article by Jen Holstein

EVERYONE HAS A FAVOURITE SEASON. Maybe you wait all year for the crackle of the fire and the hush of a snow-covered world.  Or perhaps it’s the green life-force of spring with it’s floral-scented breezes that lightens your heart.  You might long lazily for the scorching heat of summer, or keenly anticipate the bright blue October skies of autumn.  

Whatever your preference, the musical soul of each time of year has been captured and amplified in Antonio Vivaldi’s most recognized work: Le quattro stagioni, or The Four Seasons for almost 300 years.

Patrons of the Symphony at the Sid, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons concert will have an opportunity to hear all 4 concerti – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter -  performed by the VIS String orchestra on Friday, November 17th. The performances will feature guest violin soloist Terence Tam, Concertmaster of the Victoria Symphony.

We caught up with VIS Artistic Director Pierre Simard and he gives us his thoughts on Vivaldi and his Four Seasons. “There are a few classical pieces that almost everyone recognizes within the first few bars”, says Pierre.  “Beethoven’s 5th  Symphony (dun-dun-dun-DUHHHN), Beethoven’s 9th or Ode to Joy, and Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons”.

The Four Seasons, written around 1720, is a shining example from the Baroque period - characterized by its excess and opulence, as well as its flourishes of invention as artists broke free from the austerity of control by the church.  Ironically, Vivaldi himself was an ordained priest who spent a large part of his life teaching music at a girls’ orphanage; his life did not reflect the lavishness of his artistic style.  Much of his musical catalogue was in fact composed with the goal of educating and elevating young minds and souls.

As Pierre tells us, the Four Seasons is also one of the earliest examples of “program music”, or an effort to relate a specific narrative through music.  The piece has a series of accompanying poems, that may also have been written by Vivaldi, that provides a lyrical description of the story told by each concerto; one for each season of the year.  The music, of course, reflects this narrative perfectly.  

“There is a section in the Spring concerto where you hear the barking of a dog,” muses Pierre, “and birdsong, and the gentle flowing of a stream.”  One of the movements in Winter so perfectly describes an icy blizzard that you can almost see your breath.  And the powerful Summer thunderstorm will have audiences ducking for cover.

Strangely, although the 4 concerti are thematically intertwined, “Vivaldi wouldn’t have insisted in his time that they are played as a set”, says Pierre.  In fact, the Vancouver Island Symphony has not played all Four Seasons together in at least ten years.  With the shorter timeframe and more intimate chamber-style of performance, “the Symphony at the Sid” performance offers  the orchestra a unique opportunity to perform all the concerti together in a one hour concert”.

To purchase tickets for Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons - and the whole Symphony at the Sid series, please contact the Sid Williams Ticket Centre at 250-338-2430 or online at