winter is here

on this wintery december evening, i would love to be warming up by the fireside, with a cup of hot chocolate, or herbal tea; wrapped in a thick cozy blanket, wearing the fuzziest socks i own… something that reminds me of tchaikovsky’s january, actually (listening to it as i write right now).

winter is here, christmastime is here, yet for some reason i haven’t quite caught on with the spirit as much as i would like – there is some kind of coldness in the air, which is reflected in the work i will be discussing today.

you may be more familiar with the first concerto in this work, but the other three are also quite nice too! it’s a little sad that this particular concerto i didn’t know well until i listened to the piano guys‘ mashup/cover of it.

title: concerto no. 4 in f minor, op. 8, RV 297, “winter” (l’inverno) – from “the four seasons”
composer: antonio vivaldi
year: 1723-1725

i quite enjoy writing about classical music (technically this is a baroque piece, but… under the general classical umbrella) because it is so diverse, and the piece analyses are quite intriguing (my music history professors would be happy to hear me saying this).

the four seasons consists of four violin concerti, and is one of the earliest examples of what is later known as program music (music intended to evoke images; a musical narrative). these concerti evoke, as the title clearly states, the different seasons. this piece was published with a set of poems (quite possibly penned by vivaldi himself), one for each season, with specific lines relating to different movements of a concerto, elucidating what each part was intended to evoke – i will discuss more of this later.

each concerti is comprised of three movements. in winter, they are the following:

  1. allegro non molto (in f minor)
  2. largo (in e-flat major)
  3. allegro (in f minor)

and this is the poem accompanying the music, with each break representing the different movements:

“Winter”

To tremble from cold in the icy snow
In the harsh breath of a horrid wind
To run, stamping our feet every moment
Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold.

Before the fire to pass peaceful, contented days,
While the rain outside pours down.

To walk on the ice and, at a slow pace
For fear of falling, move carefully.
To make a bold turn, slip, fall down.
To go on the ice once more and run hard
Until the ice cracks and breaks up.
To hear the Sirocco [the north wind], Boreas [the south wind], and all
The winds at war leave their iron gates:
This is winter, but even so, what joy it brings!

Source: Antonio Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, op. 8, nos. 1–4, ed. Eleanor Selfridge-Field (New York: Dover, 1999) xiii.

i’m not going to go into full detail about how the music mirrors the text (or vice versa, depending on how you want to think about it), so keep an active ear when you’re listening and see if you can find the similarities. here’s one to get your started: note the strings at the beginning of the piece.

here’s to hoping you’re warmer than the song!

that’s all for now.

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