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Classical Sprouts: Vivaldi's "Spring"

Today, we’re listening to the movement "Spring" from Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons."

It’s a set of four violin concertos, and each one represents a different season in the year.

There’s one for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
Hear the full piece here.

These were composed between the years of 1718 and 1720, making this a pretty revolutionary type of music at the time!

Not only did they try and musically imitate parts of nature, they were also based on poems that Vivaldi himself wrote!!

His “Four Seasons” would become one of the earliest examples of what would come to be called “program music” or, music that told a story!

In "Spring," he represents flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his barking dog, and dancing — all with music.

Each season’s concerto is made up of three movements (fast, slow, then fast again), and each of those movements has a poem that goes along with it.

I. Allegro
Festive Spring has arrived,
The birds salute it with their happy song.
And the brooks, caressed by soft breezes,
Flow with a sweet murmur.
The sky is covered with a black mantle,
And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm.
When they are silent, the birds
Return to sing their lovely song.

How does the he make the music sound like streams, breezes and happy birds?

The second movement, Largo, is much slower.

II. Largo
And in the meadow, rich with flowers,
To the sweet murmur of leaves and plants,
The goatherd sleeps, with his faithful dog at his side.

What a peaceful afternoon!

But then..

The shepherd is awoken by the sound of bagpipes with the third movement, “Allegro, danza pastorale,” or pastoral dance.

III. Allegro, danza pastorale
To the festive sound of pastoral bagpipes,
Dance nymphs and shepherds,
At Spring's brilliant appearance.

Overall, the piece is light, joyful, and hopeful, with lots of major chords and soaring melody lines.

How lovely!

"Spring" remains the most popular of Vivaldi's seasonal pieces, and it was even recently "recomposed" by composer Max Richter.

Listen for elements from the original piece and try and hear how he changed it, and what stayed the same!

And, here's a reinterpretation by the group Black Violin.

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Classical Sprouts is produced by Emily Duncan Wilson.

Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.
Emily Duncan Wilson is IPR's digital content manager and is the producer of "Classical Sprouts" and "Kids Commute".