VIVALDI: THE FOUR SEASONS BY LA SERENISSIMA @
CLONARD MONASTERY, BELFAST
An Italian baroque composer, born in Venice, and a virtuoso violinist, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) is most famous for composing instrumental concertos, and the most well-known and loved of these is surely his Four Seasons - although these were composed at a late stage in his life. In fact, most of his early work was composed for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pieta, the orphanage where Vivaldi had been employed intermittently for 30 years; he composed most of his work during this time in order to raise funds for abandoned children who needed shelter, and succour. Vivaldi was both a composer and committed pilanthropist, composing not just to bring pleasure to others but also to help bring relief to the abandoned children he worked with; the children at Ospedale performed the work he composed and this meant they themselves gained renown and a career in order to support themselves on leaving the institution.
Vivaldi’s work went out of fashion after his death, but saw a major revival in the 20th century and he is still now regarded as one of the most popular baroque composers.
In the utterly exquisitely vaulted setting of Belfast’s Clonard Monastery - the high ceilings providing excellent acoustic clarity - British performance ensemble La Serenissima gave a virgorous and hugely spirited rendition of some of Vivaldi’s early pieces for Ospedale, some he wrote for opera, and finally, and most joyfully, they performed the Four Seasons flowing seamlesssly (or almost, since the audience insisted on clapping between movements in their enthusiasm) from the joy of spring and summer to the gloomier timbres of autumn and the doom-laden cadences of the coldest winters. It is said that the inspiration for Vivaldi’s masterpiece came from the countryside around Mantua where he was based during its composition. At the time it was regarded as a revolutionary piece, since it attempted to convey the music of ‘flowing creeks, singing birds, buzzing mosquitoes and crying shepherds, storms and drunken dancers, silent nights, ice-skating children and hunting parties’.
While much of this is not clear when you listen to the Four Seasons it matters little - because it is a rapturous experience to hear it well played and La Serenissima executed it with much feeling,their brows sweating with the intense passion of the playing, all through from the heights of spring to the depths of winter.
For more information on events as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s see www.belfastfestival.com/