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È giunta la Primavera (spring is upon us), and to celebrate her arrival what better way than by listening to Vivaldi’s Le Quattro Stagioni (the Four Season). A few days ago we had the pleasure of going to a great performance of this famous piece of music at Il Teatro della Rosa, a beautiful little 18th century theatre (only 150 seats!) here in Pontremoli. The music ensemble Gli Archi Veneziani (The Venetian Strings), lead by Giulio Plotino, first violinist of the Gran Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, gave a magical and emotionally intense interpretation. With the exception of the lute player and the cellist, the musicians played d’impiedi (standing up), as they would have done at the time of Vivaldi, creating the impression of a living organism that expanded and contracted around its heart, i.e the melodies of the solo violin. It was absolutely spellbinding!
For this special performance, each ‘season’ was introduced by a poem. In fact Vivaldi composed Le Quattro Stagioni as ‘musica a programma’ (music that evokes a particular theme), and each one of the four seasons were originally accompanied by a sonnet. It is not known if the poems were written by Vivaldi himself, or whether he commissioned them from a poet. However, the words, which are written in a the flowery Italian of the 1700’s, are lovely, and describe the music very well. Here is the sonnet for La Primavera with an anonymous translation into English:
Giunt’è la Primavera e festosetti
La salutan gl’augei con lieto canto,
E i fonti allo spirar de’ zeffiretti
Con dolce mormorìo scorrono intanto;
Vengon coprendo l’aer di nero manto
E lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti
Indi tacendo questi, gl’augelletti
Tornan di nuovo al lor canoro incanto:
E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato
Al caro mormorìo di fronde e piante
Dorme ‘l caprar col fido can’ a lato.
Di pastoral zampogna al suon festante
Danzan ninfe e pastor nel tetto amato
Di Primavera all’apparir brillante.
Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.
Try reading this sonnet the next time you listen to Vivaldi’s La Primavera, it really does complement the vision that he describes so beautifully with his timeless music.