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The Hidden Treasures in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons Score

February 4, 2021

A painting by Marco Ricci (1676–1730), who is said to have inspired Vivaldi.

Did you know that Vivaldi was inspired to write The Four Seasons by a series of paintings, and wrote poetry into the score? We delve into the details hidden in the composer’s manuscript.


The Four Seasons is a piece that has offered me new discoveries every time I perform it,” says TSO Concertmaster Jonathan Crow. 

Vivaldi’s score, written in 1725, includes four sonnets that the composer likely wrote himself, inspired by paintings by Marco Ricci (1676–1730).

Above: "Landscape with Mountain and Figures" by Baroque painter Marco Ricci. Ricci's paintings are said to have inspired Vivaldi.
 

Those sonnets, written into the score, indicate where Vivaldi saw the movements of each concerto in relation to specific lines in the text. They provide musicians with an inside view of the composer's vision for the work and opportunities to illuminate the imagery contained in the music.
 

An image of the score of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Along the bottom is a line from of Vivaldi's sonnets in Italian.
 
Above: a line of one of Vivaldi's sonnets is shown along the bottom of the score for "Spring" from The Four Seasons. The Italian text reads: “On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.”
 
 
“When we last performed the The Four Seasons in Roy Thomson Hall in 2019, I invited four of my colleagues in the Orchestra to recite each of the sonnets in their native language. It felt like a message that Vivaldi would have appreciated—the universality of poetry and beauty,” explains Jonathan. 
 

In this TSO On Demand concert, Jonathan is also very focused on bringing Vivaldi’s playful integration of nature sounds to the forefront.

Listen for:

In Vivaldi's Four Seasons, listen for a dog barking in spring, a rowdy hunt in autumn, chattering teeth in winter, murmuring streams, and thunder and lightning.


Explore more fascinating facts about Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and read the sonnets—then watch the concert on TSO On Demand from March 12 to April 1!

 

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