Not To Reason Why

antonio_vivaldi‘TIS THE SEASON NOT TO REASON WHY! Just consider that had Antonio Vivaldi (1675-1741) been alive today, his famous composition, The Four Seasons, could have portrayed – musically speaking – a single week this month of November in Northeast America. [You may click on the red hotlink to listen to the whole opus at your leisure: it is performed here by the Budapest Strings under the baton of its conductor Bela Banfalvi.]

After all, in the poetic realm, wasn’t it Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) who, well before Vivaldi’s arrival on this planet, mused:


“I was promised on a time
To have reason for my rhyme;
From that time unto this season,
I received nor rhyme nor reason.”

Published three centuries ago c. 1716, Vivaldi’s Op. 8 comprising of four concertos, collectively entitled The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagione), was one of the earliest successful efforts at literal program music, with each of the four works resembling a tone poem:

  • Spring (La Primavera), in E major, begins ebulliently in the full orchestra, and soon launches into several descriptive passages: trills in three solo violins simulate the song of birds; running figures of sixteenths in violins suggest the murmur of playing fountains. The concluding part is a pastoral dance.
  • Summer (L’Estate), in B flat, recreates the voices of the cuckoo, turtle dove, and goldfinch.
  • Autumn (L’Autunno), in F major, begins with a picture of merrymaking farmers at harvest time. A slow section provides a complete change of pace with t a description of their peaceful slumber.
  • Winter (L’Inverno), in F minor, is even more realistic. Staccato passages imitate the chattering of teeth in the cold, while running figures in strings remind us of the shiver brought on by the chilling snows. The gentle slow section tells of the peace of sitting by the fireside while the vigorous finale recalls that winter can also bring joy.

References: Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; Wikipedia.

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