Variations • Vivaldi's Four Seasons

The Czech Philharmonic, together with the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, brings a special project Variations. This project combines music, film, and the unique atmosphere of Karlovy Vary. Members of the Czech Philharmonic and the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra will perform The Four Seasons at the colonnade.


Antonio Vivaldi
The Four Seasons, Four Concertos for Violin and String Orchestra Op. 8


Chamber orchestra of members of the Czech Philharmonic and the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra

Jakub Sedláček artistic director of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra

Jiří Vodička violin, artistic director of Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Variations • Vivaldi's Four Seasons

Karlovy Vary — Colonnade

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Jiří Vodička  violin

Jiří Vodička

Jiří Vodička, concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic, soloist and chamber musician, is one of the finest and most sought-after Czech violinists. An extremely gifted child, he made a name for himself by winning numerous prizes, notably in the Jaroslav Kocian International Violin Competition, the Prague Junior Note and Slovakia’s Čírenie talentov. In 2002, he came first in the Beethoven’ Hradec International Violin Competition, and received a prize for best pupil at Václav Hudeček’s violin classes. He later performed with Hudeček at dozens of concerts throughout the Czech Republic. In 2004, he became overall winner of the International Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists in Weimar. In 2008, he gained first and second prizes at the prestigious Young Concert Artists competition in Leipzig and New York.

At the tender age of 14, Jiří Vodička enrolled at the Institute for Art Studies at the University of Ostrava, where he studied under the renowned teacher Prof. Zdeněk Gola, graduating with a master’s degree in 2007.

Jiří Vodička has regularly performed as a soloist with a host of leading orchestras in the Czech Republic and further afield, including the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Philharmonia, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra,  the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen. He has worked with Jiří Bělohlávek, Jakub Hrůša, Tomáš Netopil and other top conductors.

In 2014, he made his debut solo album, Violino Solo, released on Supraphon. Featuring some of the most challenging compositions for solo violin, it met with a positive critical response in the Czech Republic and elsewhere. Many of his concerts have been broadcast by Czech Television, Czech Radio and Germany’s ARD.

As a chamber musician, he has performed with the major Czech pianists Martin Kasík, Ivo
Kahánek, Ivan Klánský and Miroslav Sekera. In 2011, he was invited by the celebrated violinist Gidon Kremer to appear at his Kammermusikfest in Lockenhaus, Austria, together with many world-famous artists. He has regularly performed at such prominent festivals as the Prague Spring, Janáček’s May, the Grand Festival of China, the Hohenloher Kultursommer, and the Choriner Musiksommer. Since 2012, he has been a member of the Smetana Trio, with whom he has recorded two acclaimed CDs for Supraphon (BBC Music Magazine Award and Diapason d’Or).

In 2015, he was named concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic. He teaches at the Prague Conservatory and at Ostrava University.

Jiří Vodička plays a violin made by Joseph Gagliano in 1767.


Antonio Vivaldi
The Four Seasons, Four Concertos for Violin and String Orchestra Op. 8


A Contest between Harmony and Invention – that is what the Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi called his most famous collection of violin concertos published in Amsterdam in 1725. At first a successful composer of sacred music and opera, within fifteen years of the enthusiastic reception of the collection L’estro armonico (Harmonic Fancy), Op. 3, he won Europe-wide fame as a pioneer of the instrumental concerto. The collections that followed, Op. 4 (La Stravaganza), Op. 5 (violin sonatas), Op. 6 and 7 (violin concertos), which came out in rather poor printed editions, were surpassed by Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (A Contest between Harmony and Invention), Op. 8. This collection contains mature, virtuosic concertos for solo violin, documenting the composer’s uniqueness. It is divided into two parts with six compositions each. In the first part, Vivaldi assigned each concerto a descriptive title indicating its character or even a storyline. Besides La tempesta di mare (A Tempest at Sea) a Il piacere (Pleasure), there are the four most famous of all – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. In the second part of the collection, only one concerto has a title and a programme – La caccia (The Hunt).

The Four Seasons is a groundbreaking cycle, which brings an entirely new concept: describing and narrating action using the abstract language of instrumental music. There are onomatopoetic descriptions of a babbling brook, birdsong, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, a storm, and a frozen landscape. The programme of The Four Seasons is uniquely described in four sonnets by an unknown poet that accompany the score. There are disputes over whether the music was composed to the sonnets or vice versa, but it cannot be ruled out that Vivaldi wrote the poems himself. Directly in the score, the composer marked references to corresponding passages in the sonnets.

A fact of local significance to Czechs is that Vivaldi dedicated the collection to Count Václav Morzin in Prague, who had earlier appointed Vivaldi as his “Musical maestro in Italy” – an honorary title that required to supply him with some compositions from time to time. According to dedication at the beginning of the printed collection, Morzin knew The Four Seasons long before they were published and that Vivaldi had already sent the count the cycle in manuscript as a piece for Morin’s ensemble’s repertoire. In the dedication, Vivaldi literally apologises to Morzin for now dedicating to him something he had already given him (or sold him – in those days, humbling dedications to aristocrats were connected with a financial reward). “Please do not be surprised that amongst these few humble concertos, Your Eminence also finds The Four Seasons, which have so long enjoyed the noble favour of Your Eminence kind generosity. You may believe that I found it appropriate to have them printed, because while they remain the same, I have added to them sonnets and even very clear explanations of everything contained in them, so I am sure they will appear new to you,” writes Vivaldi in the introduction to the collection.

The special relationship between Count Morzin and the great Italian composer is a unique phenomenon in the musical scene of Bohemia of the first half of the eighteenth century. The reason for the contact between them was Morzin’s interest in music and his effort to build up and maintain an excellent musical ensemble. Its activities, members, and repertoire are being thoroughly researched from the preserved materials, and scholars are discovering the great ability of Morzin’s musicians as creative artists and performers. The virtuosity of Vivaldi’s cycle is one proof of this.