Vivaldi's Four Seasons
MORNING SYMPHONY SERIES
Thursday 31 March 2022, 11.00am
Perth Concert Hall
West Australian Symphony Orchestra respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and Elders of Country throughout Western Australia, and the Whadjuk Noongar people on whose lands we work and share music.
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Vivaldi's Four Seasons
George Frideric HANDEL arr. Hamilton Harty Water Music – Suite (16 mins)
Antonio VIVALDI The Four Seasons (39 mins)
La primavera (Spring)
John Keene conductor
Laurence Jackson violin / director
Wesfarmers Arts Pre-concert Talk
Find out more about the music in the concert with this week’s speaker, Cecilia Sun. The Pre-concert Talk will take place at 9.40am in the Main Auditorium.
Vivaldi's Four Seasons Listening Guide
WASO On Stage
Acting Assoc Concertmaster
Acting Assistant Concertmaster
Acting Principal 1st Violin
Principal 2nd Violin
Assoc Principal 2nd Violin
Assistant Principal 2nd Violin
Bao Di Tang
Acting Principal Viola
Acting Assoc Principal Viola
• Tokyo Gas
Principal Cor Anglais
• Sam & Leanne Walsh
Principal Bass Clarinet
• Stelios Jewellers
★ Rod & Margaret Marston
Principal 3rd Horn
★ Section partnered by
• Chair partnered by
* Instruments used by these musicians are on loan from Janet Holmes à Court AC.
About the Artists
John Keene is the founder and Music Director of The Orchestra Collective and is also the Associate Principal Double Bass of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.In 2022 he was selected to participate in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Conducting Academy under the tutelage of Johannes Fritzsch. He was also selected to be a part of the Symphony Services International Conducting Course in 2016, participating in conducting masterclasses with several Australian and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. He also frequently conducts the Fremantle Chamber Orchestra and several other ensembles in Perth.
As a double bass player, John became the youngest player ever to be awarded the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellowship in 2015 and was awarded the Fellowship again in 2016. In the following year, he became an Emerging Artist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, touring regionally with the ACO Collective as Principal Double Bass. In 2018, he played as Associate Principal Double Bass with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and on contract with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as Tutti Double Bass.
Image credit: Nik Babic
About the Artists
Director / Violin
Since making his London debut in 1990, Laurence has forged a highly successful career as a soloist, chamber musician and concertmaster. He was 1st prize winner at the 1990 Vina del Mar Competition, Chile and 3rd prizewinner at the 1991 Sarasate Violin Competition, Pamplona, Spain.
He is regularly invited to guest lead orchestras throughout the world, including the LPO, Philharmonia, RSNO, BBC Philharmonic, Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Bergen Philharmonic. In Australia, he has appeared as guest concertmaster with MSO, QSO and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
Between 1994 to 2006, Laurence was leader of the acclaimed Maggini Quartet, with whom he regularly toured throughout the USA, Canada and Europe and made
some 30 discs, receiving numerous awards including two Grammy Award nominations and the 2001 Gramophone CD of the Year for Chamber Music.
Laurence was appointed 1st concertmaster of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2006, appearing often as soloist and director before coming to WASO in 2016. He plays on a violin by J.B Vuillaume, circa 1850.
Image credit: Nik Babic
About the Music
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
arr Hamilton Harty (1879-1941)
It’s a peculiar irony that the composer who contributed perhaps more than any other to the development of a national, patriotic voice in British music was a German by birth who first found success in the staging of Italian operas. Georg Friedrich Händel (he later anglicised his name to ‘Handel’) first arrived in London in 1710, just as the 35-year construction of St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, had reached completion. The city then was the richest in Western Europe; the Acts of Union just a few years before had resulted in the creation of the United Kingdom and the founding of the new sovereign state of Great Britain. For his trip to England Handel had taken leave from his employment in the service of the Elector of Hanover, soon to accede to the British throne as George I following the death of Queen Anne – a serendipitous connection, as it was this royal association that would lead to Handel’s subsequent long patronage under the Hanoverian monarchs. George I was an avid fan of Italian opera and became a patron of the theatre in Haymarket where many of Handel’s operas were staged over the next 30 years.
Handel’s Water Music was written to accompany a barge party on the Thames taken by George I on 17 July 1717. Royal processions by water had been popular since Tudor times: the royal residences were on the Thames and the grand houses of many of the nobility had gardens that in those days stretched down to the river’s edge. It was quite a spectacle, according to contemporary accounts:
On Wednesday evening, at about 8, the King took Water at Whitehall in an open Barge … and went up the River towards Chelsea. Many other Barges with Persons of Quality attended, and so great a Number of Boats, that the whole River in a manner was cover’d; a City Company’s Barge was employ’d for the Musick, wherein were 50 instruments of sorts, who play’d all the Way from Lambeth (while the Barges drove with the Tide without Rowing, as far as Chelsea) the finest Symphonies, compos’d express for this Occasion, by Mr. Hendel; which his Majesty liked so well, that he caus’d it to be plaid over three times going and returning. At Eleven his Majesty went About the Music a-shore at Chelsea, where a Supper was prepar’d, and then there was another very fine Consort of Musick, which lasted until 2; after which, his Majesty came again into his Barge, and return’d the same Way, the Musick continuing to play till he landed.
[Daily Courant, 19 July 1717].
The collection of movements that comprise the Water Music fall into three key centres and instrument groups, and this has led modern editors to assemble them into three corresponding suites. Handel’s dramatic leanings lend a superb sense of emotion and celebration to the music, and his pan-European influences (he had travelled widely) are reflected in the array of dances and styles he includes, from the British sailor’s hornpipe to the opening stately French overture and the bourrée. Handel’s large orchestra included instruments that could be heard above the din of the surrounding flotilla of river traffic and onlookers, such as trumpet and French horn, the latter at the time a newcomer to British orchestral ensembles and played by soloists imported by Handel from Bohemia, then a centre of excellence for horn technique. The chamber-like G major/minor suite, featuring flutes and recorders, would likely have been played indoors during supper.
This concert features a six-movement arrangement made in 1920 by Sir Hamilton Harty, longtime chief conductor of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. Harty’s arrangement, inevitably for the time, caters to late-Romantic taste and as such exploits the full range of colour available in the modern symphony orchestra. Whilst these days it might be judged in the context of the Historically Informed Performance movement, it did much to introduce generations of listeners to the Water Music and Handel’s oeuvre in general.
Handel’s royal patronage was upheld by George II, for whose coronation he provided four anthems, including the soaring ‘Zadok the Priest’. When Italian opera fell out of fashion, he turned his attention to English oratorio. It was in this form that his assimilation of the English choral tradition became complete, his stirring patriotic choruses becoming the new voice of British nationhood.
Lorraine Neilson © 2022
17 July 1717, London.
Most recent WASO performance:
21 July 2019. Guy Noble, conductor.
two each of flutes (one doubling piccolo), oboes, clarinets and bassoons; four horns, two trumpets; timpani and strings.
Bourrée – a quick French dance from the 17th century, variously described by contemporary theorists as gay or joyful, contented, relaxed, comfortable yet pleasing. Bourrées are played lightly and express an aristocratic joie de vivre. They are usually in a quick duple metre with an upbeat.
Oratorio – a substantial work for singers and orchestra based on a religious text.
About the Music
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)The Four Seasons
Concerto in E, RV 269, La primavera (Spring)
Concerto in G minor, RV 315, L’estate (Summer)
Allegro non molto
Adagio – Presto
Concerto in F, RV 293, L’autunno (Autumn)
Allegro – Allegro assai
Concerto in F minor, RV 297, L’inverno (Winter)
Allegro non molto
Antonio Vivaldi died in Vienna in July 1741 and was buried in an unmarked grave. His music was rarely if ever played between then and the 1930s, when musicians in Italy began rediscovering Vivaldi’s huge and varied output of works. With the interest of music scholars like Alfred Einstein, composer Alfredo Casella and poet Ezra Pound, the revival of Vivaldi began; by the end of the 20th century Vivaldi was once again one of the most popular and frequently performed composers.
Despite his death in obscure poverty, Vivaldi had enjoyed great popularity and success during his lifetime. Born in Venice in 1678, Vivaldi began learning violin with his father, a professional musician. He began studying for the priesthood in his early teens, though this in no way would have been seen as conflicting with the expectation of a career in music. It should be noted, too, that in Vivaldi’s time one was not obliged to enter a seminary; he was effectively ‘apprenticed’ to an older priest and was eventually ordained.
Although ordained a priest, Vivaldi spent his adult life as a composer and violinist. His works included some 500 concertos as well as many operas, instrumental sonatas and a large body of sacred music. He pioneered the solo concerto, rather than the more common concerto grosso which had, at the very least, a pair of solo instruments. This was in part a vehicle for his own virtuosity; his playing was clearly prodigious – one contemporary describes how Vivaldi ‘put his fingers but a hair’s breadth from the bow, so that there was scarcely room for the bow’. He also experimented with violin technique, developing methods like position shifts, the use of mutes and pizzicato to create new sounds and effects, often with specifically illustrative intent.
Venice in Vivaldi’s time was, as H.C. Robbins Landon puts it, ‘a city past its prime’, yet it maintained a rich and elaborate cultural life. A particular feature of the city was the establishment of a number of orphanages for girls that doubled as music academies. In 1703, the year he was ordained, Vivaldi began teaching at one such orphanage, the Ospedale della Pietà. In his capacity as director of music at the Pietà, Vivaldi composed the first known concertos for cello, bassoon, mandolin and flautino (sopranino recorder). On the available evidence, the students were very fine players indeed.
The Four Seasons forms part of Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (‘The Contest of Harmony and Invention’), Opus 8, which was published in 1725 in Amsterdam. The Four Seasons is a frankly programmatic work. French composers had a tradition of music imitating nature, but Vivaldi was one of the first Italian composers to experiment in this vein. Vivaldi’s rhetoric exquisitely depicts the seasons’ progress, described also in sonnets (possibly written by him) which he affixed to the score.
The bright opening of the first concerto reflects joy at the arrival of spring, and the soloist’s entry sets off a chain reaction of trilling birdcalls over a static bass. Rippling passages suggest running water, and the menace of distant thunder can be heard before the birds sing again. In the slow movement, a goat-herd falls asleep among murmuring plants, not even disturbed by the repeated barking of his dog. In the finale Botticellian nymphs and shepherds perform a rustic dance with bagpipe drone.
Summer’s first movement embodies a sense of heat-struck lassitude with only the intrepid cuckoo and turtledove calling, as the shepherd fears the encroaching storm. This apprehension is carried over into the unquiet slow movement, before the storm arrives in all its fury in the finale.
Autumn begins with peasants celebrating the harvest with dance and song, and, as the movement progresses, Vivaldi creates a striking musical image of drunkenness. In the slow movement, the peasants sleep off their binge, before going hunting in the finale. This contrasts cantering ‘hunting’ music with the panic of the quarry, which is caught and killed.
Snow, ice, chattering teeth and a cruel wind inform the first movement of Winter, but for the slow movement we go indoors and enjoy a crackling fire as the rain beats on the windows. The finale begins with ice-skating, weaving different voices in slow-moving elegant arcs. The ice cracks, the skater shivers, and the four winds are unleashed.
Gordon Kerry © 2005/2010
The Four Seasons first appeared in print in 1725 but we do not know when exactly they were composed or first performed.
Most recent WASO performance:
1-2 May 2015. Shaun Lee-Chen, violin. Paul Dyer director.
Strings and continuo only.
Pizzicato – Plucking, rather than bowing, the strings.
Opus – A system of cataloguing the works of a composer. ‘Opus’ is Latin for ‘work’.
Programmatic – Music which is inspired by and purports to express a non-musical idea, such as a story or a particular scene. Usually such a work (and/or its various movements) has a descriptive title, e.g. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony opus.