About this Recording
8.570031 - VIVALDI, A.: 4 Seasons (The) / Mandolin Concerto, RV 425 / Lute Concerto, RV 93 (arr. for piano) (Biegel)
English 

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
The Four Seasons (arr. for piano)

 

Recasting Vivaldi for the piano

In addition to being a renowned composer, Antonio Vivaldi was known throughout Europe as a violin virtuoso, and to a lesser extent as a lutenist and mandolinist. Despite writing music for a large assortment of instruments, music for the keyboard is conspicuously absent from his output.

Though Vivaldi may have neglected to write music for the keyboard, keyboardists throughout history have not neglected him. The young Johann Sebastian Bach made an intensive study of the music of Vivaldi, and transcribed a group of the violin concertos for the keyboard. These studies informed and shaped Bach’s conception of the Baroque concerto, and later bore fruit in many of his mature works. More expediently, they provided him with some sparkling music with which to display his harpsichord virtuosity.

In undertaking to arrange the music of Vivaldi for piano, not the least of the considerations facing the prospective arranger is that, because he wrote no keyboard music, there cannot be said to be a Vivaldi keyboard style, as there is with Bach, Scarlatti or Handel. While in many instances, the virtuoso solo passages of the original translate just as dazzlingly to the piano, there are numerous others where a literal transcription would fall flat, and still others that are virtually crying out for the increased resources of the piano. How then do we create something resembling an “authentic” Vivaldi keyboard style? To some extent, Bach’s arrangements, with their violin passage-work translated into the terms of the keyboard, and their occasionally thickened contrapuntal textures, point the way (or at least point a way.)

In recasting Vivaldi’s music for the modern piano, should all the tonal resources of the instrument, including its sustaining pedal, be used, or should the tonal palette be limited to that of a harpsichord? Considering that the original solo instruments in the pieces that I arranged are lute and mandolin, both of which parallel the piano in featuring strings that can either be left vibrating sympathetically or dampened, it would seem perfectly appropriate to use the pedal. As for the orchestral parts, the resonance of the tutti sections is best approximated with a judicious use of pedal. Of course, this being an arrangement, there are also instances where the use of pedal is needed merely for linkage of notes impossible to join with use of the fingers alone.

As for the range of pitch used, we should keep in mind that the harpsichord—to say nothing of the organ—contained octave-doubling stops. Therefore, it would seem stylistically appropriate to use some octave-doubling on the piano in like manner. Then there is the issue of ornamentation, particularly in the slow movements. There is no question that ornamentation was an essential feature of Baroque music, but should the type of ornamentation used be limited to that idiomatic of the original solo instruments, or is a pianistic type of figuration more appropriate? As the goal is to make these pieces sound as though they were written for the keyboard, it would make sense to use ornamentation befitting it.

Ultimately, although I aimed to keep the arrangements of these pieces in an idiomatically Baroque style, it was even more important to me that the finished product be music that is alive and interesting. It is easy enough to create a literal but lifeless transcription, but as Liszt once noted, “in matters of translation there are some exactitudes that are the equivalent of infidelities”.

Andrew Gentile

 

Having performed The Four Seasons in concert with a string quartet playing their respective parts, the piano assumes the rôle of soloist. In this transcription I use the piano solo transcription published by Ricordi, which lends no mention as to the transcriber. Having this edition as a base for further embellishment, in addition to several recordings of the composition featuring either violin or flute as the solo part, I further add to this transcription Baroque-inspired ornamentation, scale patterns and gentle broadening of textures.

This recording is dedicated to Hanna Saxon, former President of the South Florida Chapter of the Chopin Foundation of the United States. A pianist herself, she was also Co-President along with Leonard Bernstein for the Dmitri Mitropoulos Music Competitions. The South Florida Chapter of the Chopin Foundation of the United States graciously sponsored this recording in her memory.

Jeffrey Biegel

 


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