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ivaldi’s Four Seasons is the one piece of classical music (alongside Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik) that is ubiquitously present in our lives. From lifts to ring-tones, there is no escaping it. The subtleties of its programme however, are not always as evident. We all know what the birds sing at the beginning of Spring, but do we hear the peasants stagger around in a drunken stupor in Autumn? Are we aware of the relentless rain, or of people ice skating and falling over in Winter? This Bruegel-esque musical scene-setting is one of outstanding facets of the work, and Vivaldi is very specific when describing what his music should represent.
t WeLCome to tURNING PoINtS
CRISPIN WoodHead oae CHIeF eXeCUtIve
his is the first concert in our Turning Points series, which we want to be a different audience experience where format, content and presentation evolve around you and your interest in the music we play. Very little of our repertoire was written for a modern concert hall, with seats in rows full of rule abiding strangers. It was written for circles of friends, patrons, courts, congregations – people who had a stake in the creative process and who were part of a living community. The music turned around them. We would like you to be the centre of our turning point and come with us on a journey where we explore the music in ways that suit and interest you. Most of all we would like to get to know you a little better. Music is far better when it is shared with friends.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
The Four(Le Quattro Seasons Stagione) A
dashing figure with long, flowing auburn hair and boyish good looks, Vivaldi was the musical pin-up of Baroque Venice. His vast musical output includes an astounding 500+ concertos, 86 solo and trio sonatas, some 46 operas and a substantial quantity of vocal music. He originally studied for the priesthood and received Holy Orders in 1703, earning the nickname ‘Il prete rosso’ (‘the red priest’) on account of the distinctive colour of his hair. Yet following his ordination, Vivaldi turned his back on the church and went in search of ‘worldly’ musical employment. Just a few weeks later he was appointed maestro di violino at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà, one of four
orphanages for girls in Venice. This was to remain his musical base for the greater part of his life, and it was for the highly gifted students at the Pietà that he composed much of his music. The Four Seasons forms the first third of a collection of twelve violin concertos published together in 1725 as ‘Opus 8’ with the overall title Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Trial of Harmony and Invention). The concertos broke new ground not only in terms of their detailed depiction of poetic ideas, but also their technical ingenuity – most noteworthy in this regard are passages of rapid string-crossing with the bow and high-flying virtuosity for the left hand. © Julian Haylock
SPRING (La Primavera)
(i)Allegro (ii) Largo (iii)Allegro pastorale
(i) Allegro non molto (ii) Adagio e piano – Presto e forte (iii) Presto
AUTUMN (L’autunno) (i) Allegro (ii) Adagio molto (iii) Allegro
WINTER (L’inverno) (i) Allegro non molto (ii) Largo (iii) Allegro
Kati Debretzeni (director) Julia Kuhn Henry Tong Daniel Edgar Debbie Diamond
Notation in the 18th century was quite rudimentary. Composers wrote the notes to play and the tempo of the music, but they didn’t necessarily write how you should play them. In the period instrument world we think we should go beyond notation and think about the gesture of the music behind the notes. For the intro to Spring, do you start with the notes that are written with no staccato markings? Do you play with emphasis on the first beat? Do you go to the high note? And do you think that because the notes are repeated that means the effect is upbeat and joyous, so you might detach the notes a bit and play them differently? That’s not written into the music, but you can make it your own. This is taken from videos Kati has recorded to accompany tonight’s concert. Watch them at bit.ly/oae-turning-points.
n the original manuscript each concerto is prefaced by a sonnet (printed on each spread of this programme), almost certainly by Vivaldi himself, which by means of identifying letters is cross-referenced to particular passages in the music. The first movement of Spring, for example, opens joyously (‘Spring has arrived merrily’), leading to a chirruping passage for three solo violins (‘the birds hail her with happy song’), while the slow movement of only 39 bars depicts the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, and a shepherd sleeping with his faithful dog beside him.
Spring has arrived merrily the birds hail her with happy song; meanwhile, at the breath of Zephyrs the streams flow with sweet murmur; Thunder and lightning, chosen to proclaim her come covering the sky with a black mantle; when these fall silent, the little birds return once more to their melodious song; And so, on the pleasant, flowery meadow, to the welcome murmuring of fronds and trees the goatherd sleeps with his trusty dog beside him. To the festive sound of a shepherd’s bagpipe nymphs and shepherds dance beneath the beloved roof at the joyful appearance of spring.
(i) Allegro (ii) Largo (iii) Allegro pastorale
In the storm in Summer, Vivaldi uses repeated notes. These are very easy to do on the bow, but sound very impressive and virtuosic. It’s not possible to them on anything other than stringed instruments. This is taken from videos Kati has recorded to accompany tonight’s concert. Watch them at bit.ly/oae-turning-points.
ummer’s opening movement uncannily suggests the ‘blazing sun’s relentless heat’, until birdsong once again fills the air: ‘We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard.’ The Presto finale suggests the sound of hailstones beating down on freshly-cut hay.
Beneath the harsh season inflamed by the sun languishes man, languishes the flock, the pine tree burns; the cuckoo unleashes his voice; upon hearing it the turtle-dove and the goldfinch sing too. Sweet Zephyrus blows, but suddenly Boreas opens a dispute with his neighbour; the shepherd weeps, awaiting a fierce storm, and fearing for his destiny. His weary limbs are deprived of rest by fear of lightening and fierce thunder, and by furious swarms of flies and wasps Alas his fears are so true! The sky thunders, flares, and hailstones Sever the heads of proud grain crops. at the joyful appearance of spring.
(i) Allegro non molto (ii) Adagio e piano â€“ Presto e forte (iii) Presto
In Autumn Vivaldi depicts the harvesting of the grapes and the unfortunate, or fortunate, consequences which is that people get drunk. There is a drunkard staggering about in the first movement of Autumn. You can really see the man in the music and it goes picture after picture after picture. It’s very, very suggestively done so there’s no doubt this is what the music says. This is taken from videos Kati has recorded to accompany tonight’s concert. Watch them at bit.ly/oae-turning-points.
utumn depicts peasant life with a painter’s eye for hues and colours. The opening Allegro swings along to the sounds of peasant singing and dancing, the Adagio molto finds them sleeping heavily in the cool breeze (no doubt after a glass or two of cider), while the final Allegro suggests ‘the hunters arriving at dawn ready for the chase.’
The peasant celebrates with dance and song the sweet pleasures of a rich harvest and, fired by Bacchus’ liquor, many end their enjoyment in slumber. They abandon dance and song as the air, now fresh, lends pleasure, and the season invites so many to rest in sweetest slumber. At the new dawn, the hunters set out with horns, guns and dogs to hunt; the wild beast flees, they follow it’s tracks Bewildered by the great noise of guns and dogs, wounded, it tries to escape, but, overwhelmed, dies.
(i) Allegro (ii) Adagio molto (iii) Allegro
he icy opening measures of Winter unmistakably suggests ‘shivering, tingling in the chilly snow’, while the dreamy central If you try singing the beginning of Largo encapsulates the sensation of ‘resting the solo section in Winter, or play it contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside on the harpsichord, you come a cropper about note number three. That’s because the notes are drenched by pouring rain.’ The finale suggests are repeated very quickly, which is a device no the faltering precariousness of walking on ice and other instrument other than strings can use. But the chill of the winter wind ‘which nonetheless because the violin has the bow it can speak in brings its own delights’. tumn depicts peasant this nice, repetitive way. life with a painter’s eye for hues and colours. The opening Allegro swings along to the sounds of This is taken from videos Kati has recorded to peasant singing and dancing, the Adagio molto accompany tonight’s concert. finds them sleeping heavily in the cool breeze (no Watch them at bit.ly/oae-turning-points. doubt after a glass or two of cider), while the final Allegro suggests ‘the hunters arriving at dawn ready for the chase.’
To shiver frozen amidst the icy snow at the harsh wind’s chilled breath; to run, stamping one’s feet whilst teeth chatter in the fierce cold; to pass quiet and contented days by the fireside whilst the rain outside drenches hundreds; to walk on ice, and with slow steps move cautiously for fear of falling; to go fast, slip, fall to the ground; and again go on the ice, running fast, and take to the ice again, running fast/till the ice cracks to hear, coming through the iron gates, Sirroco, Boreas, and all the winds at war. T’is Winter, but lo’, what joy it brings!
(i) Allegro non molto (ii) Largo (iii) Allegro
orn in Transylvania, Kati studied the violin with Ora Shiran in Israel, and the Baroque violin with Catherine Mackintosh and Walter Reiter in London.
laying on old instruments is hard. Without the safety net of valves, metal strings and standardised instruments, performing becomes a real high-wire act. And each performance needs hours of Since the year 2000 she has led the English research and the bravery to cast aside centuries Baroque Soloists under Sir John Eliot Gardiner, of performance tradition. But while the room and can be heard on their recent recordings for error with period instruments is huge, the of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, B Minor payoff can be just as big. They’re raw, bright and Mass and St Matthew Passion (to be released in immediate. In the hands of experts they can 2017). reveal colours and textures that were previously lost. Kati has been one of the leaders of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment since It seems so obvious now – the rawness of gut 2008. In this capacity she has worked under Sir strings; the thrill of natural horns; the careful Simon Rattle, William Christie, Ivan Fischer, consideration of the music’s how, when and Sir Mark Elder, Ottavio Dantone, Robin what. But it wasn’t always so. Thirty years Ticciati, Adam Fischer and others. ago a pioneering group of musicians founded She has directed the Orchestra in projects the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, ranging from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with marking the moment that ‘historically the Henri Oguike Dance Company to the informed performance’, that eccentric little upcoming Berlioz’s Les nuits d’ete with Sarah fringe interest, became mainstream. Period Connolly. instruments could suddenly be heard in opera Kati has recorded numerous award winning houses and on recordings with major labels. CDs with Florilegium, Ricordo, Trio Goya, and Mainstream conductors like Simon Rattle and the European Brandenburg Ensemble under Charles Mackerras were pulled in, and concert Trevor Pinnock (Gramophone Award 2007). halls queued up to host them. A revolution in Her latest solo recording is that of Vivaldi’s performance style was underway that has left Four Seasons with the OAE. She has directed few modern symphony orchestras untouched. various ensembles in Canada, Israel, Poland, That revolution continues to this day unabated, Norway, Iceland and the UK, and teaches and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment the Baroque and Classical violin at the Royal continue to sit right at its heart. Conservatory of Music in The Hague.
Published on Feb 10, 2017
The programme for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's Turning Points: Vivaldi's Four Seasons concert on Sat 11 Feb, 2017, at Kings P...