Thursday, December 15, 2011

Antonio Vivaldi’s Spring Movement 1

“Spring with all its festiveness has arrived
And the birds salute it with happy song
And the brooks, kissed by the breezes,
Meanwhile flow with sweet murmurings.
Dark clouds cover the sky
Announced by bolts of lightning and thunder.
But when all has returned to quiet
The birds commence to sing once again their enchanted song”
(qtd. in Wright)
Antonio Vivaldi composed his famous Four Seasons concertos in 1723. Before composing these concertos, Vivaldi first wrote a poem, or what he called an “illustrative sonnet,” in order to put down in words exactly what his music would show (Wright). He set the structure of each line to correspond to the appropriate line of music. Here is the poem that Vivaldi wrote to accompany his first movement of his Spring Concerto. As you listen to the movement and read the poem, note how Vivaldi uses his music to describe the exact scene of which his words express. Instruments, like words, can express feeling and describe a scene.

Vivaldi writes the piece in a major key to express joy for the arrival of spring. Note with the entrance of the violin soloists how Vivaldi uses the violin solo to introduce the birds’ happy song. He writes that the violins play short, quick, staccato notes in a high register to mimic the noise of birds chirping. The violinist use techniques such as vibrato and trills to produce the sound of fluttering wings. Next, he creates the flow of the brook with the continuous movement of broken chords in the orchestral accompaniment. Then the violas and the cellos play a low rumbling tremolo, or a rapid repeat of the same note, to produce the culminating sound of thunder. The violin soloist comes in with a quick bow that shows the fast lightning bolt. Finally, there is a shift to a minor key as the storm continues and the birds return singing the key back to major.

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