Watch All of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Performed on Original Baroque Instruments

Anto­nio Vivaldi’s The Four Sea­sons reigns as one of the world’s most rec­og­niz­able ear­ly 18th-cen­tu­ry pieces, thanks to its fre­quent appear­ances in films and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials.

Upon its debut in 1725, The Four Sea­sons stunned lis­ten­ers by telling a sto­ry with­out the help of a human voice. Vival­di drew on four exist­ing son­nets (pos­si­bly of his own prove­nance), using strings to paint a nar­ra­tive filled with spring thun­der­storms, summer’s swel­ter, autum­nal hunts and har­vests, and the icy winds of win­ter.

The com­pos­er stud­ded his score with pre­cise­ly placed lines from the son­nets, to con­vey his expec­ta­tions that the musi­cians would use their instru­ments to son­i­cal­ly embody the expe­ri­ences being described.

For two hun­dred years, musi­cians cleaved close­ly to Vivaldi’s orig­i­nal orches­tra­tion.

The last hun­dred years, how­ev­er, have seen a wide range of instru­ments and inter­pre­ta­tions. Drumssynths, an elec­tric gui­tar, a Chi­nese pipa, an Indi­an saran­gi, a pair of Inu­it throat singers, a Japan­ese a cap­pel­la women’s cho­rus, a Theremin and a musi­cal saw are among those to have tak­en a stab at The Four Sea­sons’ drows­ing goatherd, bark­ing dog, and twit­ter­ing birdies.

Remem­ber­ing that Vival­di him­self was a great inno­va­tor, we sug­gest that there’s noth­ing wrong with tak­ing a break from all that to revis­it the orig­i­nal fla­vor.

The San Fran­cis­co-based ear­ly music ensem­ble, Voic­es of Music does so beau­ti­ful­ly, above, with a video playlist of live per­for­mances giv­en between 2015 and 2018, with the four con­cer­tos edit­ed to be pre­sent­ed in their tra­di­tion­al order.

Voic­es of Music co-direc­tors David Tayler and Han­neke van Proos­dij were adamant that these high qual­i­ty audio record­ings would leave lis­ten­ers feel­ing as if they are in the same room with the musi­cians and their baroque instru­ments. As Tayler told Ear­ly Music Amer­i­ca:

We did tests where we sat in the audi­ence lis­ten­ing to the mix. We stopped when we got to the point that it sound­ed like sit­ting in the audi­ence. We didn’t want some­thing that looked like a con­cert, with a CD play­ing in the back­ground.

Mul­ti­ple sta­tionery cam­eras ensured that the most­ly stand­ing per­form­ers’ spon­ta­neous phys­i­cal respons­es to the music and each oth­er would not pass unre­marked. As tempt­ing as it is to savor these joy­ful sounds with ears alone, we rec­om­mend tak­ing it in with your eyes, too. The plea­sure these vir­tu­osos take in Vival­di and each oth­er is a delight.

You also won’t want to miss the Eng­lish trans­la­tions of the son­net, bro­ken into sub­ti­tles and timed to appear at the exact place where they appear in Vivaldi’s 300 year-old score.


Alle­gro — 0:00

Largo — 3:32

Alle­gro — 6:13


Alle­gro non molto — 10:09

Ada­gio — 15:31

Presto — 17:46


Alle­gro — 20:42

Ada­gio molto — 26:14

Alle­gro — 28:25


Alle­gro non molto — 31:56

Largo — 35:29

Alle­gro — 37:25

While the audi­ence reac­tions were edit­ed from the pre­sen­ta­tion above, we’d be remiss if we didn’t direct you to a playlist where­in these vir­tu­oso play­ers are seen gra­cious­ly accept­ing the applause of the crowds who were lucky enough to catch these per­for­mances in per­son.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Yes’ Rick Wake­man Explores Vivaldi’s Four Sea­sons, and Why It Was the First Con­cept Album

The Authen­tic Vivaldi’s The Four Sea­sons: Watch a Per­for­mance Based on Orig­i­nal Man­u­scripts & Played with 18th-Cen­tu­ry Instru­ments

Why We Love Vivaldi’s “Four Sea­sons”: An Ani­mat­ed Music Les­son

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, the­ater­mak­er, and the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her lat­est book, Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo, will be pub­lished in ear­ly 2022.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Paul C Cleland says:

    Wow! What a treat. The musi­cians look so intense and involved in the music that it real­ly adds to the sense of the flow of the sea­sons. I wouls nev­er be able to see this with­out Open Cul­ture. Thank You. And yes, final­ly, I will con­tribute.

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