Vivaldi & Richter
Date & Time
Francisco Fullana violin
Vivaldi The Four Seasons
Richter/Vivaldi The Four Seasons, Recomposed
Vivaldi’s most popular collection of violin concertos is paired with Max Richter’s modern classic, where the Baroque composer’s music is reinvented in a lush, minimalistic masterpiece.
Read more in the program notes below.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
The Four Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Baroque composers began earnestly exploring music’s expressive powers and, with the development of opera during that period, became actively involved with the theater. Vivaldi, himself, was fully immersed in it. The sense of expression and theatrical awareness had many manifestations. Even architecture took on semblances of the theater; Versailles and its gardens look like a stage set.
Vivaldi’s musical theater in Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) was Nature in her four changing guises. Together, these four concertos constitute the first third of his Opus 8, a collection of twelve concertos dedicated to a Bohemian Count which were published in Amsterdam in 1725 under the title Il Cimento dell’ Armonia e dell’ Inventione, or the testing of harmony (representing the rational side of composition) and invention (imagination). Here Vivaldi did indeed put harmony and invention to the test by writing an early and lengthy example of orchestral program music, perhaps the first such treating the seasons. In it he exercised his imaginative powers with great aplomb, accomplishing a quadruple evocation of mood as well as incorporating striking elements of realism.
It is clear that Vivaldi knew how to reflect the eighteenth-century’s interest in programmatic delineation from the pictorial details in this music — bird sounds, murmuring springs, a barking dog, the insecure walk of the inebriate, a hunt scene and a winter skater’s ungraceful slip on the ice. The effects are at times achieved with considerable sophistication.
There are three eighteenth-century sources for The Four Seasons. In addition to an Italian manuscript set of instrumental parts, there are two printed editions (by Le Cene of Amsterdam, 1725, and Le Clerc of Paris, 1739). The Amsterdam edition includes accompanying sonnets (presumably by Vivaldi) preceding the concertos in the solo violin part. Each line of the respective sonnet is also printed over descriptive passages throughout the score in all the parts explaining the programmatic action. Vivaldi also added additional text at the appropriate points in the music to further clarify his intentions.
The predominant instrumental role in The Four Seasons is played by the solo violin. Its treatment leaves little doubt that in concept, each work is in the form of a solo concerto. Individually, the four concertos are made up of three movements in the order fast-slow-fast.
George Diehl and Marc Mostovoy
The Four Seasons, Recomposed
Max Richter (b. 1966)
Inspired by various musical-rhetorical figures in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, London-based composer Max Richter ‘recomposed’ the piece by blending sounds of the past and new. Richter has claimed that he discarded about 75 percent of Vivaldi’s compositions and fashioned the rest in a postmodern and minimalist way through electronic looping and recording. Richter’s reimagination still retains the basic shape, and much of the spirit but sounds a little hipper – lighter on its feet in places, darker, and more cinematic in others.
The tripartite structure of “Spring” focuses on recurring themes from Vivaldi’s original, including bird calls and brook murmuring. The portrayal of a summer storm is fully preserved with a brilliant violin solo. During the summer storm, Richter’s reimagination features colorful chromaticism, heightened harmonic tension, and percussive sounds from the strings. In addition, electronic music plays a significant role in connecting the movements as well as creating the ambiance of meteorological changes. In “Autumn,” Richter implements frequent meter changes to spice up the original, straightforward motive. Furthermore, Richter adds extensive sequencing and elaboration from the original theme to depart from the linear narrative of Vivaldi’s programmatic sonnet. In the middle of ‘Autumn,’ Richter wrote out a solo part for the harpsichord based on the original figured bass, which would have been improvisations at the discretion of the performer. At the end of “Autumn,” Richter contrasted textures by sectioning off the string entries and motives, as opposed to the minuet-like movement in Vivaldi’s original. In “Winter,” Richter utilized frequent meter changes again, along with syncopated rhythm from the lower strings. Unlike the programmatic nature of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, there is not a narrative of the natural scenery but Richter’s imaginative cinematography through sound.
Min-Young Kim, Concertmaster
Meichen Liao-Barnes, Associate Concertmaster
Natasha Colkett, Principal
Catherine Kei Fukuda
Mary SangHyun Yong, Principal
Branson Yeast, Principal
Anne Peterson, Principal