Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Sometimes music tells a story.
The orphan girls of Ospedale della Pieta are the delight of 18th century Venice. Each week these talented young ladies take up their instruments to perform the latest concertos in the orphanage’s great hall, drawing large audiences from all over Europe.
The young girls’ music instructor, Padre Antonio Vivaldi, not only teaches them how to play their instruments but encourages them to use their imaginations to bring the music to life. When he is separated from his pupils, Vivaldi is inspired to create a set of concertos that represents time itself and composes The Four Seasons.
JoAnn E. Kitchel’s lush illustrations bring the musical masterpiece to life on the page. Included with the book is a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Back matter includes an author’s note with further historical and biographical information, as well as the sonnets that accompany the music.
Read more about Anna Celenza's Once Upon a Masterpiece series and find links to recordings of these compositions online at Anna's Music Spot.
Look Inside the Book:
Author & Illustrator Bios:Anna Harwell Celenza, author
Anna Harwell Celenza is a musicologist and the author of several books for adults and children regarding music history and the history of art. Her children’s books include The Farewell Symphony, Pictures at an Exhibition, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite. Anna lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Read more about Anna.
JoAnn E. Kitchell, illustrator
JoAnn E. Kitchel has illustrated many books for children. This is the seventh book she’s illustrated in Anna Celenza’s music-appreciation series. JoAnn lives in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire.
Read more about JoAnn.
Awards & Honors:
Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Book Award
In 18th-century Venice, a young priest named Vivaldi taught music to the orphans of the Ospedale della Pietà and later composed a concerto for them, the first of four “seasons,” each with an accompanying sonnet.
In her serviceable re-creation of the circumstances behind the composition of “Spring,” Celenza provides a believable back story. She describes the orphanage, the hidden girls’ musical performances (they played behind a screen so no one could see them), and their story-telling teacher, whom they called “Padre Rossi” for his red hair. But there is no real narrative arc to carry readers along. The description and invented dialogue serve as a backdrop for presenting the program of the concerto: the opening birdsong, storm and sunlight’s return; the meadow scenes with the goatherd’s barking dog; and the celebratory dance of the third movement. Watercolor illustrations on double-page spreads give a sense of time and place, but the people are stiff and static. Included as backmatter are translations of the sonnets that accompanied publication of The Four Seasons and a note from the author, who is a commentator and professor of music, adding some further information. Included on CD is a much-lauded performance by the Venice Baroque Orchestra with Giuliano Carmignola on Baroque violin.
Seventh of a series of music-appreciation books for young readers covering composers and interpreters from Bach to Ellington, this is a useful introduction to a beloved classic.
The seventh book in Celenza’s music appreciation series is based upon Vivaldi’s time as a music instructor at a Venetian orphanage. Vivaldi (1678–1741) encourages the orphans to envision stories behind the melodies, but his nontraditional methods cost him his position. As Vivaldi’s fame blossoms, however, the chief governor invites him to visit the orphanage and to write compositions for the girls, which leads to the debut of The Four Seasons. Kitchel’s watercolors blend natural and architectural forms, while the musicians’ wide faces echo the contours of their instruments. Includes a CD recording of The Four Seasons.
School Library Journal
It is a fact that Vivaldi taught and composed music for a Venetian girls’ orphanage that had a renowned student orchestra. It is speculation that he wrote The Four Seasons especially for the girls of the Ospedale della Pietá, but it makes a nice story. The bumpy relationship between the teacher and the school board lends the story tension, while the student musicians (many of whom were disabled) offer human interest. The lyrical description of the spring concerto brings the music to life, and the sonnets Vivaldi wrote for each season are included at the back. An author’s note separates fact from fiction. The watercolor illustrations are pleasant, but somewhat sleepy even in dramatic moments. Beyond the matching uniforms, the faces and hair of the students all look similar. Vivaldi, nicknamed Father Redhead by the girls, appears with dark auburn hair indistinguishable from the hair of most of the students. Music lovers and history buffs will enjoy this entry in Charlesbridge’s series of music-history picture books. –Heidi Estrin, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
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Page count: 32
10 x 10