Vivaldi’s inner rock star
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was a pretty cool guy. I sometimes hear from students that classical composers, well in this case baroque, are old-school, stuffy, high-brow or their music is too hard. This is boring music, they say, and they’d rather learn cool popular music. But, we forget that every era of music produced its own generation of popular music writers. ‘Classical’ composers were the pioneers, innovators and rock stars of their time. Their compositions were cutting-edge, socially relevant and generated a fan base, just like popular music does today.
Vivaldi was a virtuoso violinist, teacher, composer and cleric. He wrote music which was designed to build skill and challenge the musician, more that it was designed to please audiences. He was a teacher and composer for a girls’ orphanage/school in Venice, and thus provided opportunities for young women to become musicians at a time when this was not usually possible. He also inspired the public to appreciate program music, which is music that is intended to evoke images or convey a progression of events, even though it had fallen out of favor in his circles. The Four Seasons are a set of violin concertos which were based on four sonnets (probably written by Vivaldi himself) that relay the beauty, activities and relationships he observed throughout Venetian life in each season. And so I repeat, Antonio Vivaldi was a pretty cool guy – cutting edge, pop culture, social justice-type stuff.
Here is a version of Autumn from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with a beautiful slide show of fall images. Maybe you can listen to it while doing yoga, or meditating, or making dinner. It runs about 11 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8AN0jWNrJA
For teachers, parents and anyone looking for ways to talk about The Four Seasons, or find activities and curriculum links related to Vivaldi, here is a great resource from Canada’s National Arts Centre. The poems he used as a basis for this composition are here too, if you want to read about the splendor of autumn through Vivaldi’s eyes.
I think we can all be rock stars in our own way. Vivaldi, with his vibrant red hair and quiet voice, did it through music. This was his gift. He left us a legacy of emotions, events, interactions and challenges expressed in his compositions. What are your gifts? And how can you express your inner rock star?