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. (Picture book. 6-9)