Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons (Le Quattro Stagioni) Opus 8 Nos. 1-4
Spring (La Primavera)
Largo e pianissimo sempre
Danza pastorale: Allegro
Allegro non molto
Allegro non molto
Concerto alla rustica in G Major, RV 151
Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678, the grandson ofa baker and son of a man who combined the trades of musician and barber. He wasto spend the greater part of his life in his native city, where, from the colourof his hair rather than any political inclination, he was known as "il preterosso", the red priest. He had been ordained in 1703, when he wasappointed violin-master at the Ospedale della Pieta. One of the fourestablishments in Venice for the education of girls who were orphans,illegitimate or indigent. The institutions were famous for their music in acity that had always attracted many visitors, in addition to its ownenthusiastic musical public.
Vivaldi continued to work at the Pieta with relativelylittle interruption. He was able to combine his duties with those of impresarioand composer at the theatre of S. Angelo from 1714, and left the Pieta in 1718to serve briefly as maestro da camera to Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt. By1723 he was back again at the Pieta with a commission to compose and direct theperformance of two concertos a month. Meanwhile his reputation had spreadwidely abroad both as a virtuoso performer on the Violin and as a composer. In1730 he visited Bohemia and in 1738 led an orchestra in Amsterdam for thecentenary of the Schouwberg Theatre. In Italy his operas had been performed in Veronaand in Ferrara, as well as in Venice, where they had continued success.
In 1740 the records of the Pieta show Vivaldi's impendingdeparture, and the sale to the institution of 20 concertos. We next hear of himin Vienna, where there is a record of the sale of more compositions to CountAntonio Vinci?¡guerra on 28 June, 1741. A month later he was dead, to be given,like Mozart 50 years later, a poor man's funeral. At the height of his fame hehad earned large sums of money, and one must suspect that his later poverty wasdue not to simple extravagance but to the changes of fashion and to hisinvolvement in the expensive and risky business of opera.
Vivaldi was prolific, composing vast quantities of instrumentaland vocal music and nearly 50 operas. Of the 500 concertos he wrote the mostpopular in his life-time as today were the four known as Le Quattro Stagioni - TheFour Sea?¡sons, works that had circulated widely in manuscript before beingpublished in Amsterdam in 1725 when explanatory poems were added to clarify theprogramme of each concerto. The set was dedicated to Count Wenzel von Morzin, acousin of Haydn's first patron. The title page describes Vivaldi himself as theCount's "maestro in Italia', as "Maestro de' Concerti" of thePieta, as well as "Maestro di Capella di Camera" of Prince Philip,Land grave of Hesse-Darmstadt.
The first concerto, Spring, opens with the cheerful song ofthe birds that wel?¡comes the season, followed by the gentle murmur of streamsfanned by the breeze: there is thunder and lightning, and then the birds resumetheir song, represented by the solo violin assisted by two other solo violins.
The second movement shows the goat-herd asleep, while theviola serves as a watch-dog, barking regularly in each bar against the murmurof the foliage. A pastoral dance brings more activity, to the sound of thebag-pipe, interrupted by a section for the solo violin that seems to breathethe sultry heat of coming summer.
Summer itself is a time of languor - "langue l'uomo,langue 'l gregge ed arde il Pino", as the introductory sonnet puts it. Themusic grows more energetic as the cuckoo sings, then the turtle-dove and thegoldfinch. The wind rises and the shepherds are anxious, with some musicaljustification. In the slow movement their rest is disturbed by thunder andlightning and there are troublesome flies, and in the final movement the fearsof thunder are realised as a storm batters the crops.
Autumn opens with the dance and song of the country-people,in work that has much of the artifice of the traditional pastoral convention.
This is a cele?¡bration of the harvest, with an excess of wine bringing sleep atthe end, to pervade the second movement. The third movement brings the hunt atdawn, with the huntsman's horn, the sound of dogs and guns. An animal takesflight and is pursued and dies in the fatigue of the chase.
The last of the seasons, Winter, brings cold winds, thestamping of feet and chattering teeth. The slow movement shelters by the warmthof the fireside, while the rain falls outside, and the last movement of thiseventful history shows people walking carefully on ice, slipping and fallingand running in case the ice breaks. The winds are at war, but there is sport tobe had.
The Concerto alla rustica in G major is in the usual threemovements, with no detailed descriptive programme. Commentators have drawnattention to the anticipation of later Viennese practice in the minor keyconclusion to an otherwise major key first movement. The work is in the form ofa ripieno concerto, scored for strings, with no solo violin, and with two oboesadded in the final movement.
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. Afterstudying with her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student ofShinichi Suzuki, the creator of the famous Suzuki Method of teaching childrento play the violin. Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School ofMusic and to Juilliard in the United States, where she studied with JosephFuchs.
Takako Nishizaki won Second Prize in the 1964 LeventrittInternational Competition (First Prize went to Itzhak Perlman), First Prize inthe 1967 Juilliard Concerto Competition (with Japan's Nobuko Imai, thewell-known violist) and several awards in lesser competitions. She was only thesecond student at Juilliard, after Michael Ratsin, to win her school's coveted FirtzKleisler Scholar?¡ship, established by the great violinist himself.
Miss Nishizaki has performed as soloist at the festivals of Bath,Spoleto, Sofia, Costa Verde, Hong Kong, Chautauqua and Berlin. She has toured Germany, Australia, Bulgaria and the