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Vivaldi's Seasonal Poetry

One of the comments my friend and co-editor Bob Blair often used to make in his editorials years ago was that certain poets who were widely published and read, and veritable celebities in their day, often faded into obscurity. Being stylish, someone also once said, simply means that you are more likely to go out of style. This has been true among authors and artists, musicians and playwrights, political (and economic) theorists, and, of course, poets. I was listening to Alex Trebek quizzing his daily panel of Jeopardy contestants the other day, when he gave a clue about a baroque composer whose 'seasonal' music was published with a set of accompanying poems written by the composer. Vivaldi was an easy guess (The Four Seasons - Le Quattro Stagioni) for the musician, but I didn't know about the poems - so of course I had to look them up.

A Venetian, Antonio Vivaldi was a priest, composer, and a virtuoso on violin. He seems to have been an exceptionally prolific composer, with 46 operas, over 500 concertos, 73 sonatas and a variety of sacred music. In the early part of the 18th century his works were very well known, and much anticipated. The Four Seasons, written around 1723 and published as the first four violin sonatas from "The Contest Between Harmony and Invention" (1925). His career included performances before the Pope and for the royalty of continental europe, who also commissioned him to compose a variety of special compositions.


With all of those operas under his belt, Vivaldi must have written more lyrics than you can shake a stick at (feel free to insert your own favorite equivalent euphemism here), but I can only find reference to one set of poems - the sonatas that describe, movement by movement, what scenes his violins are immitating in The Four Seasons. The suprising thing to me, is that, for as well known as Vivaldi has been for the last half century, and as well known and influential as he was in his own day, he was largely unknown for much of the intervening two centuries. Despite the fact that he was prolific, a favorite of Charles IV, and a major influence on J.S. Bach and other Baroque composers, his music was forgotten and lost until several fortunate discoveries in the 20th century.

Sorry, the English tramnslations are litteral, and a little stilted. I'll ask Nick to work on them if he gets tired of Chinese and wants to go back to Italian for a while.


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