We are all probably familiar with Antonio Vivaldi’s famous Four Seasons, but I’d be willing to bet that you haven’t heard of this Seasons composition. It was written for the Russian Imperial Ballet troupe in 1900 by the Russian composer Alexander Glazunov. However, unlike most ballets, Glazunov’s Seasons does not contain a singular storyline. Instead, it contains four distinct sections (perhaps a nod to Vivaldi?) that are named after the four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
First, you’ll hear the Winter movement. Listen for the frantic way that Glazunov portrays ice, snow, and hail with the clarinets and strings. The falling snow is depicted as an almost Strauss-ian waltz.
Second, you’ll hear the Spring movement. In the ballet, this movement is introduced by two gnomes who light a warm fire amidst the snow and frost. The harp depicts the arrival of flowers and songbirds.
Third, you’ll hear the Summer movement. The clarinet returns with the “Dance of the Corn,” representing the growing of crops in the summer heat. Listen for the strings’ representation of a bubbling brook, which provides relief for the summer flowers.
Fourth, you’ll hear the Autumn movement. The dancers focus here on the harvesting of crops and the making of wine. Listen for the wild dance to Bacchus, the historical god of wine. The movement ends with the arrival of a warm autumn night and the emergence of stars in the sky.
P.S. I couldn’t find a suitable video of a live performance, but I think the video above is actually quite helpful because it notates the changing of the seasons with text and images.