Harmony Capers

flower music 2 (3)Practical activities to help with the exploration of harmony in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

Conclusions – After looking at all the movements of The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, here are a few conclusions I’ve drawn about the harmonic trends:

  • Mostly the opening ritornello sections of the fast movements have static harmony which centres around the tonic, dominant and subdominant chords.
  • Later (and usually shorter ) ritornello sections are similar but sometimes modulate employing chromatic harmony and sequences to do so.flower music 2
  • Mostly the episode sections of the fast movements are more complex harmonically as they often modulate to a new key and use transitory sequences and chromatic harmony on their way there.
  • The harmony in the slow movements is more like that in the episode sections of fast movements: there are transitory passages of sequence and modualtion and chromatic harmony, but also periods of reinforcement of the key using harmony centred around the tonic, dominant and subdominant chords.


  • flower music 2 (2)Of course, there are exceptions to all these general comments, for instance the opening ritornello in the first movement of Winter modulates to the dominant minor and contains several 7th chords (including diminished 7th) and chromatic alterations. Maybe you can find other exceptions….
  • Here are a series of activities relating to the harmony in The Four Seasons which will help you understand and become familiar with Vivaldi’s harmonic style as well as expanding your own store of harmonic resources:


1. Autumn Listening

  • For these three listening activities, you’ll need to print the musical examples out. If you click on the example it should open up a new page which you can then print…at least I am able to do that. If not, you could try a screen shot of it.
  • Listen to this opening ritornello from the 3rd movement of Autumn. Put chord symbols above or below the melody to indicate the harmony. Use either Roman numerals or guitar chords.

3.6 Harmony egs1

  • Insert the cello part underneath the solo violin in this theme from the 1st movement of Autumn (bars 14-23)

3.6 Harmony egs2

  • Fill in the missing notes (under the stars) in this passage from Autumn, 1st movement (58-66)

3.6 Harmony egs3

2. Jazzy Vivaldi Composing

  • Compose a piece of music based on this chord sequence:

3.6 Harmony egs5

  • Where is this chord sequence in The Four Seasons?

3. La Pioggia

  • Perform this solo from Winter, 2nd Movement. Improvise an accompaniment based on the chords shown.
  • It has a little heading from the descriptive sonnets: la pioggia which is Italian for rain. Will you try to reflect this reflect this in your accompaniment?

3.6 Harmony egs4 (2)


flower music 2 (4)4. Mini Score Quest

  • Find the following in the 3rd movement of Autumn. Give bar numbers and copy out the phrase.
  1. A bar based on an A7 chord
  2. A perfect cadence in C major
  3. An 8-bar phrase harmonised only by F major
  4. A sequence based on the chords  F Bb G C A Dm
  5. An imperfect cadence in F major
  6. A bar based on a diminished 7th chord


5. Harmonic Scrutiny

  • Analyse the following chord sequence from Autumn. Use Roman numerals or guitar chords.

3.6 Harmony egs4

  •  A more difficult harmonic analysis would be the slow movement from Autumn.



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