Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Oct 27, 2015

AAM-violinAntonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons was initially published in 1725, as a twelve concerto set titled The Test of Harmony and Invention

If this name is not recognized, the tune most certainly is, having been heard in dozens of commercials and movies such as Tin Cup, Spy Game, Pacific Heights, and A View to Kill.

Along with the music, Vivaldi wrote four sonnets “as a descriptive base for his Four Seasons.”²

Each of the four sonnets is expressed in a concerto, which in turn is divided into three phrases or ideas, reflected in the three movements (fast-slow-fast) of each concerto. The published scores (by Estienne Roger of Amsterdam in 1725) are marked to indicate which musical passages are representative of which verses of the sonnet. It is advisable, at least during the first few hearings, to follow the sonnets and music together, for they are bound up with one another to an extent rarely heard in any other programmatic pieces either of the baroque period or subsequently. (

On November 7, Conductor David Lockington leads the Pasadena Symphony, performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, featuring Anne Akiko Meyers on violin.

Meyers has appeared on television and radio, and performed at recitals and with orchestras around the world for almost thirty years. Her fall schedule includes a nationwide PBS broadcast special. Meyers has released 32 albums and in 2014, she “was the top-selling traditional classical instrumental soloist on Billboard charts.”

Last year, Meyers was offered a 1741 Ex-Vieuxtemps Guarnerius del Gesu violin that had been bought for an estimated $16 million—after five decades of being stored under the previous owner’s bed. It was purchased anonymously and anonymously donated to Meyers, “on loan for the rest of her life” (³ With this historical masterpiece, Meyers has recorded Vivaldi’s Four Season, though we now have the opportunity to hear her live…

I recently received lifetime use of one of the most iconic violins ever made. It’s the ‘Ex-Vieuxtemps’ Guarnerius del Gesu and it’s considered to be one of the finest sounding violins ever created. It’s really truly extraordinary to have this violin in my hands and to play concerts on it. It is a very big responsibility.

There’s such a breadth to the sound and a dimension of sound, which is unlike any other I’ve played. The responsiveness of the violin is extraordinary…. The sound and the projection and the warmth, the richness, the range of color is extraordinary, and because of its health, this is what it creates; its incredible sound.… That I am able to play on this violin that is not in a museum, but will be shared with people all around the world, makes me just really quite humble. (Anne Akiko Meyers/YouTube)

The Ex-Vieuxtemps was created by Guarnerius del Gesu (Stradivarius’ “fiercest rival”) and named after “Henri Vieuxtemps, a 19th-century Belgian composer, a violin prodigy and a court soloist to Tsar Alexandar II.”⁴




Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Saturday, Nov. 7th, 2 & 8 p.m.
Pre-concert discussion begins one hour prior to concert
Ambassador Auditorium, 131 S. St. John Ave., Pasadena
Tickets: $35-$110; purchase here
For more info, visit
Or call 1.626.793.7172



Ambassador Auditorium; publicity photo


Vivaldi transformed the tradition of descriptive music into a typically Italian musical style with its unmistakable timbre in which the strings play a major role.

Listen to The Four Seasons while reading the corresponding sonnets…



Spring – Concerto in E Major

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.

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

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


Summer – Concerto in g-minor

Allegro non molto
Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat
men and flocks are sweltering,
pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air….but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.

Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
His limbs are now awakened from their repose by fear of lightning’s flash and thunder’s roar, as gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

Alas, his worst fears were justified, as the heavens roar and great hailstones beat down upon the proudly standing corn.


Autumn – Concerto in F Major

The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in.
The cup of Bacchus flows freely, and many find their relief in deep slumber.

Adagio molto
The singing and the dancing die away
as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep
without a care.

The hunters emerge at dawn,
ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.
Their quarry flees while they give chase.
Terrified and wounded, the prey struggles on,
but, harried, dies.


Winter – Concerto in f-minor

Allegro non molto
Shivering, frozen mid the frosty snow in biting, stinging winds;
running to and fro to stamp one’s icy feet, teeth chattering in the bitter chill.

To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.

We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling.
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up.
We feel the chill north winds coarse through the home despite the locked and bolted doors…
this is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights.


Engraved Portrait of Antonio Vivaldi (1725) by François Morellon la Cave

Engraved portrait of Antonio Vivaldi (1725) by François Morellon la Cave




¹ Source:

² Source:

³ Source: “The Soul of the World’s Most Expensive Violin,” March 2014,

⁴ Source:









Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena