Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­ranges and tran­scribes a frosty piece from Vi­valdi’s undis­puted mag­num opus, The Four Sea­sons.

Guitar Techniques - - Guitar Techniques -

For cen­turies, people have been in­spired to em­u­late the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in mu­sic. From the Ja­panese flute mim­ick­ing the wind through the moun­tains, Mon­go­lian singers’ un­canny im­per­son­ations of streams, to the Chi­nese zither’s em­u­la­tion of an­i­mal calls, there seems to have al­ways been a de­sire to bring into mu­sic the sounds of the nat­u­ral world. There are many ex­am­ples in the Western Art mu­sic tra­di­tion of such ‘pro­gram­matic’ writ­ing. These have in­cluded bird­song (in ev­ery­thing from me­dieval English songs, Re­nais­sance madri­gals and the mod­ernist mu­sic of Mes­si­aen and Ligeti) to Beethoven’s mu­si­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tions of light­ning bolts, thun­der and bab­bling brooks in his 6th (‘Pas­toral’) Sym­phony.

But per­haps the most fa­mous ‘mu­si­cal­i­sa­tion’ of na­ture in the or­ches­tral reper­toire is Vi­valdi’s Four Sea­sons.

An­to­nio Vi­valdi (1648-1741) was one of the great­est com­posers of the Baroque era, with a mas­ter­ful, yet en­tirely ac­ces­si­ble, con­trol of melody and har­mony. He was a huge in­spi­ra­tion to sub­se­quent com­posers, in­clud­ing Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach, who spent evenings tran­scrib­ing his mu­sic by moon­light, which some have sug­gested led to his ul­ti­mate blind­ness. The Four Sea­sons (com­posed in 1723) is a se­ries of four vi­o­lin con­cer­tos, each in three move­ments, rep­re­sent­ing the nat­u­ral cy­cle, from icy winds and sum­mer storms to the ex­u­ber­ant cel­e­bra­tion of spring’s ar­rival.

Largo is one of the more ap­proach­able ar­range­ments in this se­ries, which means you can bring to bear as much ex­pres­sion as pos­si­ble.

The work has re­mained pop­u­lar through the cen­turies and is per­fectly ac­ces­si­ble to cul­tures all over the world. In­deed, Nigel Kennedy’s 1989 record­ing - by many seen as the mod­ern de­fin­i­tive ver­son - sold over two mil­lion copies!

For this ar­ti­cle, I’ve cho­sen the beau­ti­ful mid­dle move­ment (Largo) from Win­ter. Al­though this is a work for solo vi­o­lin and string en­sem­ble, the melody and har­mony is so evoca­tive and pow­er­ful in its sim­plic­ity, that it works in its en­tirety as a solo gui­tar ar­range­ment.

I’ve trans­posed the orig­i­nal key of E-flat ma­jor down a semi­tone to D ma­jor, to make it more gui­tar friendly, and re­duced the string ac­com­pa­ni­ment to make it more playable. Largo is one of the more ap­proach­able ar­range­ments of this se­ries, which means you can bring to bear as much ex­pres­sion as you can muster. En­joy learn­ing it, and I hope you gain plea­sure from it all year round!

Vi­valdi: one of the Baroque era greats

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