Immersive Vivaldi – Program Notes

Program Pieces & Movements

Antonio Vivaldi

  • Le quattro stagioni, Op 8 “The Four Seasons (1678-1741) (1716-1725)

    Concerto No 1 in E Major, Op. 8, RV 269, “Spring”
    Allegro – Largo – Allegro

    Concerto No. 2 in g minor, Op. 8, RV 315, “Summer”
    Allegro non molto – Adagio e piano, Presto e forte – Presto

    Concerto No. 3 in F Major, Op. 8, RV 293, “Autumn”
    Allegro – Adagio molto – Allegro

    Concerto No. 4 in f minor, Op. 8, RV 297, “Winter”
    Allegro non molto – Largo – Allegro

    Te-Chiang “Bacco” Liu Violin


Max Richter

  • Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
    (b. 1966) (2011-2012)
    I. Spring 0 VIII. Autumn 1
    II. Spring 1 IX. Autumn 2
    III. Spring 2 X. Autumn 3
    IV. Spring 3 XI. WInter 1
    V. Summer 1 XII. Winter 2
    VI. Summer 2 XIII. Winter 3
    Vii. Summer 3

    Te-Chiang “Bacco” Liu Violin

    The Four Seasons Recomposed by Max Richter presented under license from G. Schirmer Inc. and Associated Music Publishers, copyright owners.

Program Notes

Le Quattro Stagioni Op. 8 (The Four Seasons) (1716-1725)

Antonio Vivaldi wrote hundreds of concertos for many instruments, particularly his own violin. Few pieces of classical music are as recognizable as certain passages of The Four Seasons, the first concertos in Vivaldi’s Op. 8 collection published by Le Cène of Amsterdam in 1725. They present the year’s trajectory by capturing the mood surrounding events of the calendar, but also insert outright sonic imitations of nature like chirping birds and thunder.

As an asthmatic in an era that had no effective remedy, Vivaldi was not an outdoors person: “… I stay in the house almost all the time, and I go out only by gondola or carriage, for the pain in my chest or the narrowness of the chest prevents me from walking.” He was even excused from a basic duty of his priestly training, saying Mass. Nonetheless, many priests were actively musical, even if not to the extent of Vivaldi. The gondola reference links him to Venice with which we associate him strongly, but he spent time in posts in other cities such as Mantua where The Four Seasons were possibly written. Indeed many of the concertos in Op. 8 were likely composed years before their publication, near the composer’s fortieth birthday. There are varying explanations for this, for example that Vivaldi’s annoyance at slipshod editions of his previous music led the publisher to retaliate by putting this project on the back burner.

The entirety of Op. 8 does not represent some kind of structural unity beyond The Four Seasons, which are self-sufficient either as a group or individually. In fact, it’s an even more eclectic anthology than some of Vivaldi’s others. The whole publication’s title, The Trial of Harmony and Invention, invites speculation but hints at the balance a composer must find between “following rules” (which Vivaldi was sometimes accused of neglecting) and indulging
creative fancy.

Integral to our understanding of The Four Seasons are the poems (sonnets) which accompany them. Their authorship is uncertain, but elements of literary clumsiness imply an untrained author, possibly the composer. They depict spring and autumn as basically pleasant experiences (for rural humankind at least), summer and winter as oppressive. Their narrative is followed so closely in musical representation that corresponding identification letters for various lines were transcribed in the score. Vivaldi went even further and composed special effects that needed explaining in the music, like the sleeping shepherd’s barking dog in Spring. The oldest complete manuscript, ordered by Vivaldi for presentation to a cardinal, omits text in the score itself.

Of the set, Spring was a favorite from the start, receiving the highest number of performances
during the eighteenth century in France, where concert programs were recorded. This is partly attributable to its ease of rehearsal without sudden tempo changes, but it is undeniably tuneful.

Summer is possibly the most interpretively elusive of the concertos and, as of this writing still represented in TV commercials, a common fate of The Four Seasons. Autumn includes a deliciously subtle movement without the solo violin, an inspired touch, but otherwise focuses on the pleasures of hunt and harvest with multiple drinking opportunities. Winter opens with a portrait of ice so startling Vivaldi reused it in an opera. Like the hunt and its doomed quarry in Autumn, Winter’s slow movement contains a hint of Schadenfreude directed toward the drenched outside! Its consoling quality is owed entirely to the protagonist being indoors. Throughout the set, Vivaldi demonstrates a virtuoso sensibility for impressive solo lines alternating shrewdly and unpredictably with the string orchestra.

The Four Seasons brought about a Vivaldi renaissance after the initial American recording subsequent to WWII. Now even most of his dozens of operas, previously consigned to library shelves, are easily obtained. These concertos are remarkably pliant in the face of wildly different approaches taken in the hundreds of recordings made by ensembles over the decades, including some dispensing with the violin. Although some of the other pieces in Op. 8
have descriptive titles, none has remotely competed with The Four Seasons in popularity.

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
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.

Allegro non molto
Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat
men and flocks are sweltering,
pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo’s voice;
then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch
are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air, but the threatening
north wind sweeps them suddenly aside.
The shepherd trembles,
fearing violent storms and his fate.

Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
The fear of lightning and fierce thunder
Robs his tired limbs of rest
As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

Alas, his fears were justified
The Heavens thunder and roar and with hail
Cut the head off the wheat and damage the

The peasant celebrates with song and dance
The pleasure of a bountiful harvest.
And lighted by Bacchus’ liquor,
many end their revelry in sleep.

Adagio molto
The singing and the dancing die away
as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep
without a care.

The hunters emerge at the new dawn,
ready for the hunt,
with horns and dogs and guns.
Their quarry flees while they give chase.
Dazed and tired by the clamor, the wounded
prey struggles on,
but, harried, dies.

Allegro non molto
To tremble from cold in the icy snow,
In the harsh breath of a horrid wind;
To run, stamping one’s feet every moment,
Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold.

To rest contentedly beside the hearth,
while those outside are drenched by pouring

We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously,
for fear of tripping and falling.
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground
rising, hasten on across the ice lest it break.
We feel the chill north winds course through the
despite the locked and bolted doors…
this is winter, which nonetheless
brings its own delights.

Te-Chiang "Bacco" Liu Violin

A native of Taiwan,Violinist Te-Chiang (Bacco) Liu was awarded numerous prizes throughout his career, including the top prize at the Taiwan National Violin Competition in 1996. Te-Chiang was selected to lead the Hemenway String Chamber Ensemble to perform with Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Chang in 2009. Mr. Liu has been a soloist with various orchestras in Taiwan, Australia, and the United States. He was also invited to perform internationally in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, and the U.S. Mr. Liu was also selected to participate in the prestigious Tanglewood Music Festival in 2009 to work closely and perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Te-Chiang has served as the Concertmaster of Southwest Minnesota Orchestra, Minnetonka
Symphony Orchestra, and the Guest Concertmaster for Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Liu currently performs as a regular extra musician with the Minnesota Orchestra, and as Concertmaster of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.

Te-Chiang was the founder and the Artistic Director of Southwest Minnesota String Festival and St. Mary’s University String Festival, and the first violinist of Meadowlarks String Quartet. The Meadowlark string quartet is currently in an Artistic Partnership with St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. In addition, Te-Chiang maintains an active private teaching studio in the Minneapolis metro area and teaches as middle school orchestra teacher at the Yinghua Academy.

Justin Dunlap Lighting Designer

Trained in theater from a young age, Justin never outgrew the thrill of applause and he never will. Justin was accepted to Northeastern State University on academic and theater scholarships. In order to audition for plays in the University’s Theater program, one must first earn hours in the technical department. That is where his love of lighting began, and that affair has taken him far and wide. From Edmonton to Florida, Long Island to Sacramento, between Rock and Roll, Opera, Comedy, Classical Symphony and Television, the world of lighting opened a world of travel and an opportunity to support and raise his family.

Resident Lighting Designer for the Oregon Symphony Orchestra since 2004, he has designed
works such as Bluebeard’s Castle with Dale Chihuly as scenic designer, Persephone with Michael Curry as scenic and puppet designer, Gospel Christmas with Dr. Charles Floyd and countless pop shows. The OSO is where his symphonic journey began. Through that artistic family, he was able to meet Windborne Music, which brought him along to do lights for their shows around the country, including The Music of Queen with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra in February of 2020.

In addition to lighting design for live music, Dunlap works in television with such shows as Grimm, Leverage, and The Librarians and Stranger Things. Major live events such as the Super Bowl Experience, the Major League Baseball Draft, New Years Las Vegas with Imagine Dragons, Watershed Festival and Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington and Dandy Warhols Live at the Lot, keep him advancing his techniques and skill set. Variety of art is what makes him happy and with new works being produced continuously, he will have no lack of joy for years to come.

Max Richter Recomposed: Divaldi - The Four Seasons (2011-2012)

The twentieth century brought a reset of our relationship to music, as a recorded performance could be heard almost limitlessly (and the “almost” can now be removed). A case in point is Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the set of four short Baroque violin concertos widely considered the peak of their creator’s output.

Enter the German-born British composer Max Richter, steeped in the minimalist musical world
with its versatile applications toward concerts, ballet, film, and TV. He grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s when Vivaldi’s Seasons were already very familiar to audiences. His youthful love for the cycle was worn down by overexposure and eventual appropriation of the music by the advertising industry as classical cliché.

Thus in 2011, Richter “recomposed” The Four Seasons for an October 2012 concert. In a way, he is a natural fit, coming as he does from frequently programmatic musical experiences. Most of his projects have a clear narrative or express social purpose attached. Richter is known for his evocative screen scores, essentially the ultimate program music. Likewise, Vivaldi’s original has a play-by-play design aligning with its own accompanying text about weather and resultant human activities.

Perhaps the closest comparison of sourcing is Stravinsky’s transformation of Baroque excerpts in his 1920 ballet Pulcinella, but those were drawn from multiple works (and unbeknownst to him, composers). Richter may be the first to take such a large single body of music as a basis even though only a minority is germinal.

Many others have made arrangements of the Seasons, but Richter does more. First, he retains
the solo violin, by no means a given. But his process entails a number of things—extracting motives, elaborating them into dance-style grooves—and crucially reducing the texture of dialogue between soloist and orchestra. This is what makes a good deal of the overhauled piece sound like Richter, smoothing out the aural landscape.

Richter declared one of his central challenges was to “figure out how much Max and how much Vivaldi there was going on at every moment.” And there are moments with very little Max, such as the slow movement of Autumn tracing sleep (a theme Richter has explored—at over eight hours length—in an entirely separate work) or Summer’s storm with counterintuitive accents. Sometimes he simply drops a beat or part of one; squared-off phrases do not suit today’s impatient peasant. Whatever your reaction, you will probably notice new things about the original Vivaldi next time you hear it as a result of Richter’s lens.