You could say I’m one of the lucky ones. (Don’t ever say that…)
I fell in love with classical music when I was about 10. (When I say classical music, I basically mean music written before the 20th century and or music written for an orchestra… It’s a specifically broad term…) The first “classical music” that I heard and fell in love with was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. To this day, I hold it as a rule that if you want to get hooked on Classical music, you should try the Four Seasons.
Note here the beautiful intonation way, way up high on the fingerboard. The farther from the scroll the notes are, the harder it is to get them right because the points on the string which emit certain notes get closer together further up the fingerboard. And it’s not easy on the lower end either. At a certain point, the margin for error is about one millimeter.
I stumbled across this recording tonight, but it’s been around for a few years. This concerto always gets me, and the technical mastery here is, like, just ridiculously amazing. It would be a challenge to find an adult who can play like that.
It’s just one of those days where you realize four minutes before it’s time to leave for orchestra that you forgot to tape your music, but you don’t know how, so you tape all of them accordion style, and there’s twelve sheets of paper in this one score, which is like way too long, but you tape it that way anyway, because you’re already ten minutes late.
When it’s time to play that particular song, you put it — that is, all twelve pages of it — on the music stand. Four of the numerous pages are hanging over the edge. Your stand partner giggles. The flautist two chairs back snickers. You ignore them. I mean, nobody told you how to tape music!
Then your stand partner tries to flip the page and the entire score starts to slide off the stand like a giant conveyor belt into a massive pile of mis-folded paper onto the floor. The whole process of the sliding paper takes at least thirty seconds because of how long it is. This is simply too comical. You and your stand partner can’t stop giggling.
Of course, the 7th movement of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations — this very clown-like variation — is playing all around you. The flautist is shaking his head. Your conductor just ignores you.
And then you notice, while staring at the enormous heap of congealed paper strewn all over the floor, that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. You taped it in the wrong order.
Substitute all of those “you”s for “I”s and that’s about right.
Just another day in the life of Oliver.
Vivaldi is without a doubt my favorite composer. The funny, not-so-fortunate thing about Vivaldi is that most people don’t know too much about him. Vivaldi was the Italian predecessor to J. S. Bach (who actually transcribed many Vivaldi pieces for different instruments. He was the original Vivaldi fan.) In fact, the only reason we know anything about Vivaldi today is because they turned up some of his works while looking through Bach’s!
Most famous of Vivaldi’s compositions are The Four Seasons, which were written for an all-girls orphanage in Italy, and are to-date the most oft-played classical pieces in the world. Everyone has heard Spring. Lesser heard are the other three seasons, Summer Fall and Winter, but among these are some of my favorites.
In no particular order, here are 6 of my favorite Vivaldi pieces:
The Four Seasons uses the texture and shape of the music to tell a story. In Winter, you can hear a blizzard, slippery ice and rain pitter-pattering on the roof of a little cottage. See if you can pick these sounds out of the piece!
Summer III. Presto
This has always been a favorite. Also from the Four Seasons, the earlier movements of Summer tell about a shepherd warning of an impending storm, and you can almost feel the heat radiating from the sun in the first movement. This final movement is the depiction of said storm. Totally a summer gale. Joshua Bell knocks this one out of the park. This recording can be found on iTunes.
Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos
This is really one of the most aggressive pieces you’ve ever seen. The cello soloists really shine here. Another great recording of this song from Yo-Yo-Ma can be found on iTunes.
Concerto Grosso in B Minor
It’s pretty hard to find a decent recording of this one, but it’s a great piece nonetheless. I have found one recording of this one on iTunes that I like, which you can find here.
Concerto for Violin in C Minor
Another fairly aggressive piece, but I couldn’t find a video of an orchestra playing it, so… enjoy the birds!
Concerto in A Minor for Two Violins
Finally, a brilliant double concerto. This is a very aggressive piece as well.
Hopefully you’ve experienced the power of Baroque music — and the sparkle of Vivaldi.
Hooked? All of the pieces above can be found on iTunes. A suggested album to get you started can be found here.