In the northern climes,
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Vivaldi wrote some
Sonnets for The Four Seasons;
That I never knew!
The Four Seasons app
Is on sale for the summer,
And we say “Woo-hoo”!
Summer is here in the northern hemisphere. School is out, the heat is ramping up, and summer thunderstorms blaze through, leaving (hopefully) cooler air in their wake.
People have been singing about summer for a long time. The first stanza of today’s haiku refers to one of the earliest notated songs in English, Sumer Is Icumen In (loudly sing cuckoo). The earliest manuscript dates to the mid- to late-13th century. Here’s some sheet music to follow along, and here’s the tune.
Somewhat later (between 1720 and 1723), Antonio Vivaldi wrote The Four Seasons. You may hear familiar refrains, as it is frequently used in television commercials. Something that I learned is that the piece is accompanied by four sonnets, possibly written by Vivaldi himself. You can find the four sonnets in Italian and English in the link, but here is the translation of the one for summer (Boreas is the north wind):
Under the merciless sun
Languishes man and flock; the pine tree burns,
The cuckoo begins to sing and at once
Join in the turtledoves and the goldfinch.
A gentle breeze blows, but Boreas
Joins battle suddenly with his neighbor,
And the shepherd weeps because overhead
Hangs the dreaded storm, and his destiny.
His tired limbs are robbed of their rest
By his fear of the lightning and the heavy thunder
And by the furious swarm of flies and hornets.
Alas, his fears are well founded
There is thunder and lightning in the sky
And the hail cuts down the lofty ears of corn.1
The sonnet itself is broken into three sections, which is not uncommon for the sonnet form, but also echoes the three movements of the composition. See if you can hear what is depicted above. Here is Vivaldi’s Summer.
(I know it’s summer, but educators can find a teacher resource kit on Vivaldi and The Four Seasons at the link. It’s written for students in grades 4-6, but I enjoyed reading it!)
Now, if you have an iPad or iPhone, you are in luck. This summer, Touchpress is offering the Vivaldi Four Seasons app for $2.99 (70 percent off!)
The Four Seasons app joins Touchpress’s other iPad offerings, The Liszt Sonata, The Orchestra, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (free!).
I hope you will enjoy lots of music this summer, and I hope your living is easy.
The blog will be on summer vacation for a week. See you again soon!
Miniature of ‘The Spanish Dance’; from Códice de trajes, Germany, 1547, BNE MS Res 285, ff. 2v-3r via http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/01/celebrating-an-anniversary-in-high-style.html. The original can be found at the Biblioteca Nacional de España BNE MS Res 285, ff. 2v-3r, http://www.bne.es/es/Micrositios/Exposiciones/GeometriaPespuntes/Exposicion/Seccion2/Obra4.html?origen=galeria
Manuscript of Sumer Is Icumen In, MS Harley 978 f. 11v. British Library digitized manuscript, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASumer_is_icumen_in_-_Summer_Canon_(Reading_Rota)_(mid_13th_C)%2C_f.11v_-_BL_Harley_MS_978.jpg. See the original (and more) at the British Library website http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=harley_ms_978_f011v