- 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.
- 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.
- Once you’ve worked out how the 1st movement of Spring is put together, have a listen to the first movement of Autumn.
- You can find the answers to the Spring exercise here, by the way!
- 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.
♦ 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.
- motives 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.
*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.