Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is based on a set of sonnets, and is thus often regarded as programmatic music. Below is the sonnet that serves as the stimulus for the first movement, Spring. The Bolded words are objects that Vivaldi represents in his music.
Activity 1: Play excerpts from each movement (in a jumbled order) without telling the students the name of the season it represents. See if students are able to identify which excerpt matches with each season. Play each excerpt again, and ask students to discuss how the composer has represented each season musically by referring to the concepts of music.
An example, would be for students to layout headings and fill in details for each excerpt (found below).
Features: Vibrant mood, major tonality, expressive techniques + instrumentation + melodic contour to depict birds
Activity 2: Provide students with a copy of the sonnet (with the bolded words) and play a recording of the movement. Get students to identify when each idea occurs, and what musical devises the composer has employed to depict each object.
SPRING (CONCERTO NO. 1)
Joyful Spring has arrived,
The birds welcome it with their happy songs,
And the brooks in the gentle breezes
Flow with a sweet murmur.
The sky is covered with a black mantle,
Thunder and lightning a announce storm.
When they are silent, the birds
Take up again their harmonious songs.
And in the ﬂower-rich meadow,
To the gentle murmur of leaves and plants
The goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog at his side.
To the merry sounds of a rustic bagpipe
Nymphs and shepherds dance in their beloved spot
When Spring appears in its brilliance.