“The Four Seasons” Op. 8

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
arranged for organ solo by Jonathan Scott

“The Four Seasons” is undoubtedly Vivaldi’s best known and most widely performed work and it exists in many versions and arrangements. The music is accompanied by a set of sonnets – possibly by Vivaldi – describing the events which Vivaldi’s music evokes, making it one of the earliest examples
of ‘program music’.

“The Four Seasons” has always been one of my favourite pieces of music. I have known and heard it since I was around 6 years old, when I had a cassette tape of the work which I listened to constantly - it was also the reason I played the violin for several years. In my professional life I have played harpsichord continuo for dozens of performances of the work and never cease to tire of the sheer vitality and joy of Vivaldi’s music.

Although Johann Sebastian Bach made several very effective organ and keyboard arrangements of some of Vivaldi’s other concerti, I have always thought it was a shame that he didn’t transcribe “The Four Seasons” too. It would be fascinating to know how Bach would have re-imagined Vivaldi’s music as an organ solo and how he would translate Vivaldi’s virtuosic violin writing for the keyboard. With this in mind, I wanted to create a version of my own for organ solo – a version which was faithful to Vivaldi’s original score, but created a true organ work and not a poor imitation of the original. I transcribed 'Winter' in 2013 for a performance at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester UK. This was followed by 'Summer' in 2014 for a performance at Victoria Hall, Hanley UK. I completed Spring and Autumn in 2015 and gave the first complete performance of “The Four Seasons” in May 2015 in the Chapel of Ellesmere College, Shropshire UK.

The videos of The Four Seasons were all filmed in different locations and on different styles of organ. They were all filmed in the season which they represent - a process which has taken nearly two years but provides films of the four concertos as I imagined them. I hope that the choice of instruments and locations, as well as the texts of the sonnets at the
points they appear in the score help to bring Vivaldi's music to life.




Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8 No. 1, RV 269, La Primavera (“Spring”)
i. Allegro  ii. Largo e pianissimo sempre  iii. Allegro pastorale

Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are
softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar,
casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence,
and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

Largo e pianissimo sempre
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches
rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps,
his faithful dog beside him.

Allegro pastorale

Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes,
nymphs and shepherds lightly dance
beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

Spring was recorded at the organ of St Paul's Church, Royton.
The Organ was built by Harrison & Harrison Ltd (1956) and was restored by Willis & Sons Ltd (2016).


Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, L’Estate (“Summer”)
i. Allegro non molto  ii. Adagio e piano - Presto e forte  iii. Presto

Allegro non molto

Under a hard Season, fired up by the Sun
Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine
We hear the cuckoo's voice;
then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air, but threatening
the North Wind sweeps them suddenly aside.
The shepherd trembles,
fearing violent storms and his fate.

Adagio e piano - Presto e forte
The fear of lightning and fierce thunder
Robs his tired limbs of rest
As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

Alas, his fears were justified

Summer was recorded on the 'Father' Willis organ of Hereford Cathedral.


Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293, L’Autunno (“Autumn”)
i. Allegro  ii. Adagio molto  
iii. Allegro

Celebrates the peasant, with songs and dances,
The pleasure of a bountiful harvest.
And fired up by Bacchus' liquor,
many end their revelry in sleep.

Adagio molto
Everyone is made to forget their cares and to sing and dance
By the air which is tempered with pleasure
And (by) the season that invites so many, many
Out of their sweetest slumber to fine enjoyment

The hunters emerge at the new dawn,
And with horns and dogs and guns depart upon their hunting
The beast flees and they follow its trail;
Terrified and tired of the great noise
Of guns and dogs, the beast, wounded, threatens
Languidly to flee, but harried, dies.

Autumn was recorded on the organ of St. Lamberti, Münster, Germany
(Organ by
Karl Schuke, Berlin 1989 - Enlarged 2006



Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8 No. 4, RV 297, L
’Inverno (“Winter”)
i. Allegro non molto  ii. Largo  iii. Allegro

Allegro non molto
To tremble from cold in the icy snow,
In the harsh breath of a horrid wind;
To run, stamping one's feet every moment,
Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold

Before the fire to pass peaceful,
Contented days while the rain outside pours down.

We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously,
for fear of tripping and falling.
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and,
rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up.
We feel the chill north winds course through the home
despite the locked and bolted doors...
this is winter, which nonetheless
brings its own delights.

Winter was recorded on the organ of Basílica de Santa María, Elche, Spain
(Organ by Gerhard Grenzing - 2006)

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