Art has this incredible ability to tell a story. Whatever form, size, location, or audience it is in, there is some type of story behind it, be it short and silly or emotional and long. When Antonio Vivaldi composed The Four Seasons, he was able to capture two forms of art, music and poetry, and bring them in to his own. He saw the artistic beauty of nature, and the dramatic way it affects our lives. Secondly, he saw significance in descriptive poetry and transposed the images into music. The first movement of the “Winter” Concerto perfectly personifies the perils of winter with an energetic melody, strong harmony, and thick texture.
The movement begins with a rather daunting suspense. Just like the feeling of winter approaching, you know something new and chilly is coming. The notes make you shiver, as frost nipping you on the ears. Overall, the melody is consistent, creating a full and complete feeling for the piece. The movement maintains a similar timbre all the way through. However, it does contain sudden bursts of energy to surprise the listener every once in a while.
The melody reflects the text of the poem: “To run stamping one’s feet at every step / With one’s teeth chattering through the cold.” The tempo correlates to the rhythm of these steps and the shrill melody sends icy snowflakes throughout the body.
Aside from the vivid storytelling which is occurring, the dramatic harmonies in the “Winter” first movement are my favorite. Like winter weather or activities, there are multiple ideas occurring in this piece. The deeper, bass-like instruments create the
stirring, theatrical darkness and intensity of winter whilst the violin parts conjure up the frenzied flurries of instrumental sections. Although separate, the two parts work beautifully to create a harmony.
The melody and harmony fully contribute to the thick texture present in this movement. There are many levels we go through as listeners, including suspense, and explosions of energy. The harmonies create the thickness we feel trudging through a winter storm, looking for home and solace. The texture also mirrors a dark, yet exciting timbre. The timbre of the violin is what gives the listener the winter anxiety or perhaps energetic anticipation.
In composing The Four Seasons, Vivaldi created something that we all experience, simply by living on the earth. We can relate to and understand the feelings portrayed in each movement because we have seen, felt and been through them ourselves. I love the “Winter” concerto because it perfectly encompasses my favorite season. In it, I feel all the sensations I do during the holidays: anticipation, joy, bursts of stress, intense emotion, and of course the cold. Aristotle was certainly correct in stating, “Art takes nature as its model. Art not only imitates nature, but also completes its deficiencies.”