Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Billings Symphony Skip to content


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Classic Series

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Jan 23, 2021

7:30 PM Live Stream

Lockwood Performing Arts Center

Johann Sebastian Bach Suite No.2
Antonio Vivaldi The Four Seasons
Carrie Krause violin

Principal flutist Tyler Menzales leads the BSO strings through Bach’s series of courtly dances, culminating in the highly spirited Badinerie. Montana soloist Carrie Krause brings her “supreme virtuosity and flair” to Vivaldi’s beloved Four Seasons. 

In addition to our live concerts at Lockwood Performing Arts Center, the BSOC will offer a live stream option on Saturday night so that all who wish to can attend.

Please note that masks are required at all times when in our venues.  Thank you for helping us to safely present live music in Billings!

Carrie Krause

Violinist Carrie Krause’s “elegant, sparkling performance brought audience cheers”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, Carrie Krause performs as a baroque violinist with ensembles across the country and on many international series, such as the BBC Proms and Utrecht Early Music Festival. She has appeared as principal of the Oregon Bach Festival, Seattle Baroque, Spire in Kansas City, and Apollos’ Fire, among others, and as soloist with Juilliard415, the Calgary Symphony, and the National Repertory Orchestra. In Bozeman, she serves as concertmaster of the Bozeman Symphony and is the founder of Bozeman’s newest arts non-profit, Baroque Music Montana. She also founded the I-90 Collective, the Second String Orchestra, Bozeman Chamber Ensembles, and the Period Performance Workshop. Carrie holds music performance degrees from Carnegie Mellon, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and The Juilliard School. Some days she loves to skate ski almost as much as practicing the violin.

Program Notes:

Written by BSOC Librarian Lisa Bollman

Johann Sebastian Bach | Orchestral Suite No. 2

A very large part—we shall probably never know how large—of J.S. Bach’s music is lost. Probably two-fifths of his cantatas have disappeared, but a much larger percentage of purely instrumental music is lost, simply because there were no institutional means of organizing or preserving it. Scores and parts might be handed to performers, passed on to others, and so on. As a result, we must assume that the surviving orchestral work of Bach—the six Brandenburg Concertos, the four orchestral suites, and upwards of twenty solo concertos—represent only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the surviving works were composed (or at least put into their present form) during the six years, 1717-23 when Bach was in the service of the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen. The court was Calvinist, with little or nothing in the way of elaborate music at the church services, so Bach devoted himself almost entirely to the production of secular music such as birthday cantatas or chamber and orchestral works for his music-loving patron.

Of the four surviving orchestral suites, the B-minor suite is the smallest and most intimate of the four works, scored simply for flute, strings, and continuo. The term “suite” is a modern convention, used to describe a set of dance movements that follow one another in succession (“en suite”). Bach himself called these works after their largest component, the grand French-style overture, and indeed they are published as Ouvertures. The remainder of the work consists of stylized dance movements employing the basic metrical patterns of the dances in question, but intended for concert use, not for the ballroom. The abstract movements are often of dance character (the rondeau uses the meter and flow of the gavotte, for example). The flute’s prominent part offers plenty of opportunity for virtuosity, as in the Double to the Polonaise, a kind of variation on the dance, and the saucy “Badinerie”—a word that Bach invented as a musical term (it means “banter”) to describe the soloist’s cheerful chatter.

As with today’s performance, previous BSO programs have, at most, excerpted movements from Bach’s four orchestral suite. (The one exception: Anne Harrigan conducted the complete Suite No. 1 in March 2009.)


Antonio Vivaldi | The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons is the best known of all Vivaldi’s works. Inspired by the landscapes of Italian artist Marco Ricci, Vivaldi used his creativity to become the first composer to set his music to poetry, thus producing one of the earliest known examples of program music. The Four Seasons was published with poems that were possibly written by Vivaldi.

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons can be heard on a multitude of Hollywood soundtracks such as Tin Cup, Spy Game, What Lies Beneath, and The Other Sister.

Vivaldi first published The Four Seasons in 1725, as part of his Opus 8 Concertos, a grouping of twelve works which he titled, Il Cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest of Harmony and Invention). While the other concertos represent his usual masterful conception of form in art, The Four Seasons are boldly experimental, combining the structure of the solo concerto with the musical depiction of events found in nature, with telling results.

Each of the four concertos is accompanied by a sonnet describing the atmosphere of the season. Scholars are unsure whether the music or the poetry came first, or even who penned the four sonnets. Given how neatly the three-part structure of each sonnet lines up with the traditional three-movement form of the concerto, many believe it was Vivaldi himself. More than just general inspiration, fragments of the sonnet are interwoven directly into the score, giving concrete insight into how Vivaldi imagined his music brought to life the poem’s vivid imagery. Whoever the author may have been, it’s clear that the Four Seasons follows a specific narrative, making it one of the earliest examples of what we call program music—a genre that wouldn’t hit its stride for another two centuries!

This is only the BSO’s second complete performance of this work. The first featured Benjamin Beilman in November 2011, while Christopher Kimber presented just “Spring” and “Autumn” in November 1976.

La Primavera


Giunto è la Primavera, e festosetti
The festive Spring has arrived,

La salutan gl’augei con lieto canto
The birds celebrate her return with happy songs,

e i fonti allo spirar de zefiretti
And the brooks of the gentle Zephyrs

Con dolce mormorio scorrono intanto
With sweet murmurs flow, but,

Vengon coprendo l’aer di nero ammanto
The sky is covered in a dark mantle

e lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla aletti
And lightning and thunder announce a storm

Indi tacendo questi gl’Augelletti
When quiet returns, the birds

Tornan di nuovo al lor canoro incanto
Again take up their lovely songs.


e quindi sul fiorito ameno Prato
And in the flower-rich meadow,

Al caro mormorar di frondi, e piante
To the gentle murmur of leaves and plants

dorme il copra col fido can à lato
The goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog at his side.


di Pastoral zampogna al suon festante
To the merry sounds of a rustic bagpipe

danzan Ninfe, e Pastor nel tetto amato
Nymphs and shepherds dance in their beloved spot

di Primavera all’apparir brillante
When Spring appears in its brilliance.


Allegro con molto—Allegro

Sotto dura Stagion dal Sole accesa
Under the merciless sun

Langue l’Uom, langue ‘l Gregge, ed arde il Pino
Languishes man and flock; the pine tree burns,

Scioglie ‘l Cucco la voce, e tosto intesa
The cuckoo begins to sing and at once

Canta la Tortorella, e ‘l Gardellino.
Join in the turtle doves and the goldfinch.

Zeffiro dolce spira, mà contesa
A gentle breeze blows, but Boreas

muove Borea improviso al suo vicino
Joins battle suddenly with his neighbor,

e piange il Pastorel, perchè sospesa
And the shepherd weeps because overhead

teme fiera Borasca, e ‘l suo destino.
Hangs the dreaded storm, and his destiny.

Adagio e piano—Presto e forte

Toglie alle membra lasse il suo riposo
His tired limbs are robbed of their rest

il timore de’ Lampi, e tuoni fieri
By his fear of the lightning and the heavy thunder

e de’ mosche, e mossoni il stuol furioso.
And by the furious swarm of flies and hornets.


Ah che pur troppo i suoi timor son veri
Alas, his fears are well founded

Tuona, fulmina il Ciel, e grandinoso
There is thunder and lightning in the sky

Tronca il capo alle spiche, e à grani altieri.
And the hail cuts down the lofty ears of corn.



Celebra il Villanel con balli, e canti
The peasant celebrates with song and dance

del felice raccolto il bel piacere
The pleasure of the rich harvest

e del liquor di Bacco accesi tanti
And full of the liquor of Bacchus

Finiscono col sonno il Lor godere
They finish their merrymaking with a sleep.

Adagio molto

Fà che ogn’uno tralasci, e balli, e canti
All are made to leave off singing and dancing

L’aria, che temperate dà piacere
By the air which now mild gives pleasure

e La staggion ch’invitta tanti, e tanti
And by the season which invited many

8 d’un dolcissimo sonno al bel godere
To enjoy a sweet sleep.


Il Cacciator all nuov’alba à Caccia
At dawn the hunters

Con corni, schioppi, e cani escono fuore
With horns and guns and dogs leave their homes;

Fugge la Belva, e seguono la traccia
The beast flees; they follow its traces.

Già sbigottita, e lassa al gran rumore
Already terrified and tired by the great noise

de schioppi, e cani, ferita minaccia
Of the guns and the dogs, and wounded it tries

Languida di fuggir, mà oppressa muore.
Feebly to escape, but exhausted dies.


Allegro con molto

Aggiacciato tremar trà nevi algenti
Frozen and shivering in the icy snow.

Al severo spirar d’orrido Vento
In the strong blasts of a terrible wind

Correr battendo i piedi ogni momento
To run stamping one’s feet at every step

e per soverchio gel batter i denti
With one’s teeth chattering through the cold.


Passar al foco i di quieti, e contenti
To spend the quiet and happy days by the fire

Mentre la pioggia fuor bagna ben cento
Whilst outside the rain soaks everyone.

Caminar sopra ‘l giaccio; e à passo lento
To walk on the ice with slow steps

8 Per timor di cader girsene intenti
And go carefully for fear of falling.


Gir forte, sdrucciolar cader à terra
To go in haste, slide and fall down:

di nuovo ir sopra ‘l giaccio, e correr forte
To go again on the ice and run,

Sin che ‘l giaccio si rompe, e si disserra
Until the ice cracks and opens.

Sentir uscir dalle ferrate porte
To hear leaving their iron-gated house

Sirocco, Borea, e tutti i venti in guerra
Sirocco, Boreas and all the winds in battle:

Questi è ‘l Verno, mà tal, che gioia apporte.
This is winter, but it brings joy.

*Programming subject to change