When I was preparing the programme notes for our piano guitar duo’s version of “Summer” for our concert in Madrid, I found the new novel entitled “The Four Seasons” on the Web. As it had just been published in late 2008, I contacted the author out of curiosity. San Diego-based Laurel Corona had woven an interesting story around Vivaldi and the Venice that he lived in, largely based on her own research and filling in the gaps where history had recorded none.
As I am particularly fond of reading novels about music and musicians, I took Corona’s “Four Seasons” to consume on holiday in Seville in April 2009. While reading it, I started planning an in-depth tour of Venice with my 70-year old mother, who had never been to Italy before.
I had stopped in Venice briefly when I was 21 and remembered the crowds of tourists at Piazza San Marco. A day later, I hopped on the overnight train to Switzerland.
Venice deserves a second chance.
Armed with “The Rough Guide to Venice and the Veneto” I navigated the 118 islands and 400 bridges of that floating labyrinth which my friends in Amsterdam called “a 17th century time capsule.” The art historian, who rented us the 18th-century palazzo with a stunning view of the Grand Canal, told us about the 53rd Biennale and the various related contemporary art exhibitions. In the ensuing days, we lingered at Peggy Guggenheim‘s extraordinary collection of modern art and sculpture and visited every church that was on our way to the “must-sees” listed in the guidebook.
By the sixth day, I was stomped. The live “classical” music available were limited to 1) various outdoor performances at restaurants in San Marco’s Square (5.50 euros per person if you sit down, and 10 euros for coffee); 2) a free one-off concert of recorder music during Titian’s time at a cultural centre; and 3) evening concerts of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (at 25 euros per ticket).
But Antonio Vivaldi had written more than 500 concertos (including 36 for bassoon), 90 operas, and some 46 operas. Surely there would be music of Vivaldi to grace this timeless treasure chest of culture! Or is the Four Seasons such a blockbuster (with Beethoven’s 9th a distant second place in the classical music world) that it overshadows other Vivaldi works?
When I had nearly exhausted my mother of visual stimulation, I stumbled upon a church not far from San Marco Square. First I heard the sound of a violin concerto. Then I walked into a display of the art of violin making by the Museo Della Musica. Although it was not live music, I was satisfied that there was finally an installation and acknowledgement of Vivaldi in Venice. Like other Vivaldi hunters before me, I had been inadvertently looking for his music.
“Finally,” I said to my mother. “I found Vivaldi. I shall have to come back with Robert.” Then he could fill the silence of the churches and the palazzos with his guitar music —- his Dutch guitar built in Amsterdam, where most of Vivaldi’s music was published. It would complete the circle.
Note to readers:
Vivaldi’s “Concerto in D Major for Guitar” was the first piece that our duo had read and played. Vivaldi’s “Summer” continues to surprise our audiences. We are now arranging “Winter.”
Laurel Corona’s “The Four Seasons” has been translated into French, German, and Spanish. The Dutch version is currently underway. I hope it will be translated into Chinese so that my mother will enjoy it as I have.