Music has the remarkable ability to convey universal human experiences. When I first arrived in the United States, I did not know the names of the seasons or how different the weather might be in my new home. However, I did understand the experience of the changing moods of the sky, the feel of rain and wind, and the subtle clues that indicate the end of winter and the beginnings of a time of growth and renewal. I understood these in part because I had gone through them, but I also knew that these were sensations common to the human experience, because I had heard them and was learning to play them in the music of an Italian who had been dead for more than 250 years.
Through the deceptively simple combination of sounds from four stringed instruments, Antonio Vivaldi manages to express the extraordinary contrasts that make up The Four Seasons. As I began to master the first violin part of this remarkable concerto, I became aware of the composer's mastery of melody, harmony, and tempo in indicating on paper how the performers would make the ferocity of a winter storm, the delicate beginnings of spring, the warm thunderstorms of summer, or the wild winds of autumn come alive through music.
That Vivaldi originally wrote this part for himself made the music even more challenging. The whole concerto is showy and gripping, and it continues to seize the imaginations of modern audiences. The first violin part is especially prominent and difficult to play but, like most difficult works, exceptionally rewarding once it has been mastered. Imagining the master beside me, playing his great work as I was learning it, showed me how music can forge connections across time and cultural barriers.