© Marcel Giger
© Marcel Giger

Chirping birds and rumbling thunderstorms 

In our new series “Nature in Music”, Georg Rudiger takes a closer look. Today: Antonio Vivaldi’s “Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons)“.

“Spring has come, the birds welcome it joyously with cheerful song and the streams flow with gentle babbling in the softly blowing zephyr winds”, writes Antonio Vivaldi in the first stanza of his sonnet “Spring”, which precedes Opus 8/1 with the same name. In the very first solo part, the solo violin is joined by two solo violins, which imitate other bird calls in addition to the trills with rapid alternating notes. The continuous pulse of the movement stops beating here. Nature has its own laws before the ritornello theme returns with the tutti entry and the clearly marked crotchets in the bass. The delicate winds can also be heard in the legato semiquavers of the violins. Suddenly the mood changes when thunder and lightning destroy the idyll in the form of rapid repeated notes in the accompaniment and soaring figures in the solo violin. Vivaldi wrote the individual programmatic references directly into the score – as well as the barking dog in the second movement in the beautifully stolid viola part, over which the solo violin relaxes the wide-stretched cantilena of the sleeping goatherd.

Tired limbs, flies buzzing around 

In “summer”, Vivaldi finds even stronger contrasts between calm and excitement. “In the glow of the sun, man and beast grow weary, and the pines wither. The cuckoo raises its voice, and soon the dove and goldfinch join in its song”, are the first lines of the poem. After a gentle introduction in pianissimo, reflecting the summer heat, the solo violin really breaks in with spectacular octave leaps and rapid note repetitions. Storm or hailstorm? That remains open – in any case, there is suddenly a lot of energy in the general weariness. In the second movement, Vivaldi constantly alternates between Adagio and Presto, which musically describes the shepherd’s tired limbs on the one hand and the flies buzzing around on the other. A fiery summer storm with virtuoso runs in the solo violin ends this season.

With chattering teeth 

“Autumn” also has its charms with dancing, singing and a jolly hunt. “Winter” shows its prickly side with chattering teeth, fierce ice storms, but also a deep calm in the second movement, in which the pizzicato of the violins imitate raindrops. The German violinist Arabella Steinbacher, together with the Kammerakademie Potsdam, will take the audience by the hand on this walk through the different seasons and will show the various forms and moods nature can develop – and in what an ingenious way Antonio Vivaldi transformed this into music.



Beauty and Fragility
Arabella Steinbacher (violin), Kammerakademie Potsdam
Vivaldi (“The Four Seasons”), Mendelssohn (String Symphony No. 12 in G minor),
Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major)

Thursday, August 3, 7:00 pm, Concert Hall, Arena Klosters