In the realm of violin concertos few pieces have reached the level of acclaim as well as the widespread popular culture proliferation as “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi. In fact the first half of “The Four Seasons” entitled “La Primavera” or “Spring” is one of the most widely utilized pieces of Baroque music in the movie industry with various snippets of the piece finding its way into movies such as “The Three Musketeers”, “The Man in the Iron Mask”, “Elizabeth”, and “Pride and Prejudice”.
For this paper, I am fortunate enough to hear a rendition of “The Four Seasons” as performed by Nigel Kennedy and will attempt to convey, from my own point of view, its different aspects related to its tone, pitch and melody and how they combine to create a truly exquisite piece of music.
Four Seasons – Part 1 and Part 3 Examination
From the start of Part 1 of “Summer” listeners are treated to a tempo in the music that is distinctly allegro in quality due to the rather fast paced manner of playing. This initial phase of the song varies between two versions of high pitched tones so as to convey a sense of awakening or rather liveliness as I believe Vivaldi intended this initial part to have a bright timbre to embody the brightness of summer where the rays of the sun come forth and heat up the land and bring about the season of harvesting.
While there is a certain degree of repetition initially, the overall melody of the piece continues to impart a sense of joy and excitement. From my perspective I would have to say that the song alternates between Allegro, a slight Largo, a moderately slow Adagio that does not impart a sense of somberness but rather a way of implying a slow anticipation of events.
This particular viewpoint is proven to be accurate (from my point of view at least) since immediately after the Adagio comes a sudden Allegro that practically screams the joy of life and living. For me part 1 alternates between action and anticipation with the decibel level alternating between Pianissimo and Messoforte as an indication of the liveliness inherent in summer.
Similar to the part 1 part 3 starts off with a repetitive tempo however this time it is predominantly presto with the feeling of brightness and life gone with the timbre embodying a form of closure, rapidity even, in which the start of the song is attempting to embody a rush of sorts wherein the mental image of people busying about to complete some task before it is too late.
It must be noted though that in this section the tone of the music is lacking mirth, emphasizing the need for speed rather than enjoying the season. In fact there are slight hints of a form of dissonance throughout the rapid fast paced quality of playing which seems to imply a coming end.
It must also be noted that unlike part 1 which alternates from a distinctly Piano and Mezzoforte, part 3 seemingly alternated between Mezzoforte and Forte. There is a gradual crescendo towards the middle of the song with a slight decrescendo towards the end. Overall part 3 embodies the very spirit of the end of summer in which it implies the coming of winter and the need to be prepared.
For me the approach of Nigel Kennedy to the piece was superb! Part 3 was particularly riveting wherein it seemed like he was almost sawing his violin in half with the sheer rapidity of movement. From my perspective Kennedy’s approach to part 1 was smooth and joyful but in part 3 it was almost violent yet in this violence was a superb quality of sound that was definitely riveting to hear.