Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote numerous concertos, many of them for the young ladies who resided in the Venetian orphanage where Vivaldi was employed for most of his working career. (Many of these “orphans” were daughters of affluent noblemen and their mistresses, and they lived in very comfortable circumstances and were given excellent musical training.) Some of Vivaldi’s concertos are highly descriptive, including his most famous “Four Seasons” Concertos. Vivaldi himself wrote descriptive titles and poems that accompanied each movement of the concertos in the Four Seasons cycle. Here is a translation of the titles and verses that accompanied Concerto #3 in F Major, “Autumn”:
Movement 1: Allegro (Peasant Dance and Song)
The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in.
The cup of Bacchus flows freely, and many find their relief in deep slumber.
Movement 2: Adagio molto (Sleeping after the harvest celebration)
The singing and the dancing die away
as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep
without a care.
Movement 3: Allegro (The Hunt)
The hunters emerge at dawn,
ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.
Their quarry flees while they give chase.
Terrified and wounded, the prey struggles on,
but, harried, dies?
Now enjoy the music of “Autumn,” as performed in the National Botanical Gardens of Wales by Julia Fischer on violin, accompanied by the Academy of St. Martin’s in the Field.
Concerto No.3 in F Major, RV 293, "AUTUMN"
Tips for Teacher
1. Ask students if Vivaldi’s titles and verses for the movements are reflected in his actual music? Ask them to point out events in the poem when they hear them in the music. Discuss the tempos for each movement, and why Vivaldi chose them to express his musical and poetic ideas.
2. Discuss what a harvest festival is, and what it would mean to the peasants. Why would music be important during a festival?
3. Invent your own “peasant dance” and perform it to the music.
4. Show the class Pieter Breugel’s painting “The Peasant Dance.” Discuss the feasting, dancing, and revelry. Ask why the peasants might be celebrating, and what season of the year it might be.
5. Discuss what autumn means to children and families today.What events do they enjoy that occur only in this season?
6. Ask students to write a poem about autumn.
7. Is there an American holiday that happens in the fall, where we enjoy a feast?
8. Celebrate the changing of the season with a “listening” walk, and discuss sights, sounds, and the weather, to see what signs of autumn you can find. (And when you get home, pour a cup of hot apple cider and listen to Vivaldi’s “Autumn” again!)