Virtual Music Hour

  Vivaldi Archive

  Introduction to Vivaldi The Four Seasons  for Violin and Orchestra, Op.8 Concerto in E major

  Listen to the Music

Movement 1 - Spring

Movement 2 - Summer

Movement 3 - Fall

Movement 4 - Winter


Welcome to Virtual Music Hour. In preparation for your listening experience, Assistant Principal Violist Catherine Beeson has made guides with activities that can be enjoyed alone, with your quarantine buddies at home and online, or with your students. These activities can be mixed, matched, and altered to create an experience that’s right for you, or as inspiration to create your own. Get as creative as you’d like. Share it with us on social media! If you like seeing and hearing the Colorado Symphony musicians online, imagine how uplifting it would be for us to see and hear you too!

Antonio Vivaldi was a prolific composer. His Le Quattro Stagioni, or The Four Seasons, is his most popular work by far. Enjoy getting to know this set of violin concertos and listening to the Colorado Symphony broadcast.

  The Four Seasons is a set of four concertos, music that significantly features a solo instrumentalist, for violin and string orchestra. These concertos were composed in Italy around 1716-1717 and published in Amsterdam in 1725.

  Each concerto is about 10 minutes long and follows a typical three-movement structure of fast-slow-fast (that’s music nerd-speak for: each of the four musical stories lasts about 10 minutes and has three chapters organized in a common way of peppy-contemplative-exciting).

  Vivaldi included an original sonnet specific to each piece, which illustrated the musical elements representative of each season. They are, in order, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and tell of such things as bird calls, a barking dog (viola solo OF COURSE), storms, and icy cold.

  Portions of The Four Seasons appear in commercials, TV and movie soundtracks, and at practically every wedding on a regular basis. There was even a rom-com from 1981 called The Four Seasons that featured much of Vivaldi’s music in the soundtrack like a character unto itself.

  Many arrangements and covers have been made of The Four Seasons, starting with Vivaldi himself. Even J.S. Bach lifted some of it for a concerto of his own. There are thrash metal versions, dance mixes for video games, tango king Astor Piazzolla made The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, The Swingle Singers and Celtic Woman made vocal versions, and Associate Concertmaster Claude Sim’s favorite violinist Vanessa-Mae made a version for electric violin.

Here is the listening map that Vivaldi himself included to guide you through each piece. Read it in advance or while you’re listening and consider the representative sounds he created for each of the scenes in these sonnets.


In English:  Quick

Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are
softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar,
casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence,
and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

In English:  Broad

On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches
rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps,
his faithful dog beside him.

In English:  Quick

Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes,
nymphs and shepherds lightly dance
beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

Vivaldi included descriptive sonnets for each of the concerto “seasons”. He also periodically included descriptive instructions directly into the musical score. This sort of guided extra-musical device is one of the earliest examples of what is called programmatic music — music that illustrates a story, poem, etc.

Listening to music is a linear experience similar to reading a book or watching a movie. Here on the Colorado Symphony’s Virtual Music Hour you can find archived performances and lessons on some programmatic music (for example Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Wagner’s The Ring Without Words) and non-programmatic abstract music (for example Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Schubert’s “Great” C major Symphony.

  Do you think the music listening experience is improved with programmatic elements or best without it in a more abstract form?

  How, and why or why not?   Pro Tip: There’s no “correct” answer for this!

Vivaldi mimicked sounds of nature and made musical representations of weather elements and our sensations associated with environmental changes.

  What do you notice in nature through each of the seasons?

  How do some of those things feel to you?

Make a list of your answers, and then dream up musical sounds that could communicate those things to another person. For example, Vivaldi uses trilling violins to imitate bird calls and lots of very fast notes to give the sensation of shivering from cold. Describe the sounds you’re dreaming up!

  What instruments would play these sounds?

  What kinds of sounds would they play for each of the different answers on your list?

  Can you imagine telling a story with these sounds?

Write a narrative description of your musical representation of nature and how you feel about it. If you’re familiar with music notation, write some of your sound ideas that way.   Pro Tip: Be as specific as possible with your narrative descriptions and notations.

Scan and share your narrative or your music notation on social media and our musicians can record your ideas so you can hear them!

Now that you’ve had a chance to consider, discuss, and get active around Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, it’s time to listen to the Colorado Symphony performance. There are all sorts of ways to engage as a listener, especially when listening at home instead of the concert hall. Try listening for all the representative sounds of nature that Vivaldi incorporates into his music. You can also feel extra free to sing/hum/whistle along, move and dance, journal or draw what you hear, or just turn the volume up and listen for sheer pleasure!



Please share your musical adventure with us through social media! We would love to hear about it or see any of your activities, journaling, or creations!


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