The Original Four Seasons|
and The Devil's Trill Sonata
The Original Four Seasons
(Antonio Vivaldi arr. Vanessa-Mae/Pamela Nicholson)
1. i Allegro (3:09)
2. ii Largo e pianissimo sempre (3:07)
3. iii Allegro (3:57)
4. i Allegro non molto (5:15)
5. ii Adagio (2:21)
6. iii Tempo impetuoso dŽEstate (2:33)
7. i Allegro (5:21)
8. ii Adagio (2:10)
9. iii La caccia (3:12)
10. i Allegro non molto (3:41)
11. ii Largo (3:10)
12. iii Allegro (3:17)
The Devil's Trill Sonata
(Tartini arr.Vanessa-Mae & Pamela Nicholson)
13. i Larghetto, ma non troppo (3:06)
14. ii Allegro Moderato (2:30)
15. iii Grave - Allegro Assai - Grave - Allegro Assai - Grave -
Allegro Assai - Cadenza - Andante - Largo (7:09)
The Devil's Trill (3:38)
From the silent movie "The Violin Fantasy
(Matthew Wilder arr.Vanessa-Mae)
From Walt Disney Picture 36th full length animated feature Disney's Mulan.
'Reflection' also available on 'Disney's Mulan', an original Walt Disney
Buy your Vanessa-Mae CD online with ONE CLICK!
A Review by Vpa
This album is a fresh, refreshing perfomance of a classical standard, The
Four Seasons: a traditional classical work by a performer who has
contempt for traditions. It also has another Italian, Baroque period
(pre-1750) music, Tartini's The Devil's Trill, as both the original sonata
and a techno version. Finishing the album is an arrangement of music
from the movie Mulan, very much in the style of "Happy Valley".
It was released in Europe in November 1998 and in the USA on March 9,
An odd fact: most of the tracks are labeled according to the tempo
in Italian, according to the usual custom of classical music, but
two of the tracks "Tempo impetuoso d'Estate" ("Summer Storm")
and "La caccia" ("The chase") are labeled by the program
Vanessa-Mae performs Tracks 1 to 15 (i.e. The Four Seasons and
the Devil's Trill Sonata, the classical works) with a group of
musicians called the Laureate, lead by Vasko Vassilev. Vasko
Vassilev has appeared before on several of her albums; for
example he was the conductor of the Royal Opera House for
Happy Valley, and he was the "post-production supervisor" for
CLASSICAL ALBUM 1. The liner notes give the full biographies
of Vasko Vassilev and all 15 other members of Laureate. They
each have a lot of accomplishments and experience. This actually
has quite a lot of effect on the final music, since the instruments
other than the solo violin do more in this version than they do
normally, throughout the all of The Four Seasons. They seem a
little bit like a jazz band, jamming together and improvising,
although playing a classical music with classical string
THE FOUR SEASONS
The work was originally composed by Antonio Vivaldi in 1725,
and is his most famous work as well as one of the most famous in
all of classical music. It consists of four concertos, each of three
movements in the traditional fast-slow-fast arrangement. Each
concerto is about one of the seasons of the year: Spring, Summer,
Fall, and Winter. It is a program music, which depicts a story. For
example, certain passages are intended to convey the feeling of
strong winds and lightning, while another passage is about a hunt
in the autumn, and another part gives the feeling of walking on a
frozen pond in winter. Long ago The Four Seasons was
considered a difficult piece for a virtuoso, but today the standards
are much higher.
My reference comparison of The Four Seasons is a recording on
the Sony label, of a 1978 performance by violinist John Holloway,
which I think is a competent but fairly standard one.
Spring has come, and joyfully the birds announce it in happy
song and brooks flow at the breath of zephers with content
murmuring. Meanwhile, the dark sky gathers and there is
thunder and lightning. Afterwards, however, the little birds flock
back and all sing anew.
The first movement "Allegro" (meaning lively) is about the birds
happily announcing the coming of spring. The opening part is
"Spring Awakening". Then the birds sing, the spring fountains
murmur, and a short but mild rainstorm follows. Then the birds
sing some more. The warbling of some of the instruments is like
birds singing, and overall spirit is happy and joyful. From the first
notes, the difference between Vanessa-Mae's version and the
usual version is very obvious. For one thing, the instruments
other than the solo violin do a lot more than usual, making this
music sound much more complex and textured. The opening theme
of Spring's awakening is immediately accompanied by the birds;
usually it is a simple and powerful theme played for a few bars
before the other effects come in. This gives the effect of lots of
birds singing not just one. Timings are different, and notes are
embellished. The purpose of such a different first movement is to
let you immediately be aware that this is not your grandmother's
"The Four Seasons", if you are at all familiar with the usual
performance of The Four Seasons.
Another big difference that is immediately obvious is that
Vanessa-Mae and her colleagues decided to lose the harpsichord,
and do the music purely with bowed instruments. This does a lot
to make the music sound more contemporary, because the
harpsichord - an antique version of the piano -- is so much
associated with baroque music.
The second movement of Spring, "Largo e pianssimo sempre" is
the slow movement. (Concertos are generally in three movements,
of a fast movement, a slow movement, then a fast movement --
especially baroque and classical concertos. Each of Vivaldi's four
seasons follows this pattern.) The program descriptions in the
Sony recording are different and more detailed than the poem in
the liner notes of the VM disk. They say that this movement is
about a sleeping goatherd, rustling of leaves and foilage, and a
The third movement is very much like the first, but perhaps a bit
more stately, and without the effects of the birds. It is about a
The shepard boy awakes, alarmed by the storm and of his fate.
He stirs his weary body, frightened of the vicious lightning and
swarms of gnats and flies. Ah, his fears are all to justified for
thunder shakes the heavens and breaks down the wheat.
The first movement of Summer (i.e. the fourth movement of The
Four Seasons) is the basis of the song "Summer Haze" on
STORM. It is titled "Allegro non molto", a fast movement. It is
about a hazy, lazy, summer afternoon, but one in which winds are
gathering for a storm. Some passages show the winds, and
foreshadow the thunderstorm which is in the last movement of
"Summer", though not as fierce yet, and these early winds stop
and start, and dance around. It is the longest part of "Summer";
the version on STORM was cut back considerably from the
original as well as having different instrumentation. The story
covers a lot of ground: first languor caused by the heat, then the
cuckoo, turtledoves, and goldfinch; then the approaching winds.
The winds are first "a gentle zephyr", then "various winds", then
"the north wind". The movement is concluded by "a young
countryman's lament". The birds, which were done more briefly
and simply on STORM just by having electronic birdsong, are
here represented by various background instruments depicting
different kinds of birds.
The second movement, "Adagio" (slow tempo), is subtitled "Flies
and Bluebottles". Vanessa-Mae skipped this movement on
STORM. It is a short interlude before the dramatic third
movement. The primary violin gives a peaceful feeling -- although
occasionally interrupted by loud, angry strokes representing the
annoying flies and insects that break the peaceful feeling.
The third movement should sound very familiar to anybody who
liked the title track to STORM. Fans of her pop music will be
waiting for the drums to come in after a few notes, but in this
version they don't. The tempo is "Presto" (fast), but for this track,
Vanessa-Mae uses the descriptive title "Tempo impestuoso
d'Estate" (Summer Storm). That subtitle was given by Vivaldi -- so
I was rather surprised to hear Vanessa-Mae answer an interview
question once about how she thought of the name "Storm"
without mentioning this fact. The version of "Summer Storm" on
this album is perhaps even more different from the standard than
the version on STORM was -- a matter of timing and notes being
embellished. All versions of this movement are dramatic and
exciting. Actually, I like the techno-acoustic version of STORM
the best; the drums really add to the effect of this piece.
The hunter goes forth at dawn with trumpets, guns, and angry
dogs. The game flies and they follow in its tracks. Already
exhausted and wounded, and frightened by the clamor of
shotguns and hounds, it tries to escape the fury but is captured
Track nine (first movement of Autumn) returns to the common
theme of The Four Seasons. According to the notes of my Sony
disk, it covers "Dance and song of country folk", then "the toper"
getting drunk, then "the sleeping drunkard".
The short slow movement of Autumn is titled "the sleeping
drunkards", and continues from the end of the 1st movement.
The third movement is about the hunt, which is described in the
poem. Vanessa-Mae's CD titles this movement as "La caccia",
which is Italian for "The Hunt", rather than by its tempo. On the
Sony CD, the movement is titled "Allegro", with the descriptions:
"The hunt", "the fleeing beast", "Guns and Hounds", and "The
fleeing beast is slain" -- pretty much like the poem. The violin
represents the dogs and prancing horses, while a lower voice (a
cello?) represents the beast. The "gun" in Vanessa-Mae's version
is the violin plucked twice; actually more like a bow-and-arrow
than a gun -- it's pretty hard to make a violin really sound like a
gun. Then the "beast" (cello) dies, and the violin line, going back
to the common theme of The Four Seasons, is a triumpant return
of the hunters. Again, Vanessa-Mae's version is quite different
from the usual. Her "dogs" somehow sound more fierce and
relentless; the "gun" is done differently, and the sad part of the
death of the "beast" is much stronger.
Shivering, frozen in the chilling snow and the blasting wind;
Running tirelessly with stamping feet and chattering teeth;
Resting by the fire in contented peace whilst outside the torrent
of rain continues; Walking on ice, with cautious steps for fear of
falling; Running fast until the ice splits and cracks, a gulf
The first movement gives a mood of freezing cold and shivering.
The descriptive titles are "frozen shivering in the icy snow",
"dreadful storm", "running and footstamping because of the
cold", "winds", and "chattering of the teeth".
The second movement of Winter is simply titled "Rain". The solo
violin gives a feeling of piece and contentedness around a cozy
fire, while soft "plinking" (I don't know the technical term) of the
second violin gives a feeling of rain falling outside.
Vanessa-Mae's version is far more extensive than the traditional
one; this movement in her version is twice as long as John
Holloway's, and has a different ending. It is a very emotional
In the final movement, the "slipping and sliding" of the
instruments remind one of ice. Then, "striding boldly one". The
movement closes with a return of the sound of the winds: first
"the siroco", then "the north wind and all other winds" are a
reminder of the storms of Summer.
THE DEVIL'S TRILL
The Devil's Trill Sonata
A sonata is a musical work in three movements, but different from
a concerto because it is for one or several instruments not a
soloist and an orchestra, and not necessarily following the
fast-slow-fast arrangement of a concerto.
The Devil's Trill Sonata is the most famous work of Guiseppe
Tartini, although not nearly such a common work as The Four
Seasons. Vanessa-Mae says that this is because it is very difficult
to play and gives cramps to the violinist's hand. "Trill" is a
musical technique that this piece uses. Tartini, like Vivaldi, was an
Italian composer and violinist of the early 1700s.
Supposedly, the work came to Tartini in a dream. He dreamed that
he was in league with the Devil, and the Devil gave him the most
perfect violin music ever. Upon awaking, Tartini feverishly wrote
down as much as he could. Thus, the name "The Devil's Trill";
also so called because of its difficulty.
The sonata is in three movements. The first movement is a slow
one, the second one is fast, and the final movement is a long one
that has many sections of varying tempo. The third movement
starts out with three repetitions and variations of some passages
of slow, solemn music including the pipe organ in one variation
followed by fast violin music. Then the third movement has long,
elaborate cadenzas which reminds me a bit of the cadenzas in the
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
The liner notes explain that Vanessa-Mae's version of this work
includes a lot of her own re-arrangement. Also, a full pipe organ
has been added for effect. I'm not really familiar with any
recordings of The Devil's Trill and I don't have any other CDs of
it, so I can't comment further except to say that I really like this
The Devil's Trill Techno-Acoustic Version
Vanessa-Mae's pop version of The Devil's Trill uses the major
theme of Tartini's sonata but with drum machine, electronics, etc.
in techno-pop style, much as "Storm" does of the 3rd movement
of "Summer". It's a powerful, inspiring song. It is still recognizably
based on Tartini's work but doesn't follow it closely, other than
taking its major theme. The beginning and end of the song is a
phone ringing. There is also a special effect of the Devil laughing
at the end.
Siemen's SL10 Mobile Phones & "Be Inspired"
The notes say that the techno-acoustic version was originally
composed for an advertising campaign for Siemens SL10 mobile
phone: both the "Be Inspired" advertising campaign and also to
be "a recognizable ringing tone" for the phone. A TV commercial
with Vanessa-Mae and "Devil's Trill" is currently getting lots of
airplay in Europe.
"Reflection" reminds me quite a bit of "Happy Valley" - both
powerful new violin works with a Chinese theme but in the
tradition of Western classical music, both upbeat and energetic
though with some quiet interludes. The music is based on the
story of Mulan (see below). As the liner notes say, it is in a ABA
format: first with a quiet, thoughtful part about Mulan's original
life, then the battle scene, and then the triumphant conclusion.
Connection with Disney's Animated Movie MULAN
This song is Vanessa-Mae's arrangement of part of the
soundtrack of the Disney animated movie "Mulan". The original
version is by Matthew Wilder, and also there is a pop version of it
on the USA soundtrack album of Mulan, which is by a different
artist. Vanessa-Mae contracted with Disney to make a new
version, which is a mini-symphonic poem about the character
Mulan. This new version is being shown as the end title credits
for European showings of the movie.
Vanessa-Mae seems to be heavily involved with the European
marketing for Mulan, which is leading many Europeans to have a
wrong idea that she had a major role in creating the music to this
movie. However, in the USA she is not on the movie credits or on
the soundtrack album. There was a Disney-sponsored concert in
Chicago in the summer of 1998, at which music from Mulan was
played and Vanessa-Mae appeared, but Vanessa-Mae played a
short version of "Fantasy on Turandot" and "Storm" not any
music from the movie.
The cover of the single includes a picture of Mulan as well as a
photo of Vanessa-Mae.
Meaning of the title "THE ORIGINAL FOUR
The version of The Four Seasons on this disk is a radically
different interpretation from the usual, but at the same time the
album is titled "The Original Four Seasons". It is "the original" in
the sense that it returns to the original lively spirit of the music as
intended by Vivaldi. The music of Vivaldi, Tartini, and other
Baroque composers (such as Bach and Handel, roughly
1600-1750; before Classical composers such as Mozart and
Haydn) was incompletely written down. The performers of their
day were expected to improvise and add their own interpretations.
Also, the instruments of that time were different than today's.
What we think of as "standard" performances of these works are
really the 19th century or early 20th century intrepretions of the
music of the 17th or 18th century. Many musicians today realize
that, and there are many groups that perform Baroque or early
music using period instruments and attempt to recreate the
original sound. Vanessa-Mae takes the opposite approach, of
feeling free to improvise and add her own style just as performers
of Vivaldi's time would have done. Thus, "Original".
Antonio Vivaldi is mentioned only in the small print, not on the
I think that the title "THE ORIGINAL FOUR SEASONS" also
distinguishes it from STORM, which is also based on The Four
The liner notes have long discussion about Extemporization
(improvisation) and its role in performance of Baroque music.
They explain that many of today's standard performances of
works such as The Four Seasons are just repetitions of what was
once an exciting extemporization. "The vitality of this music in
Vivaldi's and Tartini's time stemmed in part from the
unexpectedness of extemporization. It is necessary to remember
that this music was written to entertain, and extemporization
was encouraged to increase the entertainment value. It is
refreshing for modern players to apply their own experience,
technique, and personality to this music, bringing back a
The Violin Fantasy
Vanessa-Mae recently made an unusual movie that combines
music, film, and dance, titled The Violin Fantasy. According to my
understanding, it is only 10 minutes long and is a silent movie
with no spoken dialogue. However, it is more than a music video,
because it has a plot and has music from several movements of
Winter of The Four Seasons and Devil's Trill. It sounds
interesting and I hope that I'll be able to see it someday.