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Vivaldi's life * Vivaldi's times * Vivaldi's music * Creator and the Seasons by C.J. Taylor

Vivaldi and the Four seasons today

Vivaldi's The Four Seasons is so popular today that it is used in TV advertisements, as background music in restaurants and in films ( Pretty Woman, and Spy Game to name a couple). Yet as recently as fifty years ago, hardly anyone knew this music. It started to become popular when violinist Louis Kaufmann played it on a CBS radio broadcast in the summer of 1950. Today you can choose from over one hundred recordings of The Four Seasons, including arrangements for flute, harp, soprano, guitar trio, or brass quintet, jazz quartet, strings, and even for traditional Chinese instruments!

Vivaldi's Music

Vivaldi was very much a baroque composer. He loved to create music with brilliant effects: wide leaps from one register to another; attempts to describe natural phenomena such as storms, wind, and rain; simulated bird calls; dramatic contrasts of loud and soft, or of full ensemble versus a solo instrument; and scales that zoomed up and down like a rollercoaster. He lived in an age when people wanted to hear only the latest music, much like we do with pop music today. Composers were kept busy, furiously turning out new pieces. Vivaldi composed a tremendous amount of music over a thousand pieces. He even claimed that he could compose faster than a person could copy it! He wrote as much as Bach and Handel put together. But Vivaldi was not the champion; farther north, in Germany, Georg Phillip Telemann wrote even more.

Today, Vivaldi is remembered mostly for the large number of violin concertos he wrote over 200. But even that number seems small compared to the total he wrote for all instruments about 500, including for mandolin, viola d'amore, oboe, recorder, bassoon, cello, horn, flute, and trumpet. The variety is almost endless! Vivaldi obviously had music not only in his head but in his fingers, bones, and heart as well. Vivaldi's The Four Seasons violin concertos are without doubt his most famous.

What is an orchestra? An ensemble of instruments consisting of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. In the baroque period, the orchestra often consisted of strings alone.

What is a symphony? A composition for orchestra in (usually ) three or four movements, each of which corresponds to a specific form (sonata, theme and variations, rondo, etc.). Symphonies began to be written around 1750 (after the Baroque period).

What is a movement? One complete, independent section of a larger work such as a concerto or a symphony.

What is a concerto? A musical composition that involves a dramatic interaction between a featured soloist (or in some cases, soloists) and the orchestra.

What is an opera? A theatrical work involving solo voices, chorus, orchestra, sets, costumes, and lighting.

Listen to excerpts of the National Arts Centre Orchestra performing The Four Seasons.


Vivaldi's life * Vivaldi's times * Vivaldi's music * Creator and the Seasons by C.J. Taylor