From Chris Morrison’s Program Notes…
Each of The Four Seasons has a short poem, a sonnet, associated with it, possibly written by Vivaldi himself, describing the scenes and events of each movement. These examples of “program music,” music that refers outside itself to some narrative, person, place, or event, are not unique in Vivaldi’s output. In fact, there are other such works in the Il cimento collection: for instance, the Concerto No. 5 is titled “La tempesta di mare” (“Storm at Sea”), and No. 10 returns to a subject also pictured in The Four Seasons, “La caccia” (“The Hunt”).
“Spring” (“La Primavera”)
Spring has returned and with it gaiety
Is greeted by the birds in joyous song
And the fountains, caressed by young zephyrs,
Murmur sweetly as they flow.
As the sky is clouded all in black,
Lightning flashes and thunder roars
But when they are over, the little birds,
Return to sing their enchanting song.
While on the flowering meadow,
Among the murmuring of leaves and boughs,
Dozes the goatherd, watched over by his faithful dog.
To the pastoral bagpipes’ festive sounds
Dance loving nymphs and shepherds, in love,
Under brilliant springtime skies.
Under the heat of the burning sun
Man droops, his herd wilts, the pine is parched
The cuckoo finds its voice, and singing with it,
The dove and the Goldfinch
Zephyr breathes gently but, countered,
The north wind appears nearby and suddenly
The shepherd cries because, uncertain,
He fears the wind squall and its effects
His tired limbs have no rest, goaded by
His fear of lightning and wild thunder
While gnats and flies in furious swarms surround him
Alas, his fears prove all too grounded
Thunder and lightning rive the heavens, and hail
Slices the tops of corn and other grain.
The peasants celebrate with dance and song
The joy of a successful harvest.
With Bacchus’ liquor liberally drunk,
Their festivity ends in slumber
They leave behind the song and dance
To seek the pleasant mild air.
The season invites more and more
To savor the joy of sweet sleep
The hunters leave for the hunt at dawn
With horns and guns and hounds they go
The quarry flees, but they pursue
Bewildered and exhausted by the great noise
of guns and hounds, the wounded prey
Nearly escapes, but is caught and dies.
Frozen and shivering amid the chilly snow
Our breathing hampered by the horrid wind
As we run, we continually stamp our feet
Our teeth chatter with the awful cold
We move to the fire and contented peace
While the rain outside comes down in sheets.
We walk on the ice with slow steps
Careful how we walk, for fear of falling
If we move too fast, we slip and fall to the ground
Again treading heavily on the ice
Until the ice breaks up and dissolves
We hear from behind closed doors
Boreal winds and all the winds of war.
This is winter, but one that brings joy.