Piazzolla and Vivaldi: the Four Seasons, a solstice recommendation

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An excellent recommendation to listen to this solstice of June 20.

Astor Piazzolla and Antonio Vivaldi.

Enjoy this solstice with 'The Four Seasons' by Piazzolla and Vivaldi. / Photos: Wikimedia - Pupeto Mastropasqua, Wikimedia - Anonymous Portrait

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Piazzolla y Vivaldi: las Cuatro Estaciones, una recomendación de solsticio

Nature has always inspired composers throughout history. There are hundreds of works written with this theme as inspiration: Richard Strauss' "Alpine Symphony", Claude Debussy's "The Sea" and Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" are just a few examples. Among all these works, the most famous are  "Las Cuatro Estaciones" by Antonio Vivaldi, and Ástor Piazzolla's " Estaciones Porteñas" reflecting the passing of the year in Buenos Aires.


Antonio Vivaldi's vision

It is rare that in the XXI century someone does not know at least a fragment of one of "The Four Seasons", they are one of the most famous works in the world. There are four concerts for violin, in which a soloist plays in front of the small ensemble that complements the work. As is evident, each concert refers to one of the seasons of the year in the northern hemisphere. The four pieces are divided into three movements each, so that the complete interpretation lasts around 40 minutes. In our first recommendation, you will hear "El Invierno", played on instruments in its baroque version, the period to which the work belongs.

"Vivaldi Stations" are commonly used as an example of programmatic music, this name refers to works whose intention is to create specific images in the mind of the listener. Vivaldi's famous works are accompanied by sonnets that indicate what each movement of each concert wishes to reflect, thus evoking the chirping of birds, the barking of a dog, the wind, dancing people, and numerous other images. The most interesting thing is that they are not just mere text, each idea is also reflected in the sounds if you listen carefully you will be able to identify each element described in the text, which will give a different dimension to the work. Below you will find our second recommendation: the texts in their Spanish version in a version interpreted with violin and piano.


The stations from the perspective of tango

Almost 250 years later in the port of Buenos Aires, Ástor Piazzolla created the "Estaciones Porteñas" inspired by the southern seasons. These works follow the composer's style, that is, they are tangos. Each station is made in a single movement and they were composed for the tango quintet (violin, bandoneon, piano, guitar and double bass). Unlike the programmatic nature of Vivaldi's works, the Piazzolla stations reflect atmospheres, a product of his life in Buenos Aires, so the colors are darker and full of influences from other genres other than tango that enrich them. In our third recommendation, you will hear the "Buenos Aires Winter" for quintet with the composer on the bandoneon.

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These tangos are among the most important and best-known works of the Argentine composer, with different versions for different instrumental ensembles. In the work the distinctive features of Piazzolla's style and its notable jazz influences are identified, with a strong rhythmic character that differs from the tango canons of the time, for which it turned out to be revolutionary despite the discontent they generated at the time according to the site Toda la música. The fourth recommendation is "Autumn Porteño" in a version for string orchestra and solo violin.


Two recommendations that reimagine Vivaldi and Piazzolla

The penultimate recommendation is from the Deutsche Grammophon label, its Vivaldi: The Four Seasons Recomposed by Max Richter , where the German composer claims to have discarded 75% of Vivaldi's original work. Instead, he applied his compositional processes including loops, that is, long repetitions, tempo changes of the original fragments and the addition of electroacoustic sections, according to information from the Granada Hoy newspaper, which makes a harsh criticism of the album. Despite the controversy that has generated since its presentation, it is an interesting experiment to listen to Vivaldi differently, in addition to YouTube you can find him on your favorite platform.

The last recommendation is a live recording of "Invierno Porteño" in a jazz arrangement. Although Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, he lived throughout his life in the United States and in France where he had contact with the avant-garde of his time and not only in terms of concert music, so he was able to come into direct contact with other genres, like jazz, which inspired his music on a harmonic and rhythmic level, elements that would give his music personality. In this recording he performs the Jazz & Tango Project ensemble.