Antonio Vivaldi – ‘Winter’ from ‘The Four Seasons’, Allegro non molto (1st mvt)
- Born: 1678
- Died: 1741
- Nationality: Italian
Why is he a Trailblazer?
Can orchestras bring people, animals, landscapes and stories to life – using music?
Trailblazer Antonio Vivaldi thought so.
Around 300 years ago when he wrote The Four Seasons he was one of the first people to compose music that was designed to remind listeners of places and things in the world around them.
Antonio Vivaldi was taught to play the violin by his father and they regularly performed together in Venice.
After training as a priest Vivaldi soon switched to teaching the violin to girls at an orphanage in Venice, where part of his job was to compose music for them to play.
No one could accuse Vivaldi of being workshy – he composed 500 concertos (for instruments like the violin, mandolin, flute and cello), 46 operas and many other works, including the beautiful choral piece Gloria.
Although his compositions were very influential in Europe during his lifetime, after his death Vivaldi’s music fell out of fashion and many manuscripts were believed lost. Thankfully, in the early 20th century, Vivaldi’s work – including The Four Seasons in the version we know today – began to be re-discovered.
Vivaldi was a virtuoso violinist and so it’s no wonder that the violin is star of The Four Seasons.
Each of the four concertos gives the violin a chance to conjure up sounds and pictures from each period of the year, from barking dogs and mosquitos, to summer storms and birds happily singing the arrival of spring.
Vivaldi published a sonnet to accompany each of the seasons (although there is some debate over whether Vivaldi wrote them) and they offer a wonderful guide to the musical stories he weaves with his orchestra.
In the first movement of ‘Winter’ Vivaldi brilliantly conveys the biting cold, gusting wind, trembling bodies, and chattering teeth on his beloved violin.
To discover more music that conjures up the natural world, have a listen to Storm by Benjamin Britten.
Or, if you fancy hearing how other composers began using music to put us at the centre of a story, take a ride with some wild witches in Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain.
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