Why should you listen to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”? – Betsy Schwarm


Light, bright, and cheerful. It’s some of the most familiar
of all early 18th century music. It’s been featured in uncounted films
and television commercials, but what is it
and why does it sound that way? This is the opening of “Spring”
from “The Four Seasons,” by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. “The Four Seasons” are famous in part
because they are a delight to the ear. However, even more notable is the fact that
they have stories to tell. At the time of their publication
in Amsterdam in 1725, they were accompanied by poems describing exactly what feature
of that season Vivaldi intended to capture
in musical terms. In providing specific plot content
for instrumental music, Vivaldi was generations ahead of his time. If one were to read the poems
simultaneously to hearing the music, one would find the poetic scenes synchronizing nicely
with the musical imagery. We are told that the birds welcome
spring with happy song, and here they are doing exactly that. Soon, however,
a thunderstorm breaks out. Not only is there musical thunder
and lightning, there are also more birds, wet, frightened, and unhappy. In “Summer,” the turtle dove sings
her name “tortorella” in Italian, before a hail storm flattens the fields. “Autumn” brings eager hunters dashing
out in pursuit of their prey. The “Winter” concerto begins with teeth
chattering in the cold before one takes refuge by
a crackling fire. Then it’s back out into the storm where there’ll be slips
and falls on the ice. In these first weeks of winter,
the old year is coming to a close, and so does Vivaldi’s musical exploration
of the seasons. Not until the early 19th century would such expressive instrumental
program music, as it was known, become popular. By then, larger, more varied ensembles
were the rule with woodwinds, brass, and percussion
to help tell the tale. But Vivaldi pulled it off with just
one violin, strings, and a harpsichord. Unlike his contemporary Bach, Vivaldi wasn’t much interested
in complicated fugues. He preferred to offer readily
accessible entertainment to his listeners with melodies that pop back up later
in a piece to remind us of where we’ve been. So the first movement of the “Spring”
concerto begins with a theme for spring and ends with it, too, slightly varied
from when it was last heard. It was an inspired way
to attract listeners, and Vivaldi, considered one of the most electrifying
violinists of the early 18th century, understood the value
of attracting audiences. Such concerts might feature himself
as the star violinist. Others presented the young musicians
of the Pietà, a Venetian girls’ school
where Vivaldi was Director of Music. Most of the students were orphans. Music training was intended not only
as social skills suitable for young ladies but also as potential careers for those who might fail
to make good marriages. Even in the composer’s own time, Vivaldi’s music served
as diversion for all, not just for the wealthy aristocrats. 300 years later, it’s an approach
that still works, and Vivaldi’s music still sounds
like trotting horses on the move.


100 Responses

  1. Hugh Mungus

    June 19, 2019 7:17 am

    Spring: High class meal
    Summer: Really fast violins
    Autumn: You've never heard this before
    Winter: Also fast violins

  2. Londzale

    July 4, 2019 9:06 pm

    Winston: And You Jonathan Do What You Do Best
    John Wick: What’s that?
    Winston: HUNT!

  3. Jayden Fung

    July 9, 2019 5:35 pm

    In my opinion, classical music has a distinctive advantage over today’s popular music that is demonstrated perfectly by program music: the untold emotions. Take any pop song’s lyrics without the music—you’ll typically get the fully story (and likely a cliché one). Compositions such as Vivaldi’s masterpiece do often have poems and other literature to go with it, but you would never have the full story with simply that, for while pop music uses plain emotions understood by all immediately, it is classical music that shows us what words cannot say.

  4. Ali Mad

    July 19, 2019 4:45 am

    I heard "Les Quatre Saisons" from Vivaldi (1725)
    I heard "Super Bass" from Nicki Minaj (2011)
    I can say that Humanity is going down

  5. David Gonzalez-Herrera

    July 20, 2019 12:11 am

    Literally WHY does everybody 95% of the time when talking about Vivaldi, only talk about the 4 seasons! As if that was the only thing he ever wrote and transposed in every key possible. Vivaldi has wrote SEVERAL pieces that honestly I believe are more worthy than the 4 seasons. The 4 seasons are like the main hits that all the populace know and keep spouting out to others. People should look into all the hundreds of other works he has. L'estro armonico was dubbed during its time period by critics, to be the culmination and apothesis of baroque music. This was said in the early 18th century when that work was released. Seriously guys go listen to all his other pieces and you will probably realize the 4 seasons are cliche now.

  6. Love baking

    July 21, 2019 1:43 pm

    actually very impress with the animations that go along in this video.. must have spent hard work in making it..

  7. Fred Crinson

    July 22, 2019 8:08 am

    Anyone from the UK that has been unemployed for longer than a few weeks will have grown to despise Vivaldi's Spring.

    If you know, you know.

  8. kukisia

    July 22, 2019 7:10 pm

    i cant have how the read he names wrong any time the movei this series pop up its not "viv-OLD-y" its "Viv-ALL-di" there is no O !!!!!gosh that gives me chills they spend all the time to make up this movie find informations and at the and kill everything with wrong pronunciation!!!!

  9. Ellen Yues

    July 22, 2019 9:11 pm

    Bakit parang kasalanan namin? Makapagnarrate naman to kala mo nanenermon. Ewan ko sayo ate

  10. Jessica Price

    July 23, 2019 8:37 pm

    I'm good. I make calls for a living so I hear Spring everytime I call a baby boomer. Over it

  11. razzmatazz1974

    July 24, 2019 6:28 pm

    There is a version of Spring that has lyrics to be sung in Vivaldi´s Dorilla in Tempe (an opera) but i prefer the instrumental version

  12. Ree Meroma

    July 25, 2019 12:53 am

    Ayy, I was listening to Winter on the radio today! Thank goodness for classical music stations.

  13. Sis Marion

    July 25, 2019 1:09 am

    Does it actually say why or just talk about how great it is and how it sounds etc? Watched just to debunk whatever stupidity they came up with but couldn't sit through it

  14. Trong Huoa

    July 25, 2019 2:17 pm

    1:47 I honestly don't think that eager hunters from 18th Century Europe were hunting like that. They most probably rode on a horseback and used dogs…. And lots of peasants followed them in case they need anything.

  15. Azure Hall

    July 27, 2019 4:58 am

    Dancing to Vivaldi is the most beautiful thing I have done in my dance career so far. There is so much movement in what he wrote it always inspires so much joy.

  16. Going - East

    July 27, 2019 4:13 pm

    This was the one that introduced me to the joys of listening to classical music. I wasnt into it back then since I always thought classical music meant that slow, sad, beats of music that I always here

  17. Cosmos Runner

    July 27, 2019 6:54 pm

    We had the vinyl at home, my dad would play it and it was one of the first memories of being completely moved by music. Bravo Antonio!!

  18. Wessie P

    July 28, 2019 2:00 pm

    Can't believe I've only just got round to watching this fascinating video! Vivaldi is one of my favourites. I'm a newbie to classical music and sometimes wonder what the music is trying to convey. Having a poem or story to accompany the music gives it more meaning.

  19. PoSeiDoN VeNuH

    July 28, 2019 7:13 pm

    The thunder is so apt. I always love the feeling i get when playing the four seasons on stage with friends.

  20. internetguy

    July 29, 2019 11:21 pm

    here is also a person whos work has been is a lot of movies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rh8gMvzPw0
    and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlaAKQyOfwE

  21. Goemon Ishikawa

    July 31, 2019 10:42 am

    I listen to Vivaldi for more than 3years and still am, thank you Ted Ed for telling us why we should listen to it

  22. Clematis Jt

    July 31, 2019 11:49 am

    I always loved the four seasons, spring is my favourite. But I didn't know about the poems, what are connect to the music 😊

  23. Schnoodle

    July 31, 2019 8:13 pm

    0:30 anyone else notice that the girl is holding the violin the wrong way? It supposed to be held with the left hand with the. bow in the right. kek

  24. Vertutame

    August 2, 2019 5:58 am

    Can he play fast? cause if he can play normally then he can play fast right?
    Did he practice 40 hours a day too?
    Probably not.

  25. Hitsugix

    August 3, 2019 9:05 am

    And still there are people who don't even know who Vivaldi was, like my boss. How can somebody be that uneducated? -.-

  26. Helluv Amess

    August 6, 2019 3:06 pm

    This song sometimes stresses me out because it's used in our school as a bell to signal that lunch time is over lmao

  27. tahir qureshi

    August 22, 2019 2:59 pm

    Bravo= wonderful and
    When you do both thing at same time
    Bravo music + Bravo comments=0
    Music = -comments
    Music =1/comments

    U know,You have Just wasted your time 😂


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