The first day of spring is here. It may not feel like it quite yet, but warmer days are coming.
Antonio Vivaldi’s best known works are the Four Seasons, a group of four violin concertos that each gives expression to one season of the year. Spring is linked below. These seasonal concertos represent flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his dog, buzzing flies, storms, drunken dancers, hunting parties from both the hunters’ and the prey’s point of view, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires. This was a musical revolution of concept- and Vivaldi kept notes and even wrote sonnets to go with each concerto. This is one of the earliest and most detailed examples of what would become “program music” (music with a narrative element).
Vivaldi published the Four Seasons in 1725. There is some debate on how much earlier they were written, whether the sonnets were written to go with the music or vice versa, and whether Vivaldi or someone else wrote the sonnets. Each concerto has three movements (allegro, largo, allegro or fast, slow, fast) and the sonnet was likewise broken into three parts.
Spring sonnet translation by Armand D’Angour
Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are
softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar,
casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence,
and the birds take up their charming songs once more.
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches
rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps,
his faithful dog beside him.
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes,
nymphs and shepherds lightly dance
beneath spring’s beautiful canopy.