In early 18th-century Venice, one of the most beautiful and civilized cities in Europe, there were a number of celebrated boarding schools in which young girls were trained in singing and playing instruments to spectacular virtuosity. Antonio Vivaldi — composer, violinist and Catholic priest — was the musical director of the most famous of these schools, the Pietà.

    For the girls of the Pietà’s orchestra, he poured out a torrent of glittering music that astonished Europe. The immensely popular sequence of four concertos called The Seasons was published in a book called The Argument of Harmony and Invention. Each is preceded by a poem by Vivaldi himself, in which he describes the actions and delights of each season as depicted in his music with all the vividness of one of the great Italian paintings from the same period.

    61 minutes

    Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Harry Bicketconductor
    Gerard McBurneycreative director and narrator

    Recorded at Orchestra Hall in May, 2008