|About this Recording
2.110238 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - VENICE: City of Water and Light (NTSC)
A Musical Tour of Venice With music by Antonio Vivaldi
Piazza San Marco • Campanile • Island of San Giorgio Maggiore • Grand Canal • Rialto Bridge • Riva degli Schiavoni
A portrait of Antonio Vivaldi fades as the Piazza San Marco is seen, followed by the Campanile (Bell Tower), Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, glimpses of the Grand Canal, which winds its way through the whole city, and the Riva degli Schiavoni. The Rialto Bridge dates from 1592 and provides an important crossing-point of the Grand Canal. Wide enough for shops, the bridge was at one time the only crossing, and the surrounding district was the commercial centre of the city, with adjoining markets.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in E flat major, Op. 8, No. 5, RV 253, ‘La Tempesta di Mare’: I. Presto
The set of concertos published in Amsterdam in 1725 under the title Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Inventione contained the most popular of all Vivaldi’s five hundred or more concertos, The Four Seasons. These are succeeded, in the published set, by a fifth concerto which follows what became almost a standard form for Vivaldi, with solo episodes framed by a recurrent ritornello, with which the movement begins. [Recording (all works) by Béla Bánfalvi conducting the Budapest Strings, from Naxos 8.550189]
The Grand Canal serves as the principal artery of the city, which has a multitude of narrower canals, known as rii. While the traditional form of transport was the gondola, other conveyances include water-buses, vaporetti and motoscafi, while smaller motor boats ply their trade as taxis.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in E flat major, Op. 8, No. 5, RV 253, ‘La Tempesta di Mare’: II. Largo
The slow movements of Vivaldi’s concertos are often in the form of solo instrumental arias, with the solo violin, as here, lightly accompanied.
Waterfront view of the Doge’s Palace and Piazzetta • San Marco Boat Trip along the Grand Canal
The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was the residence of the elected ruler of Venice. The present building dates from the fourteenth century, with various modifications and additions over the years. It adjoins the great Basilica of San Marco, to the east side of the Piazzetta di San Marco, which leads from the Piazza di San Marco to the waterside. Flanking the Grand Canal are over a hundred palaces built over the centuries, many bearing famous names of the great families of the old republic.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in E flat major, Op. 8, No. 5, RV 253, ‘La Tempesta di Mare’: III. Presto
The concerto, one of four with the apparently descriptive title La Tempesta di Mare (The Sea Storm), ends with a movement that again opens with a ritornello, a passage that will return in one way or another to frame solo episodes.
Church of Santa Maria della Salute
The Church of Santa Maria della Salute was erected in the seventeenth century in thanksgiving after the ending of the plague. It stands at the beginning of the Grand Canal and contains paintings by Titian and Tintoretto, with statues of St Mark and other saints. The high altar has a statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child. On the left a figure represents Venice praying, with a figure on the left of an angel banishing the plague from the city.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 8, No. 6, RV 180, ‘Il Piacere’:I. Allegro
The sixth concerto of Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Inventione follows a similar pattern to the preceding concerto. It is scored, as usual, for an orchestra of strings, with a harpsichord continuo filling out the harmonies, and a solo violin. Vivaldi is able, however, to explore an infinite variety of invention within his chosen form.
Winter Scenes • Grand Canal • Bridge of Sighs
Venice is now seen through mist and snow covers the roofs of buildings. Gondolas, now predominantly used for pleasure by visitors to the city, remain moored, moving with the lapping of the water.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 8, No. 6, RV 180, ‘Il Piacere’: II. Largo
The E minor slow movement has a gentle lilt, with a time signature of 12/8. The title Il Piacere (Pleasure) describes the general mood of the work.
The ordinary life of Venice continues with a busy market, stocked with vegetables and with an abundant supply of fish.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 8, No. 6, RV 180, ‘Il Piacere’: III. Allegro
The ritornello that starts the third movement of the concerto uses wide leaps from the higher strings of the violin to the open G string.
Piazzetta San Marco • Piazza San Marco • Campanile
The Piazzetta San Marco leads off the great Piazza San Marco and lies between the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and the old Library. The famous Campanile can be seen at the corner, in the Piazza itself. The present building was reconstructed after the original 12th century belltower collapsed in 1902. The clock-tower can be seen on the opposite side of the Piazza. The flocks of pigeons need no introduction.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8, No. 7, RV 242: I. Allegro
The seventh concerto of Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Inventione starts with a lively ritornello, which will return between solo episodes.
Piazza San Marco by night
The Piazza takes on another aspect, seen partly illuminated by lamps, as darkness surrounds the city. On the clock-tower two bronze male figures, known as ‘Moors’ and cast in 1497, strike the hour.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8, No. 7, RV 242: II. Largo
The slow movement of the concerto again takes the form of an aria, lightly accompanied by the orchestra.
The Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), founded in the 9th century, was rebuilt in the 15th century. It contains a rich collection of statues, paintings and elaborate decoration, with the Scala d’Oro leading to the Doge’s private rooms on the first floor and the ornate public rooms on the second floor. In the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Hall of Greater Council) is a wall painting of the Venetian fleet preparing for war against Barbarossa by Fr. Bassano.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8, No. 7, RV 242: III. Allegro
The concerto, dedicated to the German violinist Pisendel, a pupil of Vivaldi in Venice, ends with virtuoso display for the solo violinist.
The Lions of Venice
St Mark was said to have visited Venice and been assured by an angel that his body would lie there. It was in the 9th century that his body was brought there from Egypt, to lie in the newly built church, the Basilica of San Marco, finally rebuilt in the 11th century. It remained the Doge’s chapel, the centre for state occasions. The symbol of St Mark is the winged lion, and figures of lions abound, not only on the façade of San Marco but on various buildings in the city. The lions of Venice are seen here in the snow. The Porta della Carta (Charter Portal) of the Doge’s Palace has, above the door, a statue of the Doge Francesco Foscari kneeling before the Winged Lion.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 8, No. 8, RV 332: I. Allegro
The concerto opens with a vigorous ritornello, leading to the entry of the soloist and a first extended episode, after which the ritornello returns to frame further solo episodes of increasing brilliance.
Venice at sunset
The Grand Canal is seen in the magic half-light of Venice as the sun sets.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8, No. 8, RV 332: II. Largo
The slow movement offers a plaintive aria for the solo violin.
Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore is sited on an island and faces St Mark’s. The building was started by Palladio in 1565 and the design of the classical façade is his, although it was completed after his death. Formerly a Benedictine monastery, the monastic buildings now house the Giorgio Cini Foundation, devoted to the study of the history and culture of Venice. The cloisters recall the original monastic functions of the buildings, from which a fine view of the Basilica of San Marco can be seen.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8, No. 8, RV 332: III. Allegro
The concerto ends with a movement that allows the soloist chances for extended virtuoso display, with an exploration of the high range of the violin. Visitors to Venice had remarked on Vivaldi’s own then remarkable use of the highest possible register of the violin, a feat that some regarded as amazing rather than pleasing.
Canal and waterfront scenes
The Grand Canal, which divides Venice into two, leads from the Church of Santa Maria della Salute and the Dogana di Mare, past the palazzi, the palaces of leading families, to the modern railway station, the Stazione Santa Lucia.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in B flat major, Op. 8, No. 10, RV 362, ‘La Caccia’: I. Allegro
Concerto No. 10 of Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Inventione has the additional title La Caccia (The Chase) and makes use of familiar hunting motifs.
The quality of light in Venice has proved attractive to painters. The most familiar of the vedutisti abroad is probably Canaletto, who painted views of Venice largely for foreign visitors. Francesco Guardi offers more homely pictures of Venice and the life of its inhabitants.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in B flat major, Op. 8, No. 10, RV 362, ‘La Caccia’: II. Adagio
The slow movement of the concerto is scored for solo violin and basso continuo of cello and harpsichord.
The Arsenal, established first in the early twelfth century, was an important element in the power and prosperity of Venice. Considerably developed in later centuries, it incorporated materials brought from the eastern Mediterranean, including the stone lions that are symbols of St Mark and of Venice itself.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in B flat major, Op. 8, No. 10, RV 362, ‘La Caccia’: III. Allegro
The last movement of the concerto is introduced by the usual orchestral ritornello, followed by the entry of the soloist with a series contrasting episodes which it frames.
Church of San Zaccaria • Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth
Among the notable buildings of Venice is the Church of San Zaccaria, founded in the 9th century, rebuilt in the 15th and finally decorated with a Renaissance marble façade. The Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth, otherwise known as degli Scalzi, commissioned in 1670 by the Discalced Carmelites, is an example of Venetian baroque, with its triangular pediment and rooftop statues. Other statues include the equestrian monument to the condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni, which was cast in the last decade of the 15th century.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 8, No. 11, RV 210: I. Allegro
The first movement of the Concerto in D major, Op. 8, No. 11, opens with contrapuntal imitation, the second violin entering in imitation of the first.
Venice at night
Venice takes on a new magic by night. The Piazza San Marco and waterfront are seen from the Punta della Dogana on Giudecca, which marks the split between the Grand Canal and the Canale della Giudecca. There are also views of the Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore, and of the Chiesa del Redentore on Giudecca.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 8, No. 11, RV 210: II. Largo
The slow movement of the concerto is in the key of D minor, opening with descending figuration, the solo violin accompanied by the viols and violas of the orchestra.
Venice from the air
An aerial view of Venice shows the domes and roofs of the city, first in daylight and then at sunset. There is a final sight of the Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal, leading, as all visits to Venice must, to the Great Basilica of San Marco, with its gilded mosaic interior.
Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 8, No. 11, RV 210: III. Allegro
The concerto ends with a contrapuntal movement, with second violins entering in imitation of the first, echoing the pattern that had opened the first movement.
Close the window