Arranging The Four Seasons for solo harp
Harpist Keziah Thomas talks us through recreating Vivaldi's evocative imagery on her own instrument
As a child of the 80s, my first encounter with The Four Seasons came from my favourite cassette in my grandfather’s meticulously indexed drawer of classical music albums, 'Hooked on Classics'. Vivaldi’s music already sparkles with energy but with the addition of Louis Clark’s disco beats, I was (as K-tel intended) indeed hooked!
Fast forward 25 years and I am sat behind my harp during a recording session of Max Richter’s ‘Recomposed: Vivaldi The Four Seasons’. Struck by how well the looped material from Richter’s harp part fits under the harpist’s fingers and how satisfying it feels to be a part of such an iconic piece of music, I started itching to play some of the solo lines alongside the harmony.
Through my experience of coming to The Four Seasons via arrangements and reworkings, it felt entirely natural to pick up the score and explore the music using my own voice; the harp. I spent a year with the music, arranging each concerto during the relevant season immersed in Vivaldi’s music and his (presumably self-penned) sonnets alongside my own relationship with the cycle of the seasons.
Starting in Winter, the arrangement was influenced by the music I was working on for Christmas concerts such as Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. In the seventh carol, This Little Babe, Britten creates energy and incredible rhythmic drive with repeated chords which the harpist plays with alternating hands. This can be challenging for the player to pull off without catching their nails on vibrating strings but if timed just right and with energetic fingers, the result is exhilarating, and this was just the effect I was searching for to recreate Vivaldi’s picture of stamping feet in in the cold.