SUBJECTS — Music-Classical; World/Italy



AGE; Not rated but suitable for children 10 and above.

2019; 53 minutes; Color. Available from PBS Passport and Amazon Prime.



TWM has developed a comprehension test to ensure that students are paying attention during the film. For a version of the Comprehension Test without the suggested answers in Microsoft Word, click here.


Scott Yoo, American violinist, and Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Mexico City Philharmonic and the Music Director of Festival Mozaic, hosts this music appreciation series shown on PBS. Each episode features insights into the work and lives of a different major classical composer. Part travelogue, most show the cities in which they lived and worked. The episodes also show excellent and often astounding local artists.


The episodes are perfect for adding context, interest, and background for any class featuring classical music.



Scott Yoo

Harry Lynch


Students will learn about Antonio Vivaldi and The Four Seasons. They will be introduced to the wonderful country of Italy and the City of Venice.  They will hear excellent performances of excerpts of Vivaldi’s music by Yoo and local artists.




Watch and enjoy this episode with your children.  Tell them about the Ospedale della Pietà at which Vivaldi composed and taught for 27 years.  Read together, the sonnets of The Four Seasons written, probably by Vivaldi, to accompany the music.  If there is interest, show them the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra’s music appreciation piece on the concertos for Summer and Winter from The Four Seasons.


Vivaldi: Something Completely Different, Season 1, Episode 1

Episode 1 follows Scott Yoo on a trip to Italy to discover the secrets of Vivaldi’s most famous work, The Four Seasons. Mr. Yoo visits several locations in which Vivaldi lived, meets and plays excerpts of Vivaldi’s music with several excellent local performers, and has his violin adjusted by a master violin-maker. He learns that Vivaldi, in addition to being a performer, composer, and opera impresario, was also an ordained Catholic priest. Yoo finally concludes:

With this, my understanding of the four seasons snapped into focus. Its melodies are inspired by the church yet delivered with opera-like drama. The Four Seasons is Vivaldi’s two opposing musical passions, the church, and the opera, brought together by his virtuosity. It’s a sacred instrumental opera with the violin as the star. I’m Scott Yoo and I hope that you can now hear this.


Historical Accuracy:  So far as we can tell, everything in this episode is accurate.



Four concerti, each with three movements.


La Primavera (Spring)
Opus 8, No. 1, in E Major

I. Allegro
Festive Spring has arrived,
The birds salute it with their happy song.
And the brooks, caressed by little Zephyrs,
Flow with a sweet murmur.
The sky is covered with a black mantle,
And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm.
When they are silent, the birds
Return to sing their lovely song.

  1. Largo e pianissimo sempre
    And in the meadow, rich with flowers,
    To the sweet murmur of leaves and plants,
    The goatherd sleeps, with his faithful dog at his side.

III. Danza pastorale. Allegro
To the festive sound of pastoral bagpipes,
Dance nymphs and shepherds,
At Spring’s brilliant appearance.

L’Estate (Summer)
Opus 8, No. 2, in G minor

I. Allegro non molto
Under the heat of the burning summer sun,
Languish man and flock; the pine is parched.
The cuckoo finds its voice, and suddenly,
The turtledove and goldfinch sing.
A gentle breeze blows,
But suddenly, the north wind appears.
The shepherd weeps because, overhead,
Lies the fierce storm, and his destiny.

  1. Adagio; Presto
    His tired limbs are deprived of rest
    By his fear of lightning and fierce thunder,
    And by furious swarms of flies and hornets.

III. Presto
Alas, how just are his fears,
Thunder and lightning fill the Heavens, and the hail
Slices the tops of the corn and other grain.

L’Autunno (Autumn)
Opus 8, No. 3, in F Major

I. Allegro
The peasants celebrate with dance and song,
The joy of a rich harvest.
And, full of Bacchus’s liquor,
They finish their celebration with sleep.

  1. Adagio molto
    Each peasant ceases his dance and song.
    The mild air gives pleasure,
    And the season invites many
    To enjoy a sweet slumber.

III. Allegro
The hunters, at the break of dawn, go to the hunt.
With horns, guns, and dogs they are off,
The beast flees, and they follow its trail.
Already fearful and exhausted by the great noise,
Of guns and dogs, and wounded,
The exhausted beast tries to flee, but dies.

L’Inverno (Winter)
Opus 8, No. 4, in F minor

I. Allegro non molto
Frozen and trembling in the icy snow,
In the severe blast of the horrible wind,
As we run, we constantly stamp our feet,
And our teeth chatter in the cold.

  1. Largo
    To spend happy and quiet days near the fire,
    While, outside, the rain soaks hundreds.

III. Allegro
We walk on the ice with slow steps,
And tread carefully, for fear of falling.
Symphony, If we go quickly, we slip and fall to the ground.
Again we run on the ice,
Until it cracks and opens.
We hear, from closed doors,
Sirocco, Boreas, and all the winds in battle.
This is winter, but it brings joy.


Taken from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” Poems, December 29, 2017, From the Website of Charlotte Symphony

Comprehension Test

TWM has developed the following comprehension test to ensure that students are paying attention during the film. For a version of the Comprehension Test without the suggested answers in Microsoft Word, click here.


1. In which city was Vivaldi born?

Suggested Response:



2. What great advantage did Stradivarius have as a violin maker, other than his genius?

Suggested Response:

Generations of violinmakers in his family.


3. What is being restored in Cremona?

Suggested Response:

The craft of violin making.


4. Why, for centuries, was the human voice the preferred musical instrument?

Suggested Response:

In early human history, the voice was the most capable musical instrument because the technology for making instruments played with the hands was not sufficiently developed to rival the human voice. This was before people like Stradivarius.]


5. Which evolved first, the compositions made by innovative composers or the improvements of the instruments that inspired composers to create new works of art employing the new capabilities of the improved instruments.

Suggested Response:

Technology evolved first and the vision of the composers responded making use of the new capacities of the instruments. Or, to put it another way, the new capabilities of the instruments inspired new creativity in the composers.


6. Why, in the years before 1926 was Vivaldi not well-known as a composer and what happened to change that?

Suggested Response:

The written versions of most of his music had been lost. Most of it had been put into a truck and forgotten. The trunk was donated to a church. The priest took it to the Turin Library to have it valued before selling it to get money for his church. The librarian, who also happened to be a musicologist, recognized the contents of the trunk for what they were and told the priest that it could not be sold but had to be kept in the library.


7. Why is Vivaldi such an important influence on classical music today?

Suggested Response:

Vivaldi inspired Bach who inspired most other classical musicians.


8. Vivaldi wanted his music to celebrate and touch what?

Suggested Response:

The divine or that which is universal.


9. Vivaldi was not only a musician, composer, and opera impresario, he was also a . . . ?

Suggested Response:



10. Where is the original manuscript of the Four Seasons as it is played by orchestras today?

Suggested Response:

It is lost; it doesn’t exist.

Additional Learning Opportunities

Teachers who have time and inclination can enhance students’ understanding of The Four Seasons and Vivaldi and teach excellent historical and developmental lessons by adding the following.

A more complete analysis of the Summer and Winter Concerti from The Four Seasons can be found at APO Unwrap Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Summer & Winter, by the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra. This is 50 minutes 20 seconds.

Some terms used in the episode that bear definition.

Ritornello Form: Translated as “Return” is a Baroque formal design based on the dramatic alternation of two opposing entities: A “returning” big group (“Tutti”) and a contrasting small one (“solo”)–Tutti-Solo-Tutti-Solo-Tutti-Solo-Tutti, etc.

sui ponticello is a directive to string musicians to perform the indicated passage with the bow over or near the bridge of the instrument rather than in the usual position, which is between the fingerboard and the bridge.

semiquaver – a 16th note

demisemiquaver – a 32nd note

pizzicato – method of playing by plucking the strings with the fingers, rather than using the bow.

largo — Slow and dignified tempo.

Sequence – or sequential pattern – the restatement of a motif or longer melodic (or harmonic) passage at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice.

Allegro — joyful; lively and fast. Joyful; moderately fast tempo.

pedal point — also pedal note – a sustained note during which the harmony above it changes in some way so that the overall sound becomes dissonant

The Ospedales of Venice– Glory from Discarded Babies

The Ospedale della Pietà was an institution in Venice from 12th century A.D. for the next five hundred years. It was founded by a Franciscan “Friar Petruccio” who, tradition has it, was known to run through the streets crying out “Pietà! Pietà!” The Ospedale della Pietà took in abandoned infants who were placed in a small revolving door in the outer wall of the orphanage. If they were small enough to fit through the door, they were accepted without condition after which they were placed with a wet-nurse until old enough to live at the orphanage. There were as many as a thousand orphans at the Ospedale della Pietà at any one time. The boys were taught a trade and the girls were taught the skills of a homemaker, unless they were deformed from the mother having had a disease such as syphilis or from a birth defect in which case they stayed at the orphanage their entire lives. The girls were given musical training and if they had talent, they would perform in the chorus or orchestra.

The Pieta was one of four Ospedales that operated in Venice, each having a different emphasis and most taking in orphans. Their musical concerts were a way of raising money.

The ladies of the Ospedale della Pietà performed behind a grate, to hide their deformities and their identities. The conservatory of the Ospedale della Pietà performed music composed by the greatest classical musicians of their time. For example, Antonio Vivaldi who was an expert violinist as well as a composer, taught and created music for the Ospedale della Pietà for some 30 years. During much of that time he served as its music director.

The conservatory of the Ospedale della Pietà was so renowned that girls from wealthy and aristocratic families would pay to have their daughters taught music at the conservatory.

Perhaps the best description of the Ospedale della Pietà and its music comes from the pen of Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), one of the most influential thinkers of the age of Enlightenment. In the 17th and 18th centuries, following the Renaissance, progressive culture in Europe entered a phase based on the sovereignty of reason, freedom of speech, equality, freedom of press, and religious tolerance. The American Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution of 1776 were based on ideas from the Enlightenment. Rousseau’s work explored the implications for human freedom and autonomy in a world in which we are increasingly dependent on one another for the satisfaction of our needs.

Rosseau spent a considerable amount of time as a tourist in Venice. Below is his description of his encounter with the women of the Ospedale della Pietà as a young tourist on an extended stay in Venice. It is taken from his autobiographical work THE CONFESSIONS OF JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU.

A kind of music far superior, in my opinion, to that of operas, and which in all Italy has not its equal, nor perhaps in the whole world, is that of the ‘scuole’. The ‘scuole’ are houses of charity, established for the education of young girls without fortune, to whom the republic [of Venice] afterwards gives a portion either in marriage or for the cloister. Amongst talents cultivated in these young girls, music is in the first rank. Every Sunday at the church of each of the four ‘scuole’, during vespers, motettos or anthems with full choruses, accompanied by a great orchestra, and composed and directed by the best masters in Italy, are sung in the galleries by girls only; not one of whom is more than twenty years of age. I have not an idea of anything so voluptuous and affecting as this music; the richness of the art, the exquisite taste of the vocal part, the excellence of the voices, the justness of the execution, everything in these delightful concerts concurs to produce an impression which certainly is not the mode, but from which I am of opinion no heart is secure. Carrio [a close friend] and I never failed being present at these vespers of the ‘Mendicanti’ [‘beggars’], and we were not alone. The church was always full of the lovers of the art, and even the actors of the opera came there to form their tastes after these excellent models. What vexed me was the iron grate, which suffered nothing to escape but sounds, and concealed from me the angels of which they were worthy. I talked of nothing else. One day I spoke of it at Le Blond’s [a man in charge of the French embassy in Venice]; “If you are so desirous,” said he, “to see those little girls, it will be an easy matter to satisfy your wishes. I am one of the administrators of the house, I will give you a collation [a light meal] with them.” I did not let him rest until he had fulfilled his promise. In entering the saloon, which contained these beauties I so much sighed to see, I felt a trembling of love which I had never before experienced. M. le Blond presented to me one after the other, these celebrated female singers, of whom the names and voices were all with which I was acquainted. Come, Sophia,—she was horrid [looking]. Come, Cattina,—she had but one eye. Come, Bettina,—the small-pox had entirely disfigured her. Scarcely one of them was without some striking defect.

Le Blond laughed at my surprise; however, two or three of them appeared tolerable; these never sung but in the choruses; I was almost in despair. During the collation we endeavored to excite them, and they soon became enlivened; ugliness does not exclude the graces, and I found they possessed them. I said to myself, they cannot sing in this manner without intelligence and sensibility, they must have both; in fine, my manner of seeing them changed to such a degree that I left the house almost in love with each of these ugly faces. I had scarcely courage enough to return to vespers. But after having seen the girls, the danger was lessened. I still found their singing delightful; and their voices so much embellished their persons that, in spite of my eyes, I obstinately continued to think them beautiful

The following is a section of a poem written in 1730 relating to Anna Maria dal Violin, also called, Anna Maria della Pietà, most likely the greatest female violinist in the 18th century. She was taught by Vivaldi who composed 37 concertos and several other works for her to perform. She also played harpsichord, mandolin, lute, theorbo, cello, violetta d’amore and oboe.

But here, leading the way
Like the leader of a platoon,
Comes the clever Anna Maria,
True incarnation of goodness and beauty.

She plays the violin in such a way
That anyone hearing her is transposed to Paradise,
If indeed it is true that up there
The angels played like that.

Equally good are her bow arm
And her arm over the fingerboard:
Her equal is not to be found
In the state of San Marco.

Indeed, in the whole world
No woman or man is her equal:
I do not exaggerate; and I speak the truth
As a man of honor.

What professional musician
Plays as she does the harpsichord, violin
Cello, viola d’amore,
lute, theorbo and mandolin?

In truth, these are virtues
That immortalize whoever possesses them;
But she has even more of them
As I am here to bear witness.

She has a golden heart lacking in duplicity,
Which is faithful, grateful and loving;
She is very beautiful, but her beauty
Does not turn her head.

She has fair hair, rosy cheeks,
A snow white breast, fiery eyes and
Noble features; her character is vivacious in
Serious matters as in jest.

But I’ll say no more, because you might
Believe me to be in love with her,
And in that you would perhaps not be
Very far from the truth.
Forget I said that
And let’s return to the point.
Next comes… comes…. Damnation!…
Who comes? I’m confused.


Comprehension Test Questions 4 – 7 can serve as class discussion questions.


Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.”) CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.




Orphans and Musicians in Venice

Denis Stevens describes a unique system of social support in 18th-century Venice that brought great economic, social, and cultural benefits.


See Links to the Internet Section,

This Learning Guide was written by James A. Frieden. It was published on December 31, 2020