Passport
Full Episode
Now Hear This “Vivaldi: Something Completely Different”

Scott Yoo crosses Northern Italy, chasing the story of one of the most recorded pieces of music in the world, Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” and discovers how the composer merged religious melodies, opera and a new level of violin playing to launch a new era of music.

Transcript Print

-Wow.

I'm Scott Yoo.

Join me in Italy to discover the secrets behind one of the greatest pieces of music ever written... What? I thought that Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' didn't have a manuscript.

♪♪ Oh, it's different.

...from the ancient songs that inspired it... to the many composers that it then inspired.

So Bach was a Vivaldi admirer?

Cheers.

I'll take in the famous landscapes and food of Italy... I've never had anything this good.

-This is the art of being a Southern Italian.

-...meeting renowned musicians, singers, and violin makers.

This is very special.

They don't make them like this anymore. Do they?

-Genius is genius.

-Along the way, I'll learn how Vivaldi gathered the sounds of his country... That's like a bagpipe.

...and captured in his masterpiece.

I get the chills reading Vivaldi's handwriting.

Then I'll hear and play some of his other great works, which were nearly lost to history.

-It's rock 'n' roll, like Elvis. -Really?

-Yes.

-Next on 'Great Performances,' an episode from the new music series 'Now Hear This.'

♪♪ ♪♪ -Wow.

[ Choir singing in foreign language ] ♪♪ Venice -- Antonio Vivaldi was born here in this amazing city on the sea before Beethoven, before Mozart, even before Bach.

Though he wrote more than 500 works, he's most famous for one, 'The Four Seasons.'

I was here to get to know it in all new ways, and I'd start by looking at something completely different.

Less than a month ago, a new Vivaldi work was discovered.

Grazie, Signore.

[ Choir continues singing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ What you're seeing is not just the first time this piece has been filmed, but the first time in 3 centuries it's even been heard.

300 years after his death, a sold-out crowd is here for a Vivaldi premiere.

How could that be?

Well, Vivaldi was only recently discovered.

Nearly all his music was lost, but that's a story for later.

[ Choir singing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Applause ] Vivaldi wrote many religious works like this one.

That's at least partly because he began his life not as a composer, but as a priest.

♪♪ I wanted to know more about Vivaldi's sacred music, and for that, I had to go to church.

♪♪ ♪♪ My friend, Margherita Gianola, is the organist at one of the oldest churches in Venice.

Basilica dei Frari was built in the 1300s.

When Vivaldi was here, it was already 3 centuries old.

Most of his sacred music was lost for centuries, but the few who do know it say it's as profound as the religious music of Bach.

♪♪ Margherita.

How are you? I'll come around.

Hi, Margherita. -Ciao, Scott.

-How are you? -Well, thank you, and you?

-I was listening to you play as I walked in.

Is that Vivaldi?

-Vivaldi, but Vivaldi has written nothing for organ, but this is Vivaldi because it is the transcription by Johann Sebastian Bach.

-Okay. Now I understand.

-He liked very much music by Vivaldi.

-So Bach was a Vivaldi admirer.

-Yes, an admirer.

-I just arrived in Venice today, actually.

This is my first time here, and I came to Venice to research the Vivaldi 'Four Seasons.'

-Si, yes.

-That was written here in Venice, I assume.

-No, no, no.

He wrote them when he was in Mantua.

-Okay. -It is in the countryside.

-So I came to Venice to study 'The Four Seasons,' and what I learned is I have to go to the countryside... -Yes, really.

-...to find out about 'The Four Seasons.'

-But 'Four Seasons' is the most recorded work in the world.

-Mm. I'm not surprised.

And this instrument that you're playing here -- tell me about this instrument.

It looks very old.

-Yes, here in the Church of Frari, we have three organs, but it is the oldest in Venice.

It was built in 1732.

-Oh, my God. -That is to say, before the death of Vivaldi. -Vivaldi, right.

-Because he died in 1741. -Wow.

-And we have the keyboard, the original keyboard.

It is very small. -Oh, my God.

-Look at -- and Vivaldi has written some pieces for organ and the violin and orchestra string.

We can play the second movement, where the orchestra don't play.

We can play together if you like.

-Great, I'd love to do that. Okay. Let me get my violin.

♪♪ ♪♪ Imagine Vivaldi as a boy, being taught by his father, a violinist in the church orchestra.

What music do you think he first learned?

It must have been the hymns.

♪♪ Imagine a teenage Vivaldi training for the priesthood for 10 years, and listening that whole time to the beautiful, simple, vocal music of the church.

♪♪ ♪♪ When I was playing this music, something came to me.

The singing melodies like this one that he's famous for came not from Vivaldi the composer, but from Vivaldi the priest.

♪♪ You can hear his religious training in almost everything else he wrote.

In understanding 'The Four Seasons,' this was my first clue.

♪♪ The next day, I was off to the countryside to look for more clues, and there's no Italian countryside that quite compares to Tuscany.

♪♪ I went there to meet my friends from Duo Baldo at their favorite restaurant, Villa Conti.

Part of what makes them Italy's best musical comedians is that they're true experts in Italian music.

-We took the liberty of ordering you something.

-Excuse me. -Oh, fantastic. Oh, my God.

Look at it. -This is... -Enjoy. -...Italian antipasto.

-Yeah. -Wow.

-Scott. -Cheers.

-It's always great to see you, man.

-Cheers. -To Vivaldi.

-That's right. -To Vivaldi.

♪♪ -This antipasto is just like what you eat in the States except that each individual piece is the best you've ever had, right?

-Yes. -It's incredible.

-Incredible. Each is so unique and so different from... -Oh! I've never had anything this good.

-This is the art of being a Southern Italian.

-Mm-hmm, you're lucky. -Oh.

-Il prima, cavatelli al pesto.

-Wow.

-So these are cavatelli with pesto.

-Pesto alla Genovese. -And it's fresh-made pasta.

-Buon appetito.

-Buon appetito. Grazie.

♪♪ -Mmm. -This is fantastic.

So light. -Yeah, and so light.

-It's so tasty. -Well, the secret to Italian cooking is really the simplicity, but the base products have to be such a certain quality.

-Well, it's like a violin -- it's just spruce, maple, some ebony, some glue, and what's in that varnish?

-That's it. -Yeah, what's in that varnish?

-That's it, nothing. -A little imagination.

I came to talk to Aldo about something Vivaldi did that was completely revolutionary.

He based 'The Four Seasons' on poetry that describes the Italian countryside, writing the music to mimic the sounds of nature.

-He loved opera very much, and this is like an instrumental opera in four acts.

-Beautiful. -Right.

-So let's start from the beginning.

'Giunt' è la primavera,' spring has arrived, so it's just...How do you say -- 'la presentazione'? -Yeah, the presentation. -Presentation.

-It sort of... -But then it comes down on something specific -- 'e festosetti -- La Salutan gl' Augei con lieto canto' -- and joyfully, the birds greet her, the spring, with glad song, and you can see here in the score, he describes the birds. -Those -- The trilling -- -They're singing. -The trilling violins.

-Yeah. -Right.

-Right, and the little scales.

And then, 'E i fonti allo Spirar de' Zeffiretti con dolce mormorio Scorrono intanto,' and the streams, a zephyr's breath flow forth, and here you have a section.

You see this... -This movement.

-...these notes going just like the river flows.

'Vengon' coprendo l' aer di nero amanto, e lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti,' and now there come the thunder and lightning, and the music also reflects it with this... -Thundering tremolos. -Yeah.

-Yeah.

-Notes and this scale going upwards.

[ Trilling ] -[ Laughs ] -Why are you laughing?

And then, at the end of this... -Thunder and lightning. -Spring storm system.

-...spring storm, yeah... -Mm-hmm.

-...the birds come back to their enchanted singing.

-Singing. -That's the first movement?

-That's the first movement. -Okay.

♪♪ -Second movement, the 'Largo' -- 'E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato al caro mormorio di fronde e piante -- dorme 'l caprar col fido can' à lato.'

On the... -[ Speaking Italian ] -Yeah, the flowered fields.

-Yeah, on flowered fields... -Landscape.

-...sleeps the goatherd with his trusted dog.

We have the -- the dog barking, a viola.

-Can you sing that, Aldo? It's a great line.

-[ Bleating ] -[ Laughs ] -It's beautiful. -I know.

[ Dog barks ] ♪♪ -Aldo, could you tell the shepherd it's incredible?

But his dog barks the same C-sharp that the piece starts with.

-That's amazing. -Yeah.

-[ Speaking Italian ] ♪♪ -[ Laughs ] -That's fantastic. Good dog.

♪♪ -And then it says, 'Scioglie il Cucco la Voce,' the cuckoo sings, and inside the musical figure, there is the... -Cuckoo. -...the cuckoo, the third, the minor third.

Cuckoo, cuckoo.

-I asked our engineer to record some sounds.

-Over this way? -Yeah, and, like, you know, like, sticking -- sticking your boom in there and then seeing if we can get a cuckoo.

-Yeah. [ Birds chirping ] -You know, one of the things I think is kind of cool about this piece is that it's virtuosic, but it's -- it's... The passage is describing a very sort of primitive animal, this cuckoo, right?

-Yeah. -And it's just two notes... [ Notes play ] ...but he adds enough notes, enough other notes to make it sound cool, right? -Right.

♪♪ And then you have... ♪♪ Then you have... ♪♪ And then I have... ♪♪ ♪♪ Then we have together... [ Orchestra plays ] ♪♪ Like Aldo said, with the poems as their story line, 'The Four Seasons' are an instrumental opera, and Vivaldi's instrument was the violin.

He was the greatest player of his time.

To push the instrument into new territory as he did with 'The Four Seasons,' first, the violin had to be capable of going there.

Luckily, Vivaldi was alive at the same time as Antonio Stradivari, the Great Stradivarius.

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Bell tolling ] To find out more, I went to see one of Italy's best modern violin makers, Igor Moroder.

As an apprentice, Igor trained under a master famous for being able to adjust the violin to produce its best sound.

Now he's the master himself, and I needed a little work done.

Hi, Igor. -Hi. Good morning, Scott.

-How are you? -Fine.

-Thanks for seeing me.

-Please, come in. -Thank you.

-How do you do? -I'm doing great.

My violin spent a little time outside.

So it needs to be adjusted, I think.

-Yeah, yeah. -Would you mind?

-I try it, and then I tell you more.

Hmm, great.

-So, do you need to move the post around?

What do you think?

-Let's try.

♪♪ -Inside the violin, the sound post, a wooden dowel held in place by pressure only, allows the front and back of the violin to communicate with each other.

A long plane flight or change in humidity can cause the post to shift.

An expert who knows just how to move it, sometimes by less than a millimeter, can make a very noticeable difference in the sound.

[ Notes play ] ♪♪ -Over here, a string... -There are not -- There are very few people who can do this right.

♪♪ -It's singing more this way. Yeah.

That's the right place for me, just... -Wow. Can I try it? -Yeah, please.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Wow. -Mm. It's a bit more round.

-Fantastic. -It's -- It's... -I don't think this violin has sounded better.

It's really a great adjustment. Thank you.

-[ Chuckles ] Yes.

-You know, Igor, when Brahms was writing his first symphony, he said that it was very difficult for him because Beethoven was looking over his shoulder.

-Now, you're here in Italy, and you're making violins.

Is it difficult having Guarneri del Gesu and Stradivari looking over your shoulder? -Of course.

-Do you feel pressure? -Nobody is able to make today a violin with such sound qualities like they could.

Stradivari was born after five generations of violin-making tradition in Cremona.

Okay?

The genius of Stradivarius was he concentrated the common experience made in generations in one man, but the violin making died in Italy in the first years of the 19th century, so nobody knows today exactly what they did in former times, and if you see here, for instance, that's interesting -- I show you something.

After everything is finished, the neck has been fitted in the box and then varnished, and the varnish, that's the real nightmare.

You put a varnish on today which has been cooked 10 years before because varnish has to season like an old wine.

-Varnish before you apply it has to be seasoned?

-Yes. I use varnish I cooked 20 years ago in '96... -Oh, my God. -...when I was younger.

Now, this varnish, when I put it on a violin today, maybe I have to wait another 10 or 20 years to say if this varnish is good or not.

Hmm? That means this time lag is 30, 40 years.

-Wow. -A life is not enough to become a good violin maker, no way.

-Right. -Yeah.

Maybe if all my knowledge, my researches, could be given in one step to a young violin maker, he will maybe reach to a higher level than I could during a whole lifetime.

You see? Could be.

♪♪ -The transfer of knowledge from master to apprentice over generations is what made Stradivari great and how Igor learned his craft, but that system mostly died when Napoleon invaded Italy.

In Stradivari's hometown of Cremona, they're trying to rebuild it.

There are now 200 violin makers here.

Many came from other countries to learn and never left.

Brad and I were here to play their violins.

I've played new fiddles from Washington state and Michigan and New York, but I've never actually gotten to play a new fiddle from Cremona.

This is kind of exciting.

-Oh, very exciting.

♪♪ [ Scraping ] [ Scraping continues ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -I have one of these, but it's for working on my car.

-Yes? -[ Laughing ] Yeah.

How many weeks away is she away from having a finished violin?

[ Both speaking Italian ] -Two weeks. -Two. Two.

-Mm. -It's a lot of work.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ All these makers were once apprentices training with masters.

They're now the third generation since the violin-building school was reborn here in the 1930s.

♪♪ Where did you get all this wood?

-Some parts -- I went to Northern Italy to get this spruce because it's the best one of the world.

-Northern Italy's spruce is the best?

-Yeah, yeah, and in the city, I can get everything I want.

-May I touch this? -Yeah, yeah.

-So this piece here is 1980. -Yeah, yeah.

-This is spruce from 1980.

-Yeah, about 40 years old already.

-It's amazing. -Yes.

-So will you make a violin out of this at some point?

-Yeah, next violin, I will use this piece.

-Uh-huh. -And then here, the maple like this, I find them in 2015, but it was already 30 years old.

-Wow, that's really impressive.

♪♪ ♪♪ Luca Salvadori is recognized as one of the best makers in Cremona.

♪♪ ♪♪ That sound is just fabulous.

I mean, it feels like an old instrument.

-Thank you. -How did you do that?

-[ Laughs ] -[ Chuckles ] -Many things. [ Both laugh ] -Did you learn that here in Cremona?

-Yeah. -Uh-huh.

It's extraordinary, but this is very special.

♪♪ How much is this instrument?

-The price? -Yes.

-30,000 Euro. -Okay.

-13, tredici? -No, not 13.

-Trenta? -Trenta.

-Trenta? -Si, signore.

♪♪ -If you want something good, you have to pay.

My last stop was a husband-and-wife team.

He's from Mexico and specializes in cellos.

She's from Switzerland and is known for violins.

[ Scraping ] It's difficult. It's -- It's -- It's -- You have to use a lot of force.

-You have to find the right angle.

-The right angle, right.

-Yes.

[ Scraping lightly ] -Okay.

[ Laughs ] These are probably similar tools to what Stradivari used when he was making violins.

-Yes. -It's not that much different, right? -No, not much.

-No. -No.

-Are made better, but are the same kind of tools, the gouge, the chisels, knives.

-One thing that Stradivari has on you is just time.

-Yes.

-He has 250 years of an advantage.

-Yes. -Yeah.

These are all high-level builders, but are any of them the next Stradivari?

We'll know in 40 years once their violins have had time to mature.

If not them, maybe their students or their students' students.

For now, I wanted to play the same Vivaldi movement on the four different violins that I tried.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Bell tolling ] [ Choir singing ] ♪♪ If Stradivari had built and Vivaldi had played, say, the oboe, orchestras today might look very different.

Instead, together, they made the violin the leading instrument of classical music and changed the direction of music forever.

The violin has always been a part of my life.

I started playing when I was 3, so it's easy even for me to forget that it didn't always exist.

♪♪ ♪♪ Before Stradivari, instruments were more primitive, and the human voice was still the most capable of them all.

♪♪ ♪♪ In the medieval town of Siena, I was headed to the Accademia Chigiana, the most celebrated music conservatory in all of Italy.

I was here to listen to the early music that Vivaldi must have heard and been influenced by.

[ Choir singing ] ♪♪ Joining me was the famous countertenor Alessandro Carmignani, along with Antonio Artese, the musicologist and jazz pianist.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Bravo, that was great. [ Applause ] Bravo.

[ Applause continues ] [ Note plays ] -Mm.

♪♪ -This instrument, the hurdy-gurdy, is part early violin, part early keyboard, and part alley cat.

I think we can all be happy that something better came along.

♪♪ [ Conversing in foreign language ] [ Rhythmic percussion plays ] [ Rhythmic percussion continues ] -[ Singing in Italian ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Antonio was going to walk me through the transition from early music to Vivaldi and onward, all the way to jazz.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Antonio Artese, thank you so much for being here with me.

-Thank you. -It's really great... I mean, this is just a gorgeous room.

-Absolutely. And a gorgeous... -You like this piano?

-What's the story behind this piano?

-You know what this piano is?

Well, I can play some hint, a musical hint for you.

[ Soft piano music plays ] ♪♪ -Are you kidding? -Yeah.

-This is Liszt's piano? -That's Liszt's piano.

-Holy [bleep]. Oh, oops. I'm sorry. [ Laughter ] -All right.

-Antonio, you took us all the way to 20th-century jazz, which just blows my mind, but how do we get from Renaissance music to the baroque?

Was it the improvement in technology of instruments that led composers to write more instrumental music, or did the interest in instrumental music force makers like Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu to make better instruments? What came first?

-Well, it happened that, you know, first of all, I mean, the instruments were a little more... The technology came, you know, and helped us, you know, so I think that the technology evolved, the instruments evolve, and the capacity and the invention and the visions of the composers merged into that kind of, you know, ability that the instruments have.

-What you're saying is that, I mean [sighs] guys like the Amati family, Stradivari, they're making these great instruments, and they're inspiring in some ways people like Vivaldi and other baroque composers to write instrumental music... -Absolutely.

-...because the technology is there.

-Absolutely. Because they sound good, and the technology was... -Because they sound good.

-Yeah, and then they were able to envision the sound.

They were able to envision -- You know, Vivaldi is so visual.

It's like a, you know, constant soundtrack... -Right. -...if we look at it, you know?

He looks... I mean, he was in this world, and everything was so natural to him.

We don't have, you know, the mental depth of the counterpoint that Bach elaborated.

Bach was very fond of Vivaldi, obviously.

I think the genius of Vivaldi is in taking a melody and very fresh, very inventive, with an incredible amount of variations and giving us the freshness, I mean, to kind of approach it... Allows us to enjoy the music.

Okay, so here's the Vivaldi melody 'La Follia.'

The Sonata number one, opus one, number 12.

♪♪ -But what if Bach wrote that?

What would that sound like? -Oh, it'd sound like this.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Did you just make that up on the spot?

-Oh, yeah. That's totally an improvisation from me.

-[ Laughs ] Good for you.

I wish I had that kind of a mind.

-Thank you.

-So obviously Bach had a huge influence on... -On anyone. -...Mozart.

-Yeah. -He had an influence on Beethoven and Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, so there kind of is a link from Vivaldi to all of those composers.

-Yeah, I mean, you know, obviously, I compare this to the DNA.

You know, you have a cell of DNA you bring always with you -- with your change, I mean, obviously, I mean, you morph into something else, but you still keep the kind of original freshness and pattern that characterize your inner thing, so, for instance, this theme can be interpreted in a different way, so let's say that Mozart was writing, you know, was maybe a variation on them.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Beautiful.

What about Beethoven?

-Ah, that's a difficult one. -[ Laughs ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -How many composers do you have in you?

-Oh. [ Chuckles ] I don't know, but we can try some Romantic stuff.

♪♪ -[ Laughs ] ♪♪ ♪♪ Okay. If we skip over the 12 tone and the Second Viennese School [laughs] what about like someone like Bill Evans?

♪♪ [ Laughs ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ So, Vivaldi inspired Bach, who inspired everyone after that.

Maybe this is why Vivaldi sounds so good to us to this day.

He's always been with us in other music, and I think we can recognize it whenever we hear him, but we almost didn't hear him.

♪♪ 100 years ago, Vivaldi was all but forgotten because most of his music had been lost.

Then, one day, in 1926, a priest brought a box to the Turin Library.

In it was the greatest musical discovery of the 20th century.

♪♪ -Hey, Scott. -Hey, Brad. How are you doing?

-We have something to show you.

-Oh, I can't wait. -Hi. Ana.

-Ana. -Benvenuto.

-Franca. Benvenuto. -Franca.

-Franco. -Franco.

-Scott, Ana, and Franca are the curators of this collection.

-Okay. -They're responsible for all of Vivaldi's manuscripts.

-Oh.

-And 92% of Vivaldi's manuscripts are in this room.

-92%? -92%. -92% of Vivaldi's music is in this room?

-Maybe more than 92%. -Oh, my God. -Yes.

-Oh, my God.

Franca, what are you showing me here?

-'Il Giustino.' -What?

I thought that Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' didn't have a manuscript.

-Yeah, the manuscript of 'The Four Seasons' is lost.

-Okay. -But if you see... -Oh, this is a little different.

-Yes, because he uses in the 'Giustino' and opera... -Uh-huh. -...the beginning of the spring.

-Oh, wait. Let me try this. I want to try this a little bit.

Wow.

♪♪ ♪♪ Oh, it's different.

[ Laughter ] ♪♪ ♪♪ That's amazing. That's amazing. That's great.

It's beautiful.

It's... It's -- I get the chills playing Vivaldi's music reading Vivaldi's handwriting.

That's amazing.

The discovery of these manuscripts, over 90% of Vivaldi's life's work, made him the household name you know today.

It included dozens of operas.

Vivaldi's operas sometimes borrowed melodies from his other music.

Are there other things I can see here?

Are there violin concertos, for example?

-Yes. Do you like 'L'Amoroso'? -Oh, that's my favorite one.

[ Laughter ] ♪♪ [ Conversation in Italian ] -When I was 4 years old, I used to climb up my parents' dresser to play their record of 'L'Amoroso,' the love concerto.

They weren't musicians, but they loved music.

More than 'The Four Seasons,' it's the piece from Vivaldi that I've loved most.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Wow.

♪♪ When the priest brought this collection to Turin, it had been donated to his church, and he had no idea of what it was.

Luckily, the library did.

Raise money for his church. -Yes.

-Sure.

-Mm-hmm. -Great.

-Importance... to keep them together.

-So, in the case of this collection, if it were a different priest, we may not be looking at these books right now.

-Yes, yes.

-[ Speaking Italian ] -I kind of understand. -They consider their library as sort of the new home of Vivaldi.

-Well, you are the guardian of Vivaldi's music.

-Yes.

-If the priest had sold this collection to music dealers as he planned, they would have divided it and sold it to private collectors, and Vivaldi's music, like 'L'Amoroso,' may never have been discovered.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Vehicle approaching ] ♪♪ ♪♪ In nearby Bergamo, Igor found me a Stradivari violin to play.

It's owned by a Swiss bank and is now for sale for $15 million.

The mayor wanted to bring it to me himself to play at the Church of San Pietro.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Signore, buon giorno.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Looks very nice, huh? -Yeah, looks... -In very, very good condition, too, no?

-Well preserved. -Yeah.

♪♪ Let's try if it works and... ♪♪ Good. -Feels good?

-Yeah.

♪♪ -Mm.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ That's... -That's... -There's nothing like a Strad.

-You hear the quality of this incredible violin.

-They don't make them like this anymore, do they?

-No, no way.

Genius is genius.

-He was the best in 1714. -Yes.

-He was the best in 1737, when he died, and he's still the best.

-And he will stay the best.

-I think I'd like to play a couple of notes on this.

-Yeah, yeah.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Playing this Vivaldi melody on a violin like this in a place like this, and it hit me again -- Vivaldi was not just a composer.

He was a deeply religious man elevating his instrument to touch the divine.

♪♪ [ Wind whooshing ] My last stop was back to Venice to better understand the other side of Vivaldi, his opera, with one of Italy's best sopranos, Maria Luigia Borsi.

The aria I wanted to play is from another opera inspired by 'The Four Seasons,' this time, the first movement of 'Winter.'

So, Vivaldi was from Venice.

-Yes, right. -But he saw this.

He saw that. -Yes.

-He saw that. -That's amazing.

Yes. -It's amazing.

Of course, as a violinist, I know about, you know, 'The Four Seasons' and violin concertos, but how many operas did he write?

-Vivaldi wrote a lot of opera, 94 opera.

-That's a lot. -Yeah, that's a lot -- it's true. -Wow.

-But they have discovered just 40, 50... -So less than half? -Half, half, just half.

-94 operas? -Yes.

-And we only know about 40 of them.

-Yes, just 40, and one was discovered in 2008.

-Really? -Yes, and another in 2012.

-Really? -Yeah.

-So they're finding these things all the time.

-Yeah. -That's strange.

We could find one next week. -Maybe. Yes.

-That's crazy. And we have 50 more to go.

Hopefully -- Hopefully, they'll find some of these... Do you sing any of them yourself?

-No, not really, not really. -Do you sing any of the arias?

-Just arias, yes, some, of course, I sang some arias from... -Have you ever sang that really pretty aria from 'Farnace'? -Yes.

-Would you like to play it with us?

-Why not? -Yeah. Let's do it.

-It's a very good -- beautiful. -It's awesome.

-Oh, so modern. -What do you mean by modern?

-I think it's very modern because, mm, because of the feeling.

-Sort of the pain in the music? -Yes, the pain... -The sadness? -...but also the rebellions.

-Uh-huh. -I can hear the... I can feel the rebellion in this kind of music, the fire in some way.

That's why I think it's rock and... -It's what? It's rock?

-Rock, rock, yes. -Rock 'n' roll?

-Rock 'n' roll, like Elvis. -Really?

-Yes. [ Both laugh ] Yes, because you can hear the heart, the beat of the heart... -The heart. -[ Breathing rhythmically ] -Also, the intensity.

-Well, that sounds like a role you would typically sing.

-Yes, yes, yeah. -Well, let's go do it.

-Yes. Let's go. -Okay. [ Laughs ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -[ Singing in Italian ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -With this, my understanding of 'The Four Seasons' snapped into focus.

Its melodies are inspired by the church, yet delivered with opera-like drama.

'The Four Seasons' is Vivaldi's two opposing musical passions, the church and the opera, brought together by his virtuosity.

It's a sacred instrumental opera with the violin as the star.

I'm Scott Yoo, and I hope you can now hear this.

-To order 'Now Hear This' on DVD or the companion CD, visit shopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.

♪♪ ♪♪ To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit pbs.org/greatperformances, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Next time on 'Great Performances,' come with me to meet the greatest musician of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach.

-This is him. -Definitely.

-His violin music is some of the most difficult in existence.

I have to make pretzels out of my fingers.

To play it, I'll need to understand his personality.

-This is a riddle.

You need to figure out what it means.

-What I discover along the way will change my mind about Bach forever.

Next time on 'Great Performances,' another episode of 'Now Hear This.'