Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, Number 1 (Spring)

Happy Spring! Spring is my favorite season. Here, in DC where I live, it’s a bit slow in coming.  The cherry blossoms around the tidal basin and along the Potomac River haven’t yet opened.  So for the next few posts, I’ll be writing about pieces with a Spring theme.  I’m going to start with the eponymous concerto from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.


So what can you say about one of the most overplayed pieces of classical music of all times? Sure, it’s uplifting; sure it has a catchy tune; sure it captures wonder and joy of natures reinvention of itself in March. Oddly enough, I didn’t buy a copy of it until my mid 30s, and that was a used vinyl LP at a church sale. You don’t really need your own. Just wait until the 20th of March and tune to your local classical radio station and you will hear it. It’s kind of like that copy of “Dark Side of The Moon” in your basement. Eventually the geriatric “Classic Rock station will give it a spin.

Written in 1725, when Vivaldi was 47, it represents the work of a “man in full.” Vivaldi wrote the music for a group of four sonnets. These concertos are interesting because they expand the role of the solo instrument, in this case the violin. The first movement of Spring starts out with a joyous burst of energy, which has passed into the collective conscious now, probably through its over use in TV commercials. The second movement is a Largo, which I find curiously sad for a work about Spring. Maybe he’s trying to convey the changeability of the weather. Maybe at 47, Vivaldi is ruing his own lost youth. Maybe he trying to capture the mystery of the flowers pushing up through the earth and the green that gradually starts to erase the grey. The last movement sounds very mature as the season stabilizes and takes us into Summer.

To every thing, there is a season, and to Spring belongs the blush of youth on a young girl’s cheek, the happy gamboling of the newborn lamb in verdant meadow, and the quivering voices of pseudo-intellectual, adolescent boys writing love poems to the prom queen. In high school, I felt torn apart. Under the tutelage of the M**** family–which had three pretty daughters, by the way–I strove to turn myself into an intellectual. I disdained rock music; I read Dostoyevsky; I studied books on Picasso, Chagall, and Miro; I fell in love with and botched my dates with a number of girls. At the same time, I felt like I was on the rack, plagued by physical desire. For example, I did not bemoan the wasted life of one of the schools prettier girls, when a swim team mate got her pregnant. Instead, I envied him and rued not having been the father.

Now that I have two daughters of my own, I lament that our society has strayed so far from any logical (and responsible) way of raising its young. “Primitive” cultures don’t waste their youth this way. Children grow up at their parents’ side and not only do they apprentice the life skills and trades they need, they also learn how to be adults. “Adolescence” I suspect, rose out the isolation of children from their parents when universal education was adopted. In high schools, youth have more interactions with their peers than with adults. At most they have 50 minutes a day with any one adult, and for the rest of their time they are working out their pecking order and values from interactions with their peers. It seems like we as a culture have thrown our hands up and said Malthus was right, we give up. I’m not advocating a return to family values, but I do think it’s important for children to have longer, more healthy interactions with adults (uncles, aunts, civic leaders), during adolescence. If not, they will continue to spin their wheels unproductively (and sometimes fatally) when “adult-hood” is thrust upon them upon graduation.

Maybe there is a lesson in Vivaldi’s life. He was trained for the priesthood, but instead took a job as violin master at the Pio Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. This was a home for sick and orphaned children. Imagine what a role model he was. He organized a lot of concerts of his own music which brought in money for the work of the hospital. He was staggeringly prolific: wrote hundreds of concertos for the violin alone, 49 operas, and countless other works. Oddly though, after his death he faded into obscurity but was rediscovered in the early 1900s. I think I heard recently that the corpus of his work hasn’t been completely catalogued.

Here is the poem to Spring for which he wrote this piece:

Spring
Spring has arrived, and joyously the birds
now welcome her return with festive song,
and streamlets, by soft airs caressed, are heard
to murmur sweetly as they course along.
Casting their inky mantle over heaven,
thunderstorms, her chosen heralds, roar;
when they have died away to silence, then
the birds take up their charming songs once more.
And now, upon the flower-strewn grass subsiding,
with leafy branches rustling overhead,
the goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.
By festive sound of rustic bagpipes led,
nymphs and shepherds dance beneath the shining
canopy of spring with sprightly tread

Download MP3 or Buy CD of Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi. Concerto Number 3 in F (Autumn) from the Four Seasons

The Four Seasons actually come from a group of twelve concertos that Vivaldi called “The Contest Between Harmony and Invention.” The twelve are referenced as Opus 8, but they actually date from Vivaldi’s 60s, almost at the end of his career. The reason for this lies in the fact that no one knows exactly how many works Vivaldi composed.


Vivaldi today ranks as one of the most popular of all composers, probably based on these four concerti. In fact, he was probably the most prolific composer ever, though ironically, he was virtually unknown until the 1920s. He had been ordained a priest but never took up the duties of his office, instead becoming the violin master of a girl’s orphanage in Venice. He flourished there and under his guidance, the school became “the” place in Venice to listen to music. There he composed prodigiously, churning out some 400 concertos for solo instruments, 46 operas, and scores of sacred and secular works. Unfortunately in his later years, the Church took action against Vivaldi for not performing his priestly duties (it was rumored he had two mistresses) and his contract with the school was not renewed. In addition, a wealthy patron died and Vivaldi ended up penniless and was buried in a pauper’s grave.

After he died, a count purchased the manuscripts of Vivaldi’s works from the orphanage, and gave strict instructions in his will that the works must never be published or performed. After nearly 200 years, the will was challenged and overturned and in the late 1920 the world began to hear the sweet music once again.

The Four Seasons is one of those “background” pieces that I heard at an early age. It melodies are woven into the very fabric of Western culture. There is something about it that, for me at least, never makes me regard it as hackneyed, though it gets played to death. Whenever I hear it, I am always surprised at how Vivaldi captured the joy and awe that everyone has felt at one time or another before Nature. For me, each new season, brings a sense of wonder as I see the earth born, mature, die and reborn again through the changing weather, flora, fauna and human activity.

When I first wrote this piece, some 16 years ago, I had intended to write more, but instead my daughter, Simone, and I made a peach pie, with the last peaches of the season. Afterwards, we read a chapter from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone out loud. As the weather had coincidentally just turned cold, we cuddled up together on the couch. When we had finished, Simone went to get ready for bed and I made my way to the computer. After writing a few sentences, from upstairs, I heard her calling me: “Dad, Wally has a tick.” Our cat had spent the previous night outdoors and since we’d had so much rain that fall, the insects and arachnids were having a late summer population explosion. So I had to go in search of tweezers, magnifying glass, and eventually cat, because he had run under the bed in fear when he realized our intent. But we plucked the evil arthropod from his cheek, and, as he later twined his way among my legs, I think forgave me.

Simone’s now 25, has finished college and moved to Xi’an, China to teach English.  I can’t believe how time flew by and I wish I was still sitting with her on the couch reading Harry Potter out loud and petting our cat, who passed away in 2011.  Or eating a piece of that peach pie.  Cherish such times and every moment of life as you live it.

Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, Number 1 (Spring)

Happy Spring! Spring is my favorite season. Here, in DC where I live, it’s a bit slow in coming.  The cherry blossoms around the tidal basin and along the Potomac River haven’t yet opened.  So for the next few posts, I’ll be writing about pieces with a Spring theme.  I’m going to start with the eponymous concerto from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.


So what can you say about one of the most overplayed pieces of classical music of all times? Sure, it’s uplifting; sure it has a catchy tune; sure it captures wonder and joy of natures reinvention of itself in March. Oddly enough, I didn’t buy a copy of it until my mid 30s, and that was a used vinyl LP at a church sale. You don’t really need your own. Just wait until the 20th of March and tune to your local classical radio station and you will hear it. It’s kind of like that copy of “Dark Side of The Moon” in your basement. Eventually the geriatric “Classic Rock station will give it a spin.

Written in 1725, when Vivaldi was 47, it represents the work of a “man in full.” Vivaldi wrote the music for a group of four sonnets. These concertos are interesting because they expand the role of the solo instrument, in this case the violin. The first movement of Spring starts out with a joyous burst of energy, which has passed into the collective conscious now, probably through its over use in TV commercials. The second movement is a Largo, which I find curiously sad for a work about Spring. Maybe he’s trying to convey the changeability of the weather. Maybe at 47, Vivaldi is ruing his own lost youth. Maybe he trying to capture the mystery of the flowers pushing up through the earth and the green that gradually starts to erase the grey. The last movement sounds very mature as the season stabilizes and takes us into Summer.

To every thing, there is a season, and to Spring belongs the blush of youth on a young girl’s cheek, the happy gamboling of the newborn lamb in verdant meadow, and the quivering voices of pseudo-intellectual, adolescent boys writing love poems to the prom queen. In high school, I felt torn apart. Under the tutelage of the M**** family–which had three pretty daughters, by the way–I strove to turn myself into an intellectual. I disdained rock music; I read Dostoyevsky; I studied books on Picasso, Chagall, and Miro; I fell in love with and botched my dates with a number of girls. At the same time, I felt like I was on the rack, plagued by physical desire. For example, I did not bemoan the wasted life of one of the schools prettier girls, when a swim team mate got her pregnant. Instead, I envied him and rued not having been the father.

Now that I have two daughters of my own, I lament that our society has strayed so far from any logical (and responsible) way of raising its young. “Primitive” cultures don’t waste their youth this way. Children grow up at their parents’ side and not only do they apprentice the life skills and trades they need, they also learn how to be adults. “Adolescence” I suspect, rose out the isolation of children from their parents when universal education was adopted. In high schools, youth have more interactions with their peers than with adults. At most they have 50 minutes a day with any one adult, and for the rest of their time they are working out their pecking order and values from interactions with their peers. It seems like we as a culture have thrown our hands up and said Malthus was right, we give up. I’m not advocating a return to family values, but I do think it’s important for children to have longer, more healthy interactions with adults (uncles, aunts, civic leaders), during adolescence. If not, they will continue to spin their wheels unproductively (and sometimes fatally) when “adult-hood” is thrust upon them upon graduation.

Maybe there is a lesson in Vivaldi’s life. He was trained for the priesthood, but instead took a job as violin master at the Pio Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. This was a home for sick and orphaned children. Imagine what a role model he was. He organized a lot of concerts of his own music which brought in money for the work of the hospital. He was staggeringly prolific: wrote hundreds of concertos for the violin alone, 49 operas, and countless other works. Oddly though, after his death he faded into obscurity but was rediscovered in the early 1900s. I think I heard recently that the corpus of his work hasn’t been completely catalogued.

Here is the poem to Spring for which he wrote this piece:

Spring
Spring has arrived, and joyously the birds
now welcome her return with festive song,
and streamlets, by soft airs caressed, are heard
to murmur sweetly as they course along.
Casting their inky mantle over heaven,
thunderstorms, her chosen heralds, roar;
when they have died away to silence, then
the birds take up their charming songs once more.
And now, upon the flower-strewn grass subsiding,
with leafy branches rustling overhead,
the goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.
By festive sound of rustic bagpipes led,
nymphs and shepherds dance beneath the shining
canopy of spring with sprightly tread

Download MP3 or Buy CD of Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Happy Summer: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Presto Movement (Kitch Heavy Metal Version)

Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, Number 1 (Spring)

Happy Spring! Spring is my favorite season. Here, in DC where I live, it’s a bit slow in coming.  The cherry blossoms around the tidal basin and along the Potomac River haven’t yet opened.  So for the next few posts, I’ll be writing about pieces with a Spring theme.  I’m going to start with the eponymous concerto from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.


So what can you say about one of the most overplayed pieces of classical music of all times? Sure, it’s uplifting; sure it has a catchy tune; sure it captures wonder and joy of natures reinvention of itself in March. Oddly enough, I didn’t buy a copy of it until my mid 30s, and that was a used vinyl LP at a church sale. You don’t really need your own. Just wait until the 20th of March and tune to your local classical radio station and you will hear it. It’s kind of like that copy of “Dark Side of The Moon” in your basement. Eventually the geriatric “Classic Rock station will give it a spin.

Written in 1725, when Vivaldi was 47, it represents the work of a “man in full.” Vivaldi wrote the music for a group of four sonnets. These concertos are interesting because they expand the role of the solo instrument, in this case the violin. The first movement of Spring starts out with a joyous burst of energy, which has passed into the collective conscious now, probably through its over use in TV commercials. The second movement is a Largo, which I find curiously sad for a work about Spring. Maybe he’s trying to convey the changeability of the weather. Maybe at 47, Vivaldi is ruing his own lost youth. Maybe he trying to capture the mystery of the flowers pushing up through the earth and the green that gradually starts to erase the grey. The last movement sounds very mature as the season stabilizes and takes us into Summer.

To every thing, there is a season, and to Spring belongs the blush of youth on a young girl’s cheek, the happy gamboling of the newborn lamb in verdant meadow, and the quivering voices of pseudo-intellectual, adolescent boys writing love poems to the prom queen. In high school, I felt torn apart. Under the tutelage of the M**** family–which had three pretty daughters, by the way–I strove to turn myself into an intellectual. I disdained rock music; I read Dostoyevsky; I studied books on Picasso, Chagall, and Miro; I fell in love with and botched my dates with a number of girls. At the same time, I felt like I was on the rack, plagued by physical desire. For example, I did not bemoan the wasted life of one of the schools prettier girls, when a swim team mate got her pregnant. Instead, I envied him and rued not having been the father.

Now that I have two daughters of my own, I lament that our society has strayed so far from any logical (and responsible) way of raising its young. “Primitive” cultures don’t waste their youth this way. Children grow up at their parents’ side and not only do they apprentice the life skills and trades they need, they also learn how to be adults. “Adolescence” I suspect, rose out the isolation of children from their parents when universal education was adopted. In high schools, youth have more interactions with their peers than with adults. At most they have 50 minutes a day with any one adult, and for the rest of their time they are working out their pecking order and values from interactions with their peers. It seems like we as a culture have thrown our hands up and said Malthus was right, we give up. I’m not advocating a return to family values, but I do think it’s important for children to have longer, more healthy interactions with adults (uncles, aunts, civic leaders), during adolescence. If not, they will continue to spin their wheels unproductively (and sometimes fatally) when “adult-hood” is thrust upon them upon graduation.

Maybe there is a lesson in Vivaldi’s life. He was trained for the priesthood, but instead took a job as violin master at the Pio Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. This was a home for sick and orphaned children. Imagine what a role model he was. He organized a lot of concerts of his own music which brought in money for the work of the hospital. He was staggeringly prolific: wrote hundreds of concertos for the violin alone, 49 operas, and countless other works. Oddly though, after his death he faded into obscurity but was rediscovered in the early 1900s. I think I heard recently that the corpus of his work hasn’t been completely catalogued.

Here is the poem to Spring for which he wrote this piece:

Spring
Spring has arrived, and joyously the birds
now welcome her return with festive song,
and streamlets, by soft airs caressed, are heard
to murmur sweetly as they course along.
Casting their inky mantle over heaven,
thunderstorms, her chosen heralds, roar;
when they have died away to silence, then
the birds take up their charming songs once more.
And now, upon the flower-strewn grass subsiding,
with leafy branches rustling overhead,
the goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.
By festive sound of rustic bagpipes led,
nymphs and shepherds dance beneath the shining
canopy of spring with sprightly tread

Download MP3 or Buy CD of Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi. Concerto Number 3 in F (Autumn) from the Four Seasons

The Four Seasons actually come from a group of twelve concertos that Vivaldi called “The Contest Between Harmony and Invention.” The twelve are referenced as Opus 8, but they actually date from Vivaldi’s 60s, almost at the end of his career. The reason for this lies in the fact that no one knows exactly how many works Vivaldi composed.


Vivaldi today ranks as one of the most popular of all composers, probably based on these four concerti. In fact, he was probably the most prolific composer ever, though ironically, he was virtually unknown until the 1920s. He had been ordained a priest but never took up the duties of his office, instead becoming the violin master of a girl’s orphanage in Venice. He flourished there and under his guidance, the school became “the” place in Venice to listen to music. There he composed prodigiously, churning out some 400 concertos for solo instruments, 46 operas, and scores of sacred and secular works. Unfortunately in his later years, the Church took action against Vivaldi for not performing his priestly duties (it was rumored he had two mistresses) and his contract with the school was not renewed. In addition, a wealthy patron died and Vivaldi ended up penniless and was buried in a pauper’s grave.

After he died, a count purchased the manuscripts of Vivaldi’s works from the orphanage, and gave strict instructions in his will that the works must never be published or performed. After nearly 200 years, the will was challenged and overturned and in the late 1920 the world began to hear the sweet music once again.

The Four Seasons is one of those “background” pieces that I heard at an early age. It melodies are woven into the very fabric of Western culture. There is something about it that, for me at least, never makes me regard it as hackneyed, though it gets played to death. Whenever I hear it, I am always surprised at how Vivaldi captured the joy and awe that everyone has felt at one time or another before Nature. For me, each new season, brings a sense of wonder as I see the earth born, mature, die and reborn again through the changing weather, flora, fauna and human activity.

When I first wrote this piece, some 14 years ago, I had intended to write more, but instead my daughter, Simone, and I made a peach pie, with the last peaches of the season. Afterwards, we read a chapter from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone out loud. As the weather had coincidentally just turned cold, we cuddled up together on the couch. When we had finished, Simone went to get ready for bed and I made my way to the computer. After writing a few sentences, from upstairs, I heard her calling me: “Dad, Wally has a tick.” Our cat had spent the previous night outdoors and since we’d had so much rain that fall, the insects and arachnids were having a late summer population explosion. So I had to go in search of tweezers, magnifying glass, and eventually cat, because he had run under the bed in fear when he realized our intent. But we plucked the evil arthropod from his cheek, and, as he later twined his way among my legs, I think forgave me.

Simone’s now 23 and is finishing up college in the spring.  I can’t believe how time flew by and I wish I was still sitting with her on the couch reading Harry Potter out loud and petting our cat, who passed away in 2011.  Or eating a piece of that peach pie.  Cherish those times and every moment as you live it.

Antonio Vivaldi: Summer from the Four Seasons

My gosh, just 5 days from the start of fall, and I just now remembered I was supposed to write about “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

My whole life has been based on making excuses for my behavior or lack thereof. Today I have no excuse but to say, “I’m sorry” and beg forgiveness.

This summer, the East Coast of the United States went through a horrendous heat wave, with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, I was out of town on vacation during its worst, the first two week of July. Ironically, I was actually freezing in London and Paris which were having one of their coldest summers on record. The days were cold and rainy, averaging around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and I had to buy a coat.

Climatologist tell us that such weather extremes are the result of climate change, which used to be called Global Warming. This summer, the majority of the US experienced a severe drought. This caused many crops to fail and economists are predicting higher food costs because of that. An online investor article I read was cheery, however, saying that farmers would actually benefit from the higher prices as would those who invest in the commodities market.

Such thinking is what makes me thing the world really is out of kilter. One of the reasons there will be a food crisis, is that farmers are given subsidies and tax breaks to grow corn, which is used not for consumption, but to make ethanol. This was a political decision. Ethanol supplements gasoline and supposedly makes cars less polluting. Cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gases which cause climate change. But the manufacture of ethanol requires more energy than ethanol produces, and since electricity for the most part comes from the burning of fossil fuels, it might actually contribute to more climate change. Because farmers replace food crops with corn, that means if there is a drought, then the impact would be less food, which potentially could cause famines since there would be less food that now costs more for poor people in the US and in developing countries, many of which import rice and wheat from the US.

In a few days I’ll have to write about Vivaldi’s “Autumn.” Hopefully, the drought will be over by then.

Download all of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for 99 cents from Amazon

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