Shunske Sato Plays Vivaldi: “Summer” from “The Four Seasons”

Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) is one of the earliest and most iconic examples of programmatic music. Vivaldi composed the collection of four violin concerti, each depicting a season of the year, during his tenure as music director at the court chapel of Mantua. Together with eight additional concerti, the works were published in Amsterdam in 1725 under the enticing title, Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (“The Contest Between Harmony and Invention”).

The vivid, atmospheric nature of The Four Seasons, as well as Vivaldi’s violin playing, were bold and shocking at the time. Boris Schwarz wrote,

His contemporaries knew and admired him; they were struck by the newness of his invention, the flashes of his imagination, the logic of musical design, the variety of tone color in his orchestral scores. To Johann Sebastian Bach, Vivaldi was a revelation: Bach studied his works by copying and rearranging a number of Vivaldi’s concertos until he felt secure in the “modern” Italian style.

The Baroque concerto grosso involves a musical conversation  between solo instruments and the full group, which plays a recurring ritornello. The opening of Concerto No. 2 in G minor, “Summer,” inhabits a still landscape enveloped in humidity under a blazing sun. Suddenly, the irrepressible song of the cuckoo rings out, followed later by the dove and goldfinch. The first movement ends with a violent thunderstorm amid flashes of lighting and sheets of windswept rain. In the second movement, we hear the raspy buzz of insects and the rumble of distant thunder. The final movement brings the most violent storm of all, with pelting hail stones.

This sonnet, perhaps written by Vivaldi, was included in the score:

I. Allegro non molto
Under the heat of the burning summer sun,
Languish man and flock; the pine is parched.
The cuckoo finds its voice, and suddenly,
The turtledove and goldfinch sing.
A gentle breeze blows,
But suddenly, the north wind appears.
The shepherd weeps because, overhead,
Lies the fierce storm, and his destiny.
II. Adagio; Presto
His tired limbs are deprived of rest
By his fear of lightning and fierce thunder,
And by furious swarms of flies and hornets.
III. Presto
Alas, how just are his fears,
Thunder and lightening fill the Heavens, and the hail
Slices the tops of the corn and other grain.

This dynamic performance, recorded in October of 2016, features Shunske Sato and the Netherlands Bach Society:

Featured Image: “Summer Afternoon” (1865), Asher B. Durand 

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

3 thoughts on “Shunske Sato Plays Vivaldi: “Summer” from “The Four Seasons””

  1. This was a revelation to me – to hear the last movement as a storm – and played for that effect!

    I’ve heard many recordings of this piece, (haven’t we all), but never like this! I imagine Vivaldi smiling at this performance. Having composed storm sequences myself, I really appreciate Vivaldi’s treatment of violent weather, using the tools of his day.


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