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Laurie Niles

2012 Violinist.com Tournament, Round 1, Day 1: Mozart 5 vs. Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'

March 12, 2012 at 2:55 PM

How can you choose between Mozart 5 and Vivaldi Four Seasons?

How can we choose between any of our favorite violin concertos? Many of you love them all; I certainly love every one that is on this list of 16 for the Tournament! These were the top 16 of 92 that all of us nominated -- that means that every single choice is in the top 17 percent. None of these line-ups will likely present an easy decision, but please vote for the concerto you'd most like to win, based on whatever criteria you feel are most important: beauty, playability, originality, audience appeal, lasting appeal for the musician, etc. And do keep in mind our larger goal: to share our thoughts, favorite recordings and editions, performance ideas, etc. about our favorite violin concertos.

Here is your first choice -- you have 24 hours to vote:

Mozart Vivaldi

Here's a brief bit of information on each one, and some listening:

Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major K219 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: This concerto gives us some of most elegant A major violin goodness ever composed; Mozart created a vehicle for milking the violin in exactly the manner it likes: with long ringing tones, passagework that seems to compose itself, simple beauty. Composed in 1775, the last movement inspired its nickname, the "Turkish" concerto, as it shows flashes of raucous Turkish music. Personally, I love the opening, which is such a celebration of the violin. The orchestra moves along, happily, for quite some time. Suddenly, everything stops, so that the violin can enter all by itself. It's as though the most beautiful girl in the world has arrived at the dance. Everyone must pause in their tracks, so that they can admire her in her stunning gown -- perfectly shaped, in exquisite taste, casting just the right color on her complexion. Suddenly the dance resumes, and the music continues merrily, with the benefit of her sparkly presence. Mozart was a violinist himself, and he wrote five concertos for violin. Generally, Concertos No. 3, 4, and 5 are played quite frequently; No. 1 and 2, less so.

This 1966 recording with is a rather Romantic interpretation of this Classical piece, but lovely. I enjoyed watching the handsome and (relatively) young Herbert von Karajan conducting the (all-male) Vienna Philharmonic in this room full of candelabras, chandeliers, heavy drapes and ornate wallpaper. I think Menuhin is at his most elegant here, and that's what Mozart calls for. Please feel free to tell us about your favorite recordings of this work as well!

Movement 1, "Allegro Aperto - Adagio - Allegro Aperto":

From the same performance by Yehudi Menuhin:

Part 2, with the rest of Movement 1: http://youtu.be/xsGbvEe9Gqw (extra credit point to anyone who can tell us whose cadenza he's playing?)
Part 3, Movement 2, "Adagio": http://youtu.be/ULSLkLwYEOE
Part 4, the rest of Movement 2: http://youtu.be/KcPydWaoVuQ
Part 5: Movement 3, "Rondo - Tempo di Minuetto": http://youtu.be/L9iS5a4SBA8

"The Four Seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi is perhaps one of the most instantly-recognizable pieces in the violin literature. What a creative endeavor it was -- composed in 1723, Vivaldi painted a musical picture of each season, even including a sonnet to describe each season. (Click here for the texts of the sonnets; most scholars think Vivaldi wrote these himself) The sound-painting includes things like birdsongs in "Spring," buzzing flies in "Summer," and the chattering of teeth in "Winter." Vivaldi was a priest (his red hair led people to call him the "Red Priest") and he wrote some 500 concertos, most of them for the girls at the Ospedale della Pietà, the orphanage for girls in Venice where he was musical director for many years.

For the Four Seasons, I've chosen to give you Julia Fischer's 2004 version with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields National Botanical Gardens of Wales, which gives you a combination of being able to watch her play and also looking at pretty nature scenes. Looks like you can get the BBC DVD if you'd like it, too.

From this same series by Julia Fischer:

Summer: http://youtu.be/OLP1pqNx0v4
Autumn: http://youtu.be/xVNo64WfV7o
Winter: http://youtu.be/YKfuhLCVldg


From Terry Hsu
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 3:29 PM
This one should be easy.

Personally, I picked the dead white guy in black and white over the pretty young girl in high definition color nature scenes.

I mean, who wouldn't?! :)

From Simon Streuff
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 4:19 PM
seems to get very close... but to me its Mozart. Reason is because I like this from the Mozart Concertos most and I can't wish to eliminate the only Mozart concerto wich has a chance to reach second round. It would be strange if there is no Mozart Concerto in the second round. And really, will the Mozart 4 stand a chance against bach double concerto? i don't think so ;)
Go, Mozart, go!!
From Emily Hogstad
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 4:36 PM
I have a sinking sensation the picks I made will be knocked out in the first round! lol
From Paul Deck
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 4:36 PM
I voted for the Vivaldi for its incomparable ability to captivate every kind of audience from the casual listener to the most seasoned (sorry!) aficionado.

Some might think (and perhaps have already implied) that the playing field has been tilted toward the Vivaldi by linking those stunning videos of Julia Fischer, who is arguably the eighth wonder of the modern world. (While you are on YouTube watch her play the Grieg piano concerto too.) But the fact is that the Vivaldi lends itself to that kind of multimedia treatment better than nearly anything else in all of classical music. There's something to that.

I was thinking about something else as I watched Fischer playing "Spring" from the Vivaldi. We often talk about how amazingly good one has to be to get a prime orchestral job. But consider the dark-haired fellow that they show several times in the video, ostensibly the concertmaster of the ensemble. Is he sitting there thinking:
(1)Heck, I could have played it just as well, or
(2)Okay, she's a little better than me, or
(3)Wow, I could never play it like that.

Finally, one more extra point to Vivaldi for holding the violin in his picture. :)

From Terry Hsu
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 5:06 PM
Mozart 5, Anne Sophie Mutter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY2f3PhiQGQ

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 5:18 PM
Great video, Mutter is amazing, but I think it's so funny how she pretends like she's directing the orchestra, holding out her hand a couple of times to hush the violins. That kind of thing always gives me a chuckle.
From Simon Streuff
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 5:22 PM
If I could, i would vote for both. But still the 5. Mozart is something very important historically and compared to vivaldi not so well known. Vivaldi had enough attention ;) Don't let my mozart down :D
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM
Hey, that performance by Menuhin is awesome and no less visually interesting than beautiful Julia, IMO!
From Terry Hsu
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 6:48 PM
Paul,

You forgot to add (4)Julia Fischer sure looks great in that multicolored dress and I wish I were 25 years younger. :)

Terry

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 7:20 PM
When a tournament is closely contested, it means there is depth in the field. And that is certainly true of the violin concerto repertoire.
From Gene Huang
Posted on March 12, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Winter Largo has to be one of the most beautiful melodies ever composed. C'mon folks, vote Vivaldi!
From Terry Hsu
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 2:03 AM
So Laurie, if it's a tie, do we go to overtime? :)
From Adam DeGraff
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 3:12 AM
Mozart 5 is great, but so is Mozart 4... and 3... (did he write a 1 and 2? Just kidding.) Anyway, my point is there is only ONE The Four Seasons.
From John Dukes
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 3:38 AM
One year but four seasons. I voted Vivaldi cause #1 the four seasons are awesome, #2 they are recognized the world over by everyone. there is a certain greatness in than fact alone that the Mozart cant compete with.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 3:48 AM
Vivaldi, you hear one piece you hear them all. There is no way he is even close to Mozart. Come on guys!
From Simon Streuff
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Are we going for "what is recognised in the world by everyone..." or what? I cant believe that the Mozart 5 is out. Last movement with its "a la turka" style has to be in every music history lesson. Its standard Repertoire in Competitions and even played in big concert halls. While the Vivaldi, while being great music, is something a violinist records and forcefully advertises, if he wants money... ok, I take this too seriously :D
From Terry Hsu
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 10:47 AM
I'm bitter about it too Simon. ;) But I guess that's why it's called March Madness. Mozart was a genius and his fifth concerto was perhaps his most innovative, but he wasn't a great salesman. He even composed some quartets and gave them to Haydn [the Haydn Quartets, (K387, K421, K428, K458, K464 and K465)]. Haydn, who liked money a good deal more, made a nice tidy sum from him as a result. The pinnacle of Vivaldi's work was probably the Four Seasons but Vivaldi was not as original and was a more derivative composer than Mozart.
From marjory lange
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Sadly, the minority is often found to be 'right'--but only after the battle is over.
From Emily Hogstad
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 3:18 PM
*cries*
From Terry Hsu
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 3:56 PM
*group hug* followed by handshakes and butt slaps for the Vivaldi team.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 5:56 PM
I thought everyone was going to vote for Mozart. I think if you are considering the total body of work of the composer, Mozart would win over Vivaldi easily, but if you are just comparing these two specific pieces, the Four Seasons is more unique and more original.

Wikipedia says that when the Four Seasons was written the modern solo form of the concerto had not yet been defined, and this helped to define it. I'm actually not a big fan of the modern solo form of the concerto. I rarely listen to concertos, actually. But I've always loved the Four Seasons.

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 5:54 PM
Every vote does count!

Is it time for partisan gloating yet?

From Emily Hogstad
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 7:15 PM
Were there any hanging chads we could contest??? ;)
From Ryan Germann
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 8:48 PM
If Mozart was still around, I'd expect he'd be yelling at the refs about this
From Terry Hsu
Posted on March 13, 2012 at 9:07 PM
Karen,

Your argument is fair. I probably have been a little intellectually lazy in saying that the Four Seasons is not that innovative. Which puts me in the position of having to reframe my position a bit.

I just don't find the Four Seasons to be that interesting a piece. It's quite repetitive, like most Vivaldi, and doesn't develop things in a very interesting way to me. But you're probably right that it was innovative in that it expanded the concept of the concerto for its time.

As far as the Mozart 5 is concerned, I find the introduction of Turkish themes in the last movement to be quite innovative for its time. More or less innovative than the Four Seasons, I don't know. But I just love the Mozart - it is a work of art in my humble opinion.

Regards,
Terry

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 14, 2012 at 1:14 AM
Terry, I agree that the Turkish themes in No. 5 are great. That's my favorite part!
From sharelle taylor
Posted on March 14, 2012 at 4:48 AM
Waaaaaaaaah.
I didn't believe so many people could prefer listening to the same predictable, boring, drab, i know what's coming next.
Oh I'll just shut up and rue the missed opportunity of a very nice bag.
- scowling from the corner, for myself and Wolfgang -

"you know who you are..."

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