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Vivaldi’s Spring: A Journey of the Human Emotion

The Spring concerto of the string orchestra The Four Seasons by Antonio Lucio Vivaldi is a shining testament to the awe-inspiring power of music. This masterful orchestral composition of the Baroque period awakens the mind’s eye to a breath-taking voyage of the imagination. With mere string instruments, one beholds the serenity of a bubbling stream, the soft breeze on rustling leaves and grass, the tranquil sleep of a shepherd boy by a tree, the soothing twitter of birds on a bright day, the vibrant dancing of peasants, or the trepidation of an oncoming violent storm.

The musical mastery and genius of Vivaldi in the Spring inevitably evokes the beholder to react, drawing one to take a closer look at his life and the creation of the Spring and The Four Seasons; truly a magnus opus which has left an indelible mark on the annals of this field of artistic expression. Antonio Vivaldi was an eldest son born on March 4, 1678 in Venice. Giovanni Battista, his father, was a prominent professional violin player in the orchestra of the city’s most important church, the St. Mark’s, and from him he learned to play the violin at an early stage.

At the age of fifteen, Vivaldi entered the monastery, honing his musical skills and pursuing his studies in priesthood at the same time. He was soon ordained but due to poor health which he describes as “a tightening of the chest” (Zukerman 4), – or asthma as is now known – he celebrated the holy sacrament for only a few times and thereafter was never associated with any particular church. In 1703, with the musical expertise of Vivaldi, he soon taught and composed music for the Ospedale della Pieta, a local orphanage for girls.

At the Pieta, he masterfully excelled at his craft, writing “hundreds of compositions for the girls to perform in the orchestra or to sing in the choir” (Zukerman 5), and in the span of his music career, Vivaldi has written “nearly 600 concertos—for violin, cello, flute, piccolo, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, guitar, and even recorder” (TEXTBOOK AUTHOR 299). Hence he was able to attain a very high social status, performing for kings and dignitaries even of other nations. Regrettably, after almost forty years in the Pieta, the Venetian public grew weary of his music, which has already become unfashionable at that time.

Vivaldi, soon after, travelled to Vienna and was hired by a close friend and admirer of his music, Emperor Charles VI. The emperor suddenly died, unfortunately, and from then on, no one wanted the services of Antonio Vivaldi. He died within a year later, on July 28, 1741, with no money and was buried undeservingly receiving “the cheapest possible funeral (Zukerman 5). The Four Seasons is a musical piece comprising of “four short violin concertos written around 1720” (Zukerman 9), with each season, or movement, spanning approximately ten minutes.

Perhaps what makes this work remarkable is the accompaniment of four sonnets to go along with each of the four concertos, plus the paintings done by Marco Ricci that serve to illustrate to the audience, a clear visage of the themes that Vivaldi has aspired to convey. Hence Vivaldi’s Four Seasons attempts to be an artistic magnum opus by “marrying the arts of painting, poetry, and music” (Zukerman 11). It is worth noting that during the time of its release, there was exceeding enthusiasm that contemporary music and historical authorities such as Pinchas Zukerman has compared this to “an eagerly anticipated movie” (11) of our generation.

Reaction After discovering the musical genius behind the man, it is evident that Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is an epitome of musical artistry commonly found only to the very select few that history finds deserving of such a commendation. First and foremost, it can be based on the fact that the aforementioned musical piece is able to effectively convey to its audience the intended themes, even prior to witnessing the respective paintings and/or sonnets that represent the particular season.

As such, we are made willing participants to the barrage of emotional appeals that it presents; from the tranquility that the birds are able to effectuate, the trepidation that goes along with the seeming announcement of a coming storm, to the merry dance of a lively melody that seems to welcome spring in full gratitude and excitement, even as it is emphasized in the lines, “Spring has arrived, and full of joy / The birds greet it with their happy song.

The streams, swept by gentle breezes, flow along with sweet murmur” (TEXTBOOK AUTHOR 299). More notably, perhaps one of the endearing aspects for making this musical piece such a prime example of artistry is its intrinsic capacity to allow its audience to experience life in its entirety, taking into consideration all of the emotions that one experiences in his or her lifetime, and compressing all of these in the limited duration of the aforementioned piece.

Indeed, it very seldom that music is able to be as effective in creating very diverse yet related emotions, as The Four Seasons of Vivaldi fittingly creates.

Works Cited

AUTHOR’S SURNAME, FIRSTNAME. TITLE OF BOOK. COUNTRY OF PUBLICATION: PUBLISHER, YEAR. Zukerman, Pinchas. Vivaldi and the Four Seasons-Teacher Resource Kit. Canada’s National Arts Centre. 2006. 21 August 2010 <http://artsalive. ca/pdf/mus/tour2004/vivaldi2004_en. pdf>

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