Little Returns in Spring

spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (2)

Let’s listen to and look at the 1st Movement of Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in a bit more detail….particularly the structure.spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (9)

  • Spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (16)Each of the concertos in The Four Seasons has three movements: fast; slow; fast.
  • Firstly we’re going to look at the structure of one fast movement in particular.spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (12)spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (10)
  • There are some descriptions in these 11 coloured boxes of sections of music in the first movement of Spring.
  • Listen to the movement several times and study each description carefully.


  • Which description goes with which section?Spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (15)



  • You’ll be able to put them in the correct order once you’ve worked all that lot out!spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (8)


  • Once you’ve worked out how the 1st movement of Spring is put together, have a listen to the first movement of Autumn.


  • Make a note of all the similarities and differences.Spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (14)
  • Draw some conclusions about the 1st Movement form of Baroque concertos. spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (4) spring 1st mvt analysis boxes (3)





  • So were you able to draw any conclusions from these two movements about the structure of Vivaldi’s fast movements in general?
  • Here’s a list of possible conclusions.
  • Which are true? Which are false?

♦ There are alternating passages featuring the soloist and the orchestra.

♦ The first theme is played by the full orchestra.

♦ The first theme returns frequently during the movement.stamping

♦ Sometimes elements of the first theme appear in the accompaniment of the solo sections.

♦ The returns of the first theme are always in the tonic key.

♦ The returns of the first theme are sometimes shortened versions of the theme.

♦ The solo passages in between the returns of the first theme are always the same.

♦ Sometimes the passages in between the returns of the first theme are played by the orchestra.

♦ The soloist doesn’t play while the orchestra plays the first theme.

♦ The solo parts are more virtuosic than the orchestra parts and they move through more keys.

♦ This structure could be described as a type of Rondo Form.

♦ This structure could be described as a type of Binary Form.


  • If you look at and listen to some more of the fast movements from The Four Seasons, you’ll see and hear that these conclusions can be applied to them as well.
  • This “returning” opening theme or section is called ritornello.
  • The word “ritornello” means “little return” and, like lots of musical terms, is Italian.



The basic principles of ritornello are:

  • first section of music returns in total or in part during the movement . This is the ritornello.
  • the ritornello is usually played by the entire orchestra including the soloist.
  • the sections in between the reappearances of the ritornello (we’ll call them “episodes”) generally feature the soloist.
  • the music in the episodes is often unrelated thematically to that of the ritornello.
  • il ploggiamotives from the ritornello may be used in the accompaniment to the episodes or in fact can be used as the basis for the music in the episode.
  • the ritornello is not always in the tonic key, but is usually in related keys such as the dominant, subdominant or relative minor/major.­
  • the episodes are the ones which modulate to the new key (often briefly through others) which is confirmed by the entry of the ritornello in the new key.
  • sometimes the soloist appears in the middle of a ritornello, and sometimes the orchestra plays during an episode.autumn


­*Ritornello resembles Rondo Form in that the opening idea returns several times (ABACA), but in Rondo Form, the returning “A” section is always in the tonic.



Tags: , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.