibly written by Vivaldi himself. In each of the concertos the composer attempts to depict the pastoral scenes and events described in the sonnet. In this Concerto in G minor, subtitled “Summer,” he attempts to capture the bright scenery and mood of that warmest of seasons, but the music is more a mixture of good and bad than one might normally think: the sonnet opens: “Under the merciless summer sun….” Thus the first movement, despite its lively Allegro non molto marking, begins as if an oppressive pall hovers above, the music listlessly struggling forward. But soon the pacing turns lively and the mood brightens to depict singing birds and cool breezes. But after a brief tranquil section, the music suddenly becomes violent and frenzied, with the onset of a clash among neighbors. Calm returns soon, but the movement ends breathlessly, as a storm threatens to wreak troubles for the shepherd.

The ensuing Adagio – Presto movement alternates between the lethargic but beautiful playing of the solo violin theme and the stormy interjections of the string orchestra. The text describes the tired shepherd and his fears of thunder and lightning.

The storminess continues at the outset of the Presto finale, as the storm finally does begin to rage. The mood throughout this closing panel, whether in the writing for the orchestra or for the soloist, brims with tension, at times even frenzy, as this storm fells stalks of corn and ravages the countryside. This brief movement provides a brilliant finish to this colorful Concerto.

This is the Vídeo of the most popular classical works of all. I Musici were the driving force in the rediscovery of Baroque repertoire and their CD recording of The Four Seasons is one of the best-selling Philips discs of all time. I Musiciare still considered to be one of the greatest ‘modern’ string ensembles. These performances by I Musici were filmed in key locations around Vivaldi’s city of Venice. This aforementioned mega-hit video contain flashes of Venetian points of interest and art works. The film incorporates panoramic shots of the city as well as some of the great masterpieces of art to be found there by artists such as Canaletto, Guardi and Tintoretto. There are also shots of the fabulous costumes sported by Venice’s citizens during its unique winter Carnival. All the four video thumbnails movements are from the Venice Carnival in the 4th last movement.


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