Climate change is unravelling our seasons. How does an updated version of Vivaldi’s opus sound?
There are few things more life-affirming than experiencing the changing of the seasons, punctuating our years on Earth and reminding us of the possibilities and joys of renewal.
Artists have long sought to capture nature’s great show and, in musical terms, eighteenth century Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi is widely considered to have come closest.
The violin maestro’s ‘The Four Seasons’ is canonical - his ‘Spring’ stirs the heart like the first cherry blossom in March.
But human-caused climate change has thrown the seasons out of sync since the 1720s. And Spanish musical director Hache Costa has taken the liberty of adapting Vivaldi’s most famous work to reflect the grim reality of global warming.
"I think Vivaldi would have been a lot more aggressive and gritty.
“If today someone were to compose 'The Four Seasons' from an absolutely realistic perspective, it would be frankly daring," the composer and producer told the Reuters news agency.
How has Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons been changed?
Vivaldi finished composing his original opus exactly 300 years ago.
Costa premiered his adapted version on Tuesday (24 October) at Madrid’s popular EDP Gran Via venue, to coincide with global Climate Action Day.
He has prominence and drama to the summer concerto while shortening the other three, and believes the Italian great would not mind.
"I would love the audience to feel really bothered at some point by becoming truly aware of what is happening," added Costa, who has made the sheet music freely available for anyone to play.
Scientists have linked searing temperatures and dry and windy conditions in many parts of the world, including southern Europe, to climate change.
Ernesto Rodriguez Camino, president of the Spanish meteorology association, said the impact of climate change in Spain was evident.
"The trend is for longer, more intense heatwaves, and associated with the heatwaves there can be more violent wildfires, and also stronger rainfall with potentially catastrophic effects," he said.
It’s not the first time that Vivaldi’s four-parter has been rescored to mirror these deadly realities.
To mark the start of COP26 in 2021, 15 orchestras around the world performed different variations of the Four Seasons, using climate modelling to portray the future in each place if greenhouse gas emissions are not reigned in.