Days before the pandemic closed movie theaters across the country, The Belcourt featured Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of A Lady on Fire, a historical drama set on an isolated French island during the 18th century. A queer love story, Portrait (which is now streaming on Hulu) is essentially devoid of music, placing an extra emphasis on the sounds of the world Sciamma creates: the strokes of a paintbrush, windswept sea cliffs, the silence of longing glances between two lovers.
Two major musical moments interrupt the film’s relative silence. While both carry tremendous emotional power, the final scene of the film— set to the Presto of Vivaldi’s “Summer” Concerto in G minor— is a brilliant sonic choice that showcases the versatility of Vivaldi’s music. Whereas traditional film scores give audiences specific emotional cues, Vivaldi’s concerto and actress Adèle Haenel’s performance provide audiences the opportunity to map a wide range of emotions onto the final scene. Vivaldi’s music is at once heartbreaking sad, nostalgic, cathartic, resilient, angry, and filled with gratitude.
Sciamma isn’t the first to explore Vivaldi’s versatility. Musicians have performed this movement of Vivaldi’s concerto in various arrangements, in turn evoking with it a variety of moods. As summer approaches, here is a collection of such performances, beginning with the composer’s original.
Vivaldi, who was himself a violinist, penned his collection of concertos known as The Four Seasons around 1716. Each was paired with a sonnet that may have also been written by the composer. The third stanza in particular corresponds with this movement.
Allegro non molto
Under a hard season, fired up by the sun
Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine
We hear the cuckoo’s voice;
then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air, but threatening
the North Wind sweeps them suddenly aside.
The shepherd trembles,
fearing violent storms and his fate.
Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
The fear of lightning and fierce thunder
Robs his tired limbs of rest
As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.
Alas, his fears were justified
The Heavens thunder and roar and with hail
Cut the head off the wheat and damages the grain.
Vivaldi meant for this section to move (“presto,” after all, is a very quick tempo marking), and the fast clip of this version featuring violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter plays up the music’s stormy drama.
An array of instrumentalists— from cellists to flutists—have stepped in place of the original violin. While the drama is still there, this performance featuring Pier Adams on recorder lends the music a lighter, more playful feel.
While a concerto is by definition a soloist supported by an ensemble, plenty of musicians have taken on this Vivaldi movement alone. Below are renditions for a few keyboard instruments, ranging from the expected (a piano) to the unusual (a melodica).
Marnie Laird performs her own arrangement on the piano:
Yevgeniya Lisicyna on the organ:
Alexandr Hrustevich on the accordion:
An arrangement and performance by James Howard Young on the alto melodica, overdubbed in 10 parts:
This version by guitarist Laura Lāce is a reminder of the close ties between classical and metal music, including a love of virtuosic shredding, ornate melodies, and riffs that lend themselves as well to an electric guitar as they do to a violin.
Here, Miroslav Dimov brings out Vivalid’s percussive side, quite literally, which his arrangement for marimba:
Even if you don’t play an instrument, the Frančišković family demonstrates how you can perform alongside Vivaldi using items from around the house:
Looking for more ways to engage kids with music over the summer? Check out 91Classical’s Listen with Me video series.