What to Listen for in Vivaldi’s “Spring” Concerto for Violin

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Vivaldi’s celebrated Violin Concertos known as “The Four Seasons” was written around 1716, and was a part of a set of eight concertos remarkably called, “The Contest Between Harmony and Invention.” Vivaldi’s “Spring” is the first of these 4 concertos.

At the time you could write a story, and then set music to it. Songs, operas, and cantatas were written in this way. Vivaldi turned this concept on its head by writing his music, and then conceiving the story that was inspired by it. Each one of the Seasons is accompanied by a sonnet that Vivaldi wrote. In opera, the music illuminates the words, but here it is the opposite: The sonnets help you understand what the music narrative is about. These works are one of the first examples of “Program Music”.

Here is the sonnet inspired by the music for Vivaldi’s “Spring”. The sonnet is divided into the three movements of the concerto, and there is an actual instruction for the violas in the music for the Largo movement to sound like a barking dog!

Allegro

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.

Largo

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

Allegro

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

Many thanks again to The Monarch, and WB’s Eatery here in Ogden for the use of their facility. The flowers had just been installed in the ceiling, and it looked like a great place to shoot for this particular Vivaldi’s “Spring”.