Classics Explained: VIVALDI - The Four Seasons

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Classics Explained: VIVALDI - The Four Seasons



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1 hour 58 minutes


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Classics Explained: VIVALDI - The Four Seasons

An exploration of The Four Seasons narrated by Jeremy Sipeman

CD - 2 discs


(also available to download from $14.00)

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Antonio Vivaldi: An Introduction to … VIVALDI: The 4 Seasons

Introduction: Opening, upward-pointing figure

Answering, downward figure completes the phrase

Beginning of dialogue

The nature of musical conversation; repetition; ' echo ' effect

Upward pointing to one ' target ' note

' Answer ' points to two, downward notes

Same idea repeated 3 times

The first Solo section: birdsong from three soloists, not one

Repeat of ' two-pronged ' theme in orchestra

Orchestra depicts murmuring stream, but still there's no real melody

Further illustrative ' water studies '

Orchestra erupts into thunderstorm

Orchestral thunder, virtuosic ' lightning ' from soloist - but still no ' tune '

Soloistic ' birds ' return to the air

Variant of opening theme, with ' argument ' between two notes, one high, one low

Cue to First Movement

First Movement (Complete)

Scene setting and Main Theme of Second Movement

Analytical comment and Main Theme again

Main Theme varied

Further variation, tracing slow, descending scale-steps

Analytical discussion of ' pace ' and ' tempo ' ; further variant of main theme

Vivaldi springs a surprise, reversing direction and heightening tension

Analytical cue to Second Movement

Second Movement (Complete)

Undercover ' bagpipes ' initiate the finale

Second part of Main Theme: new notes, same rhythm

An ' echo ' with a difference

Reminder of ' echoed ' phrase in its original form

Surprise variant provides springboard into new descending four-note pattern

Unexpected, ' flowing ' entrance of soloist

The use of ' sequence ' in first extended solo

Vivaldi prepares expectation...

... and frustrates it by bringing in a new theme, using his four-note ' motto '

Violins accompanied by flowing ' commentary ' in lower strings

Soloist returns with new variant

Pace slows as violins trace another four-note scalewise descent

The peasants return with the main theme, which turns unexpectedly downward

Intensification as harmonies change under broad, descending four-note ' motto '

Mini-earthquake transformed into harmonic landslide

Critical mood-change in soloist's lonely soliloquy

Cue to restoration of main theme in its entirety as the movement ends

Third Movement (complete)

Scene setting and opening of First Movement

Expanded groups of answering phrase

Upper and lower strings alternately succumb to lethargy

As in ' Spring ', soloist enters with birdsong

Orchestra hijacks soloist's material

Soloist returns,first as turtle-dove, then as goldfinch

Gentle breezes give away to North Wing

The storm subsides; soloist enters as weeping peasant boy

Movement ends as storm returns

First Movement (complete)

Second movement opens with extremecontrasts

Second Movement (complete)

Stormy Weather; thunder

Lightning from upper strings

More lightning: ' heat ' lightning from violins, ' fork ' lightning from violas

Torrential rain, depicted by entire orchestra

Deferred entry of solo violin, in virtuoso vein

Peasant's failing resolve as violin spirals down

Nature triumphant; soloist draws on orchestra's 'rain' music

The peasant's capitulation

Third Movement (complete)

Repetitiousness and folk music; the movement's opening

Secondary theme, a closely related development of the first

Solo entry restates the opening theme, ' double-stopping '

Unexpectedly, a new theme where a repeat might be expected

The soloist as ' drunkard '

Further violinistic slips and slides

Orchestra re-enters with main theme, but is interrupted by the drunkard

Other drunks join in ' dialogue ' with the orchestra

The orchestral peasants continue their dancing, but things have changed

Enter another drunk, courtesy of the virtuoso soloist

The dance breaks up

The drunkard interrupts again, then falls asleep, breathing heavily

Conversation amongst the sober peasants leads to their final dance

First Movement (complete)

Scene-setting for Second Movement

Second Movement (complete)

Similarities between the Third Movement and the First

Expectation and surprise: Vivaldi tacks on one bar too many

A case of predictable unpredictablity: novelty and repetition

Soloist's double-stopping depicts hunting horns

Orchestra yields to unexpected display of virtuosity by soloist

Soloist suddenly takes the part of the fleeing beast

Symmetrical paralels with First Movement: ' beast ' / ' drunkard ' etc

Death of the quarry, end of the movement

Third Movement (complete)

Orchestral strings enter, part by part; soloist depicts the biting wind

Wind subsides and returns, tormenting the trudgers through the snow

Soloist depicts snow flurries

Soloist's flurries interrupted by six blasts of orchestral wind

Teeth chattering, and with stamping feet, the travellers finally reach their goal

Cue to First Movement as a whole

First Movement (complete)

Soloist's ' aria ' accompanied by pizzicato ' raindrops '

A sequence of simple scales, accompanied by opening rhythm

Two scalewise ideas for the price of one: foreground and background

New, rising scale-pattern unfurled with ever-greater breadth

The pace increases eight-fold in concluding downwards scale

Against an unvarying tempo, the pace is repeatedly varied

Foreground / Background

Detailed discussion of foreground / background perceptions; analogies with speech

Second Movement (complete)

Scene-setting; soloist begins for the first time

Soloist rises progressively, in sequence, decoratively outling chord of the home key

First orchestral section; ace is halved; the undermining onset of chromaticism

The walkers lose their balance and stylishly fall down

Soloist returns as the original solitary walker and strides away from the others

One tempo, two rates of speed: fast for the soloist, slow for the orchestra

Orchestra evokes the warm winds of the Sirocco

Answering blast from the Borea, the could wind of the north; struggle for supremacy

Cue to final movement

Third Movement (complete)

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