Saturday, December 3, 2011


I grew up listening to my parents’ collection of music which varied from the classic genre to Alan Jackson to Debussy’s Clair de Lune. But one of the songs that became imprinted on my brain the most was the first movement of Vivaldi’s Spring violin concerto from The Four Seasons; the song was so catchy I would catch myself singing it internally many a time. When I was little, Marie, my sister, and I would put on tutus dancing to Spring while we were pretending we were ballerinas. However, I never dreamed that I would get the chance to play this wonderful piece.

Learning to play the violin was a second choice because originally I wanted to take voice lessons. Since they said my voice was not mature enough to begin vocal training, I stated that I then wanted to learn the violin instead. So I began my sojourn into the musical world. Learning to play the violin is one of the most difficult things that I have ever learned to do because it requires the coordination of the smallest muscles and the control of two different hands. Upon beginning to play, I knew that I wanted to learn Spring, but it seemed such a monumental task as seeing I was a mere beginner and I would not have the skills needed to play Spring for a long time. On my 14th birthday, my mom bought me the sheet music to Spring complete with the piano accompaniment. Excitedly I took it into my violin lesson, but my teacher Drew said that it was too difficult for me. The music sat on my shelf for three years, until my senior year of high school. The same teacher Drew told me that he wanted me to learn a violin concerto so I went home and pulled out Spring. He gave me the ok to start working on it.

I became very well acquainted with Spring, and I gained a deeper understanding of the music. Listening to the music as a kid, I thought it was just a pretty melody with an exciting tempo, but I was not fully aware of all the emotions and imagery tied into Spring. The first few lines, the main melody, tell the story of a few nymphs frolicking about in celebration of Spring; then Vivaldi takes a few lines to catch the sounds of happy birds singing in the trees. He accomplishes the birds by having a trio of three violins answering back and forth to each other. The scene with the birds is followed by a slower, more subdued section which represents flowing fountains. All of sudden, the gorgeous celebration of Spring is interrupted by a thunderstorm where the musical key switches from major to minor chords. Then the storm abates, and the original melody returns with a bunch of happy nymphs picking up their celebration. Vivaldi captures the imagery so well through his music.

I never thought I would be able to learn this piece because the thunderstorm section was especially difficult. The rain exists as a bunch of difficultly fingered arpeggios that required me to shift my whole hand up and down the finger board. But I loved the challenge of learning to play. Once I mastered the thunderstorm section, I was so thrilled that I would play it over and over again. Spring was one of the last pieces I learned to play on the violin before taking a break from the instrument for awhile. But I am proud that I overcame the challenge of learning the piece, and I also appreciate the ability to understand the intention of the music. It is a musical ode to the wonders of Spring.

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