Recomposing Vivaldi’s “Winter”

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As we await today’s meteorological prediction from the groundhog, let’s enjoy the icy sonic chill of “Winter” from The Four Seasons, Vivaldi’s collection of violin concertos composed around 1720. This piece can sound radically different from one performance to another, depending on choices of tempi and style. The concerto’s programatic elements remain: the orchestra’s frigid opening ponticello (a raspy sound created by playing as close to the bridge as possible), flying spiccato bowing suggesting pellets of frozen precipitation hitting a hard surface. The final movement drifts off into the solitude of a bleak, desolate winter landscape.

Here is Gidon Kremer’s 1981 performance with the English Chamber Orchestra:

Vivaldi Remixed

In Baroque performances, ornamentation added an element of spontaneity. The notes on the page sometimes became a blueprint for improvisation, similar to chord progressions for a jazz musician. German-born British composer Max Richter (b. 1966) has pushed this tradition even further with his Recomposed Four Seasons (2012). Vivaldi’s music becomes the raw material for a new piece rooted in the looping repetition of minimalism and electronic dance music. Fragments of the original composition emerge and find new lives of their own. It’s a musical conversation spanning three hundred years. Listen to the complete work here. Pay attention to the way the music slowly and gradually develops. If you feel inspired, share your thoughts about the music in the thread below.

Here is Daniel Hope with the Orchestra L’arte del Mondo in 2013:

As a bonus, here is Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” and Written on the Sky from Blue Notebooks (2004). Also listen to Luminous from the soundtrack of the 2011 film Perfect Sense (The Last Word) and Rainlightcomposed for Random International’s Rain Room, a 2012 art instillation at London’s Barbican Centre.

With Watch Magazine, Music Meets Marketing

Watch! Magazine
Watch Magazine

There was a time when major networks, such as CBS and NBC, employed their own orchestras (watch this clip of Arturo Toscanini leading the NBC Symphony) and television shows included a full minute of credits, accompanied by theme music. Revisit the opening of Cheers, compare it to the fast pace of today’s media and consider what we’ve lost. TV theme music allowed for reflection (even if it wasn’t deep reflection) and established the atmosphere of the show.

Interestingly, as media moves online, CBS’s Watch Magazine may be taking a step back in the direction of musical branding. The entertainment and lifestyle magazine recently hired English violinist Charlie Siem to compose and perform a soundtrack, which will be used for marketing and promotion. You can see how the music fits the branding concept here:

Siem’s music draws upon influences from Philip Glass to Ralph Vaughan Williams. Listen to Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas TallisElgar’s Serenade for String Orchestra in E minor Op.20, and Finzi’s Prelude for String Orchestra in F minor Op. 25  for a sample of the rich English string orchestra tradition which Siem modeled.

Charlie Siem’s Canopy was recorded last December at St. Silas the Martyr Church in London. Siem is joined by the English Chamber Orchestra:

[quote]We like to think the magazine is elegant and refined and glamorous and this music hits those highlights.[/quote]

-Jeremy Murphy, Watch editor in chief