Season Finale – Opinions and more…

finale featured imageSome opinions and extra activities inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

I read somewhere while preparing these activities, that there have been at least 150 recordings made of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I’d never performed or studied the work before, nor looked at score of it. And I can remember only attending one concert of it. However, I knew all the movements of all the concerti. I could sing along with most of it – I knew what was coming next.

viv texture 1We hear these melodies all the time: on TV adverts, on film soundtracks, in the supermarket. I remember when I was little there was a TV programme called The Two Ronnies, which was a comedy with sketches. One particular sketch always took place at a cocktail party and the first movement of Spring was always playing in the background. I didn’t even know what it was, but now I always think of that programme when I hear that music.

  • Why is this music so well-loved and so much-used?
  • What’s your opinion?


spring 3After his death in 1741 (and even before his death to a certain extent) much of Vivaldi’s music was forgotten, languishing unknown in archives, and was not “rediscovered” until the 1920s-1930s. The first recording of The Four Seasons was made in 1950 .

During the 1950s and 60s Vivaldi’s music became more and more well-known as music editions, recordings and performances increased in number and frequency. Here are some comments from the 1950s and 60s by reviewers of Vivaldi’s scores and recordings: vivaldi numbers

  1. “That this work [L’Estro Armonico] should be available on records is obviously to be welcomed as an aid to our knowledge of the baroque period, but it may be found rather tedious for general listening. Nor is it possible to pick one of these three records as more inviting than the others. Perhaps these works are best sampled one or two at a time – with refreshment, whether musical or otherwise, in between.” from Gramophone Notes in The Musical Times 1953; p.265
  2. viv score“Vivaldi is a favourite composer just now, but much of his recently published music seems positively to clamour for neglect. Richard Sturzenegger’s score of a concerto for cello, strings and continuo (Reinhardt) is a case in point. The score has been most carefully prepared and edited, but it is hard to imagine how Vivaldi managed to be so consistently commonplace throughout the whole of three fairly extended movements.” Alec Rowley in The Musical Times, 1956; p.83.
  3. viv texture 3“Francesco Bellezza’s editions of the three Violin Concertos by Vivaldi (Ricordi) are models of thoughtful and practical musicianship, and will surely come as a welcome relief from the over-played Four Seasons. The editor has provided useful assistance in the matter of ornamentation and phrasing (for the Turin manuscript affords no such help) ….. Especially attractive is the Concerto in C Major, written for the Feast Of The Assumption, and beginning most appropriately with a heavenward-moving C major arpeggio.” Denis Stevens in The Musical Times, May 1960; p.308
  4. viv texture 1“Vivaldi is so much more interesting, so much less inclined to empty passage-work in minor keys.” Stanley Sadie in The Musical Times 1963; p.427
  5. “Judging from the number of recordings, Vivaldi is becoming top-pop baroque, and this may be understandable, since his music combines the appeal of the quaintly archaic with simple democratic tunefulness and rhythmic zest…just when one is deciding that a little of Vivaldi’s perkiness goes a long way, he produces one of those balm-creating adagios that seem to make the heart stand still.” Wilfrid Mellers in The Musical Times 1966; p.52
  6. summer 2 pics (5)“Vivaldi’s Seasons must contain some of the tritest formulae in the history of music; yet these concertos never seem to lose their piquant charm. This new recording vivaldi sonnets (8)[Heidelberg CO/Bobescu; Musica Rara MUS50] has rhythmic well-being, a pleasant lyrical warmth, and dynamic contrasts that are pointed without being forced…The pizzicato rain in the fourth concerto is rather indistinct; otherwise….the engineers have secured a clear, vibrant sound.” Robert Adderson in The Musical Times 1968; p.549

Spring3 (6)

  • Choose one of these reviews and comment on what is said.


  • vivaldi numbers (9)As time went on the reviewers from The Musical Times seem to look more favourably on Vivaldi’s music. Why do you think this is?viv score (3)


  • I have also read comments made at the same time and even earlier comparing the music of Vivaldi unfavourably with that of J.S Bach and G.F. Handel, two other famous composers of concertos in the Baroque period. Listen to some of their concertos yourself. Compare them with those of Vivaldi.


  • Write a review of a recording or concert of Vivaldi concertos. Make bold statements so that in forty years when someone else is writing a study guide about the piece they can include your comments in a list of comments from whatever year it is now.

summer 3 score6


I’ve listened to a few different recordings of these concertos while I’ve been preparing these activities. They’re all quite different:

  1. one has frequent changes of tempo with accelerandos and ritenutos and is very dramatic;
  2. another has a lot of legato movements and sounds quite luscious in the strings – maybe also there are quite a few players on each part
  3. another recording has nothing distinctive about it at all – the fast movements aren’t particularly fast, the slow movements aren’t particularly slow, the dynamic contrasts aren’t very marked, etc. etc
  4. another has a clarinet playing the solo part and every now and then launches into a jazzy style – (my favourite bit of this one is the opening of Summer which has the languid, summer heat section filled out with all sorts of added sixth and minor 7th and other scrummy chords)viv texture 4
  5. another is for a marimba orchestra and sounds a bit plinky, particularly in the slow movements where the long notes have to be played as a tremolo – the fast movements are exciting though – and I do love the sound of marimbas. (Do you know what one is? It’s a type of mellow xylophone)
  6. and the last one was just a recording of Winter played by a string orchestra with trombone on the solo part – a trombone played by Christien Lindberg in a most virtuosic fashion. I love this one – it sounds so crazy.



  • Find and listen to some different recordings of The Four Seasons.
  • Make comments on them.
  • Which is your favourite?


  • Lots of connoisseurs of and experts in Baroque music don’t like arrangements of Baroque music. They think that it should only be played in the way the composer would have heard it.
  • Have an argument with someone about this.

summer poppy seed head2 playing cards (4) vivaldi sonnets (4) violin (10)

Extra Activities for Eager Beavers

  • Compare the life of Vivaldi with one other composer you’ve studied.


  • Compare Venice, 1700 with your town now, or with the place and time of another composer you’ve studied.


  • Listen to some unknown orchestral music.
  • Make an informed decision about whether it’s by Vivaldi or not.
  • Give reasons for your decision.


  • Look at a page of unknown score.
  • Make an informed decision about whether it’s by Vivaldi or not.
  • Give reasons for your decision.


  • Write, edit, compile the first edition of the Vivaldi Fan Club Magazine.

vivaldi profile


  • Compose some music called The Four Seasons.


  • Mount a musical drama/dance production of The Four Seasons.
  • Use the poems for inspiration if you like.


  • Prepare a radio talk about Vivaldi.
  • Have musical examples.


  • Convince someone who refuses to listen to classical music to give Vivaldi a go.


  • Prepare questions for an interview with Vivaldi.

finale featured image

  • Make an arrangement of one of the movements from The Four Seasons for your school choir.


  • Organise a Vivaldi festival for your home town.

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