Vivaldi – The Four Seasons

by Max Derrickson

Antonio Vivaldi     (b March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy; d July 28, 1741 inVienna,Austria)

The Four Seasons, Concertos for Violin, Op. 8, Nos. 1-4
I.“Spring” Concerto in E-major
1. Allegro
2. Largo e pianissimo sempre
3. Allegro

II. “Summer” Concerto in G-minor
1. Allegro non molto
2. Adagio
3. Presto

III. “Autumn” Concerto in F-major
1. Allegro
2. Adagio molto
3. Allegro

IV. “Winter” Concerto in F-minor
1. Allegro non molto
3. Allegro

In Venice, just down the quayside from St. Mark’s Square, stands a building called Ospedale della Pieta on whose outer walls there is a hole just big enough to stick a bowling pin through.  Underneath reads a plaque which damns to hell the person who slips any infant other than a true orphan through that small passage to the indoors.  In this orphanage worked Vivaldi for most of his life, where he taught the girls who slipped through how to play music.  It was also here that he composed his incomparable The Four Seasons.

Besides teaching, Vivaldi was a virtuoso violinist as well as composer, and of his 500-plus concertos, 221 are for violin written most likely for himself.  Although it’s unknown when the concertos of The Four Seasons were composed, they were first published in 1725 in a larger set titled The Test of Harmony and Invention.  Since then they have become so famous as to almost eclipse the composer himself — so rich in tunefulness and inventiveness, so exceptional in their virtuoso violin solos – indeed, their inspired beauty nearly defy time, place and composer.

One lesser known aspect of the Seasons is that the orchestral parts are accompanied by detailed programs (storylines) which explain many of this timeless masterpiece’s ingeniously clever musical moments.  In the original 1725 publication Vivaldi even provided four of his own seasonally corresponding sonnets. As an example of this program-music,
[. . .]

Antonio Vivaldi’s Sonnets to the Four Seasons


  1. Spring has come and joyfully the birds greet it with happy song, and the brooks, while the streams flow along with gentle murmur as the zephyrs blow. There come, shrouding the air with a black cloak, lighting and thunder chosen to herald [the storm]; then, when these are silent, the little birds return to their melodious incantations.
  2. And now, in the pleasant, flowery meadow, to the soft murmur of leaves and plants, the goatherd sleeps with his faithful dog at his side.
  3. To the festive sound of a pastoral bagpipe, nymphs and shepherds dance under their beloved roof, greeting the glittering arrival of the spring.

[. . .]