Light, bright, and cheerful, “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi is some of the most familiar of all early 18th century music, featured in numerous films and television commercials. But what is its significance, and why does it sound that way? Betsy Schwarm uncovers the underlying narrative of this musical masterpiece.









  • to feature – to play an important part
  • uncounted – not counted; numerous
  • notable – worthy of attention or notice; remarkable
  • to capture – to represent or record in lasting form
  • to flatten – to become flat, to destroy something
  • to dash out – to leave quickly
  • in pursuit of – chasing
  • to chatter (of teeth) – if your teeth chatter, they knock together repeatedly because you are very cold or frightened
  • to take refuge – to go to or into a place for shelter or protection from danger or trouble
  • ensemble /ɒnˈsɒmb(ə)l/- a group of musicians who perform together
  • to pull off – to succeed in doing something difficult
  • to trot (trotting horses) – to ride, or proceed at a trot (a ride on horseback)

True or False?

  1. Four Seasons” were published in the Netherlands in 18th
  2. “Summer” part of the masterpiece features a turtle.
  3. “Winter“ part resembles sliding on ice.
  4. In 18th century such expressive instrumental music was very popular.
  5. Vivaldi didn’t need a whole orchestra to play the piece.
  6. Vivaldi made nothing of his audience.
  7. Music training was essential for young ladies at that time to make good marriages.
  8. Vivaldi’s music was intended for the well off ones.


ANSWERS: 1True; 2. False; 3. False; 4. False; 5. True; 6. False; 7. False; 8. False

Practice Makes Perfect

Match the beginnings of sentences on the left with their endings on the right.


1. Vivaldi was a) and here they are doing exactly that.
2. If one were to read the poems simultaneously to hearing the music,
b) there are also more birds, wet, frightened, and unhappy.
3. We are told that the birds welcome spring with happy song, 
c)  and so does Vivaldi’s musical exploration of the seasons.
4. Not only is there musical thunder and lightning,
d) generations ahead of his time.
5.  In these first weeks of winter, the old year is coming to a close,
e) would such expressive instrumental program music become popular.
6. Not until the early 19th century
f) one would find the poetic scenes synchronizing nicely with the musical imagery.

ANSWERS: 1d) 2f) 3a) 4b) 5c) 6



What kind of music is a delight to your ear?

What musical genres do you despise?

Can you imagine your life without music?

Can music change the way you feel?

What’s the best time and place to listen to music?

Have you ever been to a music festival?

Do you think the Internet helps or hinders musicians?



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