The Four Seasons (Vivaldi)

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The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a group of four violin concerti by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, each of which gives a musical expression to a season of the year. They were written about 1723 and were published in 1725 in Amsterdam, together with eight additional violin concerti, as Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione ("The Contest Between Harmony and Invention").

The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi's works. Unusually for the time, Vivaldi published the concerti with accompanying poems (possibly written by Vivaldi himself) that elucidated what it was about those seasons that his music was intended to evoke. It provides one of the earliest and most-detailed examples of what was later called program music—music with a narrative element.

Vivaldi took great pains to relate his music to the texts of the poems, translating the poetic lines themselves directly into the music on the page. In the middle section of the Spring concerto, where the goatherd sleeps, his barking dog can be marked in the viola section. Other natural occurrences are similarly evoked. Vivaldi separated each concerto into three movements, fast-slow-fast, and likewise each linked sonnet into three sections. His arrangement is as follows:

List of concertos and movements[edit]

  • Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, "La primavera" (Spring)
    1. Allegro (in E major)
    2. Largo e pianissimo sempre (in C-sharp minor)
    3. Allegro pastorale (in E major)
  • Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, "L'estate" (Summer)
    1. Allegro non molto (in G minor)
    2. Adagio e piano – Presto e forte (in G minor)
    3. Presto (in G minor)
  • Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293, "L'autunno" (Autumn)
    1. Allegro (in F major)
    2. Adagio molto (in D minor)
    3. Allegro (in F major)
  • Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter)
    1. Allegro non molto (in F minor)
    2. Largo (in E-flat major)
    3. Allegro (in F minor)

Sonnets and allusions[edit]

There is some debate as to whether the four concertos were written to accompany four sonnets or vice versa.[1] Though it is not known who wrote these sonnets, there is a theory that Vivaldi wrote them himself, given that each sonnet is broken down into three sections, neatly corresponding to a movement in the concerto. Whoever wrote the sonnets, The Four Seasons may be classified as program music, instrumental music that intends to evoke something extra-musical [2] and an art form which Vivaldi was determined to prove sophisticated enough to be taken seriously.[3]

In addition to these sonnets, Vivaldi provided instructions such as "The barking dog" (in the second movement of "Spring"), "Languor caused by the heat" (in the first movement of "Summer"), and "the drunkards have fallen asleep" (in the second movement of "Autumn"). The Four Seasons is used in the 1981 film The Four Seasons along with other Vivaldi concertos for flute.


In addition, its movements break down as follows:

Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, "La primavera" (Spring)
Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, "L'estate" (Summer)
Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293, "L'autunno" (Autumn)
Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter)

Recording History[edit]

The first recording of The Four Seasons is a matter of some dispute. There is a compact disc of one made by the violinist Alfredo Campoli which is taken from acetates of a French radio broadcast; these are thought to date from early in 1939.[4] The first proper electrical recording was made in 1942 by Bernardino Molinari, and though his adaptation is somewhat different from what we have come to expect from modern performances, it is clearly recognisable. This first recording by Molinari was made for Cetra, issued in Italy and subsequently in the United States on six double-sided 78s in the 1940s. It was then reissued on long-playing album in 1950, and was once again reissued on compact disc.[5]

Not surprisingly, further recordings followed. The next was in 1948 by the violinist Louis Kaufman, mistakenly credited as the 'first' recording, made during the night in New York using 'dead' studio time and under pressure from a forthcoming musicians strike.[citation needed] The performers were The Concert Hall Chamber Orchestra under Henry Swoboda, Edith Weiss-Mann (harpsichord) and Edouard Nies-Berger (organ).[6] This recording helped the re-popularisation of Vivaldi's music in the mainstream repertoire of Europe and America following on the work done by Molinari and others in Italy.[citation needed] It won the French Grand Prix du Disque in 1950, was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2003 was selected for the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress. Kaufman, intrigued to learn that the four concertos were in fact part of a set of twelve, set about finding a full score and eventually recorded the other eight concertos in Zürich in 1950, making his the first recording of Vivaldi's complete Op. 8.[7]

I Musici followed in 1955 with the first of several recordings of The Four Seasons with different soloists. The 1955 set with Felix Ayo was that ensemble's first recording of any music; subsequent I Musici recordings feature Felix Ayo again in 1959, Roberto Michelucci in 1969, Pina Carmirelli in 1982, Federico Agostini in 1990, and Mariana Sîrbu in 1995. The 1969 recording by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner, featuring soloist Alan Loveday, reputedly moved the piece from the realm of esoterica to that of program and popular staple.[8]

Nigel Kennedy's 1989 recording of The Four Seasons with the English Chamber Orchestra sold over two million copies, becoming one of the best-selling classical works ever.[9] Gil Shaham and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra recorded The Four Seasons as well as a music video for the first movement of "Winter" that was featured regularly on The Weather Channel in the mid-1990s.

The World's Encyclopedia of Recorded Music in 1952 cites only two recordings of The Four Seasons – by Molinari and Kaufman. By 2011 approximately 1,000 different recorded versions have been made since Campoli's in 1939.[citation needed]

Commensurably, it has become an aspect of these recordings for classical musicians to distinguish their version of The Four Seasons from others', with historically informed performances, and embellishments, to the point of varying the instruments and tempi, or playing notes differently from the listener's expectation (whether specified by the composer or not).[10] It is said that Vivaldi's work presents such opportunities for improvisation.[11]

Derivative works[edit]

Derivative works of these concerti include arrangements, transcriptions, covers, remixes, samples, and parodies in music—themes in theater and opera, soundtracks in films (or video games), and choreography in ballet (along with contemporary dance, figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, etc.)—either in their entirety, single movements, or medleys. Antonio Vivaldi appears to have started this trend of adapting music from The Four Seasons, and since then it has expanded into many aspects of the performing arts (as have other instrumental & vocal works by the composer). This contest between harmony and invention (as it were) now involves various genres around the world:

1726 (or 1734)
  • Vivaldi re-scored his Spring allegro, both as the opening sinfonia (third movement), and chorus (adding lyrics) for his opera Dorilla in Tempe.
  • Nicolas Chédeville (France) arranged Vivaldi's four seasons (as "Le printems, ou Les saisons amusantes"), for hurdy-gurdy or musette, violin, flute, and continuo.
  • The French composer Michel Corrette composed and published a choral motet, Laudate Dominum de Coelis, subtitled "Motet à Grand Chœur arrangé dans le Concerto de Printemps de Vivaldi". The work, for choir and orchestra, consists of the words of Psalm 116 set to the music from Vivaldi's Spring movement with vocal soloists singing the solo concerto parts.[12]
  • Ástor Piazzolla (Argentina) published Estaciones Porteñas, "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires", and these have been included in "eight seasons" performances, along with Vivaldi's work, by various artists.
  • The New Koto Ensemble (Japan) recorded Vivaldi's 4 seasons, on their koto instruments.[14]
  • Michael Franks (United States) composed a vocal serenade based on the theme of Vivaldi's summer concerto (adagio).[15] This was subsequently covered by WoongSan (Korea) in 2010.[16]
  • Patrick Gleeson (United States) recorded a "computer realization" of Vivaldi's four seasons.
  • Thomas Wilbrandt (Germany) composed and recorded "The Electric V" (later adapted for film), which interprets Vivaldi's work with ambient electronics, vocals, and samples of the original concerti.
  • Roland Petit (France) choreographed a ballet (entitled "Les Quatre Saisons") to an I Musici performance of Vivaldi's work.
  • Arnie Roth (United States) recorded "The Four Seasons Suite", including sonnets (recited by Patrick Stewart). This may or may not be considered a derivative work, depending on whether Vivaldi's translated sonnets were meant to be narrated with the music (versus being read in Italiano, or silently by the audience).[19]
  • The Baronics (Canada) recorded surf guitar versions of the violin concertos in Vivaldi's four seasons (one movement from each).[20]
  • French musician Jacques Loussier composed and recorded, with his trio, jazz-swing interpretations of the Four Seasons.
  • The Great Kat (England/United States) recorded a shred guitar (and violin) version of Vivaldi's summer presto.[21]
  • Vanessa-Mae (Singapore/Britain) recorded her crossover version of Vivaldi's summer presto, for electric violin.[22]
  • Venice Harp Quartet (Italy) recorded arrangements of Vivaldi's four seasons for harp ensemble.[24]
  • Gustavo Montesano (Argentina) recorded a tango guitar version of the spring allegro, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.[25]
  • Jochen Brusch (Germany) & Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen (Denmark) recorded arrangements of Vivaldi's 4 seasons for violin and organ.[26]
  • Bond (Australia/Britain) recorded two singles based on Vivaldi's winter, with electric strings (violin, cello, viola), vocals, and electronic beats,.[27] They similarly interpreted a movement from each season for Peugeot car advertisements (2009).
  • Ferhan & Ferzan Önder (Turkish twin sisters) recorded a transcription of the Four Seasons for two pianos by Antun Tomislav Šaban.[28]
  • BanYa (South Korea) recorded a dance version of Vivaldi's winter for the Pump it Up video game.
  • Susan Osborn (United States) recorded a new age vocal serenade based on Vivaldi's winter largo.[29]
  • The Charades (Finland) recorded Vivaldi's presto as "Summer Twist", for surf guitar ensemble.[30]
  • An electronic cover of the song was recorded by Takayuki Ishikawa (under the pseudonym dj TAKA) with the title "V" for the rhythm game Beatmania IIDX 5th Style. The song has become one of the most popular in the series, being included in every release since its debut.
  • Red Priest (UK) recorded arrangements of Vivaldi's 4 seasons for recorder.[31]
  • Hayley Westenra (New Zealand) adapted the musical piece called "Winter" into a song titled "River of Dreams" which is sung in English. It was recorded for her Pure album in July 10.
  • Tafelmusik (Canada) arranged a cross-cultural arts special based on Vivaldi's four seasons, involving a Chinese pipa, Indian sarangi and Inuit throat-singing.[32]
  • Dark Moor (Spain) recorded an electric guitar version of Vivaldi's winter (allegro non molto), and this was later integrated into the Finnish video game Frets on Fire.[33]
  • Celtic Woman (Ireland) recorded the winter largo with vocals (Italian lyrics).[35] The youngest former member Chloë Agnew originally recorded it for her Walking in the Air album which was released in 2002.
  • PercaDu (Israel) performed an arrangement of Vivaldi's winter (allegro non molto), for marimbas with chamber orchestra.[36]
  • Mauro Bigonzetti (Italy) choreographed a ballet of Vivaldi's "Les quatre saisons" for a French-Canadian dance company.[37]
  • Tim Slade (Australia) directed a documentary (entitled "4") of four classical violinists and their homelands (in Tokyo, Thursday Island, New York, and Lapland), as they relate to Vivaldi's four seasons.[38]
  • Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Music Orchestra performed complete concertos with arrangement for korean traditional music (gugak) orchestra by Seong-gi Kim. It was recorded live and released with CD from Synnara Music same year.[39]
  • Sveceny & Dvorak (Czech Republic) produced both an album and stage production of world music based on Vivaldi's four seasons.[40]
  • Yves Custeau (Canada) recorded a rock & roll "one man band" version of the spring allegro.[41]
  • Daisy Jopling (England/United States) recorded a violin & hip-hop version of Vivaldi's winter (allegro non molto), and also performs it reggae style.[42]
  • Innesa Tymochko (Ukrain) performed her crossover version of Vivaldi's summer presto, for violin.[43]
  • Wez Bolton (Isle of Man) recorded a cover version of Vivaldi's winter (allegro non molto), based on the Japanese video game "Beatmania" remix.[44]
  • Patrick Chan (Canada) performed his long program to a medley of Vivaldi's seasons to win the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.[45]
  • Absynth Against Anguish (Romania) produced an electronic (trance) version of Vivaldi's four seasons.[46]
  • Riccardo Arrighini (Italy) recorded Vivaldi's four seasons for solo piano, in the style of jazz.[47]
  • Christophe Monniot recorded ambient jazz interpretations of Vivaldi's four seasons.[48]
  • Christian Blind (France) recorded a surf-guitar/acid-rock version of Vivaldi's spring allegro.[49]
  • Art Color Ballet (Poland) performed their "4 elements" show to Vivaldi's summer presto, arranged by Hadrian Filip Tabęcki (Kameleon).[50]
  • David Garrett (Germany) recorded a crossover version of Vivaldi's winter (allegro non molto), combining classical violin with modern rock music.[51]
  • Black Smith (Russia) performed Vivaldi's summer presto in the style of thrash metal music (likewise, this movement has been covered numerous times by aspiring electric guitar virtuosos, and other crossover musicians).[52]
  • Angels (Greece) performed their crossover version of Vivaldi's summer presto, for electric strings.[53]
  • Szentpeteri Csilla (Hungary) performed her crossover version of Vivaldi's summer presto, for piano.[54]
  • Leonel Valbom (Portugal) remixed Vivaldi's summer presto with VST Synths.[55]
  • Tim Kliphuis (Netherlands) performed Vivaldi's spring allegro, as a crossover of world music styles.[56]
  • German-born British composer Max Richter created a postmodern and minimalist recomposition released as "Recomposed Vivaldi – The Four Seasons". Working with solo violinist Daniel Hope, Richter discarded around 75% of the original source material while the running time was reduced to 44 minutes playing time.[57]
  • Aura (Japan) recorded an a cappella arrangement of Vivaldi's four seasons, and had also performed Vivaldi's Spring chorus (from Dorilla in Tempe) on a prior album.[58]
  • Sinfonity (Spain) performed Vivaldi's four seasons for "electric guitar orchestra".[59]
  • Bachod Chirmof (USA) produced a MIDI recording & animation of Vivaldi's winter (movements I & III).[60]
  • Tornado Classic (Russia) performed Vivaldi's summer presto, with electric guitar and slap bass.[61]
  • The symphonic rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra used a portion of the first movement of the Winter Concerto in their song "Dreams of Fireflies (On A Christmas Night)" on their Dreams of Fireflies EP. The song also uses a portion of Mozart's "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen," which it had used previously.
  • Richard Galliano (France) recorded Vivaldi's 4 seasons concertos for accordion, as well as a few of his opera arias on the instrument.[62]
  • Vito Paternoster (Italy) recorded Vivaldi's Le quattro stagioni in the form of sonatas for cello.[63]
  • Periodic (Germany) produced a megamix of Vivaldi's four seasons, which incorporates electronica with samples of the classical version.[64]
  • Steven Buchanan (USA) produced a tetralogy of "midseasons" (slow movements and corresponding sonnets) from Vivaldi's program music.[65]
  • The Piano Guys (USA) recorded a crossover between Vivaldi's Winter and "Let it Go" from Disney's Frozen. The members of the group made an arrangement for piano and cello.[66]
  • Along with the original composition of "Winter" included in Fantasia: Music Evolved, there are also two mixes: the "Alt Rock" mix, and the "Steve Porter" mix.
  • Nihad Hrustanbegovic (The Netherlands) recorded Vivaldi's 4 seasons concertos for solo accordion, Zefir Records[67]
  • Zozimo Rech and Adrianne Simioni (Brazil) recorded Le Quattro Stagioni with electric guitar and acoustic guitar, Astronomusic[68]


  1. ^ Everett, Paul (1996). Vivaldi: The Four Seasons and Other Concertos, Op. 8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0521404990. 
  2. ^ Christine Lee Gengaro. "Program notes: Four Seasons". Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Andrew Mellor Sinfini Music (2013-03-14). "The secret behind the Four Seasons". Sinfini Music. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  4. ^ Pearl GEMM CD 9151
  5. ^ Two versions are available, one with more extensive sleeve notes giving the political background and history of the work's rediscovery issued by Ermitage ERC CD 12006-2.
  6. ^ Concert Hall Records, CHS. set AR; reissued on Naxos Historical 8.110297-98.
  7. ^ #CHS.CHC 1064 (#Nix.CLP 1061-1/2)
  8. ^ Norman Lebrecht. The Life and Death of Classical Music. New York: Anchor Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4000-9658-9, p. 219.
  9. ^ Wright, Steve (23 August 1999). "Not quite Vivaldi: Nigel Kennedy remembers Hendrix". CNN. 
  10. ^ Performing Vivaldi, Interview with Nemanja Radulovic, featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel)
  11. ^ Performing Vivaldi, Interview with Aisslinn Nosky, featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
  12. ^ Hopkins, Translated by Bill (1970). Antonio Vivaldi; his life and work. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-520-01629-3. 
  13. ^ Moe Koffman "The Four Seasons", GRT or Derby record label, Discogs listing.
  14. ^ New Koto Ensemble "Koto Four Seasons", Discogs listing.
  15. ^ Michael Franks, "Vivaldi's song", "Burchfield Nines" album.
  16. ^ WoongSan, "Vivaldi's Song", album "Close Your Eyes" (Pony Canyon label).
  17. ^ Ben Shedd, "Seasons", listed on IMDB; trailer featured on Vimeo (photagrapher's channel).
  18. ^ Flute "Jean-Pierre Rampal Plays Vivaldi's Four Seasons", Sony Classical (53105), Allmusic listing.
  19. ^ Arnie Roth, "The Compleat Four Seasons", listed on Allmusic.
  20. ^ The Baronics "Get Bach!", on Discogs.
  21. ^ The Great Kat, "Bloody Vivaldi", album.
  22. ^ Vanessa-Mae "Storm", album.
  23. ^ Chinese Baroque Players "Four Seasons", Xien Records (XNC2 44032), Allmusic listing
  24. ^ Venice Harp Quartet "Four Seasons for Four Harps", Fine Classics (4423–2), Allmusic listing.
  25. ^ Primavera Tango "Flamenco Fantasy", on Discogs.
  26. ^ Brusch & Mikkelsen "The Four Seasons", Classico CLASSCD333
  27. ^ Bond: Viva!/Wintersun.
  28. ^ Ferhan & Ferzan discography "Vivaldi Reflections", EMI classics. Retrieved on 23 June 2013.
  29. ^ Susan Osborn, "Winter/Vivaldi", album "Still Life" (Pony Canyon label).
  30. ^ The Charades, "Vivaldi's Summer Twist", album "As Hot As Cool Can Be" (Power Records).
  31. ^ Red Priest's "Four Seasons" (Dorian 90317), Allmusic listing.
  32. ^ "The Four Seasons Mosaic" DVD is paired with Tafelmusik's L'estro armonico CD, featured on Vimeo (producer's channel).
  33. ^ Frets on Fire "Dark Moor's winter", featured on YouTube (open source gameplay recording).
  34. ^ Accentus "Transcriptions 2", on Discogs.
  35. ^ Celtic Woman: A New Journey, "Vivaldi's Rain".
  36. ^ PercaDu (Tomer Yariv and Adi Morag), "Vivaldi, winter arr for marimbas", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  37. ^ LesGrandsBallets "Les quatre saisons", featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
  38. ^ Tim Slade "4", listed on IMDB.
  39. ^ Information about CD "국악으로 듣는 비발디의 사계 (in Korean)", on Aladin Communication Inc.
  40. ^ Jaroslav Sveceny & Michal Dvorak "Vivaldianno MMVIII", featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
  41. ^ Yves Custeau "Vivaldi Rock Spring", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  42. ^ Daisy Jopling, "Winter (hip hop)", album "Key to the Classics", "Winter (reggae)", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  43. ^ Innesa Tymochko, "Vivaldi's Storm", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  44. ^ Wez Bolton, "Winter (cover version)", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  45. ^ Patrick Chan, "2008 Nationals", featured on YouTube (channel for the skater).
  46. ^ Absynth Against Anguish "The Four Seasons 2.0", creative commons audio.
  47. ^ Riccardo Arrighini, "Le quattro stagioni", album "Vivaldi in Jazz".
  48. ^ Christophe Monniot, "Vivaldi Universel, Saison 5", Cristal Records (CR 149).
  49. ^ BlinDChriS "Vivaldi Dead Springs", creative commons media.
  50. ^ Art Color Ballet "Vivaldi 4 Elements", featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
  51. ^ David Garrett "Vivaldi/Vertigo", album "Rock Symphonies", featured on Vimeo (producer's channel).
  52. ^ Black Smith "Vivaldi Tribute", Against all odds (DVD), featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  53. ^ Angels Ensembles, "Angels Summer", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  54. ^ Szentpeteri Csilla, "Storm – Crossover", featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  55. ^ Leonel Valbom, "Summer Vivaldi", featured on SoundCloud (recording artist's channel).
  56. ^ Tim Kliphuis "Spring – Gypsy Jazz and Celtic version", "Live at Iford Manor" (DVD), featured on YouTube (recording artist's channel).
  57. ^ Gill, Andy (27 October 2012). "Album: Max Richter, Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Recomposed By Max Richter (Deutsche Grammophon)". London: Independent. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  58. ^ Aura discography "Le Quattro Stagioni", EPIC Records (ESCL 3932). Retrieved on 3 June 2013.
  59. ^ Sinfonity "The Four Seasons", live in Madrid, featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
  60. ^ Bachod Chirmof, "Midi Animation – Vivaldi", featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
  61. ^ Tornado Classic, "Vivaldi Summer", featured on Vimeo (producer's channel).
  62. ^ Richard Galliano, DG Label "Vivaldi" (featured on artist's site).
  63. ^ Vito Paternoster "The Four Seasons in forma di sonata for cello" ("Baryton BRT 006", tracks featured on Magnatune).
  64. ^ The Periodic project & Lennart Wittenhagen "Vier Jahreszeiten", featured on Vimeo (recording artist's channel).
  65. ^ A Vivaldi Compendium "Midseasons", creative commons media, featured on YouTube (producer's channel).
  66. ^ The Piano Guys - "Let it Go (Disney's "Frozen") Vivaldi Winter", featured on YouTube (group's channel).
  67. ^ http://www.nihad/
  68. ^

External links[edit]