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8.556779 - CHILL WITH VIVALDI
Chill With Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Known in his native Venice as The Red Priest on account of his shock of red hair, Antonio Vivaldi was born in 1678, the son of a barber who later served as a violinist at the great Basilica of St Mark.
Vivaldi studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703. At the same time he won a reputation for himself as a violinist of phenomenal ability and was appointed violin-master at the Ospedale della Pietà. This institution specialised in the education of orphaned and illegitimate girls and boasted a formidable musical reputation. Vivaldi’s association with the Pietà continued intermittently throughout his life, from 1723 under a contract that provided for the composition of two new concertos every month.
His later career brought involvement with the theatre, as director, manager and as the composer of some fifty operas, many of which are now either lost or forgotten.
Visitors to Venice had borne witness to Vivaldi’s prowess as a violinist, although some found his performance more remarkable than pleasurable. He certainly explored the full possibilities of the instrument, while perfecting the newly developing form of the Italian solo concerto. He left nearly 500 concertos, many for the violin but there were others for a variety of solo instruments or for groups of instruments.
He claimed to be able to compose a new work quicker than a copyist could write it out, and he clearly coupled immense facility with a remarkable capacity for variety within the confines of the three-movement form, with its faster outer movements framing a central slow movement.
Although at one time he had been worth 50,000 ducats a year, his career in fickle Venice began to wane in the late 1730s and in 1741 he left for Vienna, where there seemed some possibility of revitalising his career under imperial patronage. He died there a few weeks after his arrival, in relative poverty.
The surviving church music of Vivaldi includes the well known Gloria, in addition to a number of settings of psalms and motets.
The most famous of all Vivaldi's concertos are Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons), characteristic compositions to which the composer attached explanatory programmatic sonnets. These four concertos, for solo violin, string orchestra and harpsichord, form part of a collection Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'invenzione (The Conflict of Harmony and Invention), one of seven collections of such compositions published in the composer's lifetime. In addition to concertos for solo violin, Vivaldi also wrote concertos for many other solo instruments, including the flute, oboe, bassoon, cello and viola d'amore, and for groups of solo instruments.
Vivaldi wrote a number of sonatas and trio sonatas, many of them designed for one or two violins and basso continuo. He also wrote a series of chamber concertos, compositions similar in approach to the solo and multiple concertos, but scored for smaller groups of instruments.
Track 1 – Concerto for Two Violins, RV516: Larghetto e Spirituoso
In 1711 a group of twelve Violin Concertos was published and dedicated to the Grand Prince of Tuscany. It was the most important group of works in the first half of that century and contains concertos for one, two and three violins. From the eighth concerto we hear a fascinating slow movement Larghetto for two violins.
If you would like to hear the whole of the Concerto for Two Violins then try:
8.553028 Famous Baroque Concertos
Béla Bánfalvi and Zsuzsa Németh (Violins)
Track 2 – The Four Seasons, Spring: Largo e sempre pianissimo
Track 4 – The Four Seasons, Summer: Adagio, Presto
Track 7 – The Four Seasons, Autumn: Adagio molto
Track 10 – The Four Seasons, Winter: Largo
The four concertos known as Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) had circulated widely in manuscript before being published in Amsterdam in 1725, when explanatory poems, written by the composer himself, were added to clarify the programme of each concerto. Music representing the moods of the four seasons has always been popular, and baroque composers such as Werner and Fischer among others produced cycles of concertos representing the four seasons. But none were to do so in such precise pictorial detail as Antonio Vivaldi in his concertos.
The first concerto, Spring (Track 2),of which we hear the hushed second movement, shows the goat-herd asleep, while the viola serves as a watch-dog, barking regularly in each bar against the murmur of the foliage.
Summer (Track 4) itself is a time of languor. In the Adagio movement heard here, the slumber of woozy shepherds is disturbed only by occasional thunder and lightning, not to mention the irritation of troublesome flies!
The third concerto, Autumn (Track 7) is a celebration of harvest with an excess of wine bringing a sleepiness to the second movement, marked Adagio Molto.
The last of the seasons, Winter (Track 10), bring cold winds, the stamping of feet and chattering teeth. The Largo here offers the shelter of warmth by the fireside while the rain falls outside.
If you would like to hear the whole of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, then try:
8.553219 The Four Seasons
Takako Nishizaki (Violin)
Track 5 – Flute Concerto in D, Il gardellino, RV90: Largo
Track 6 – Flute Concerto in D minor, RV96: Largo
Vivaldi had included bird-song of a particularly vivid kind in his The Four Seasons concertos. His Flute Concerto RV 90 is in fact subtitled Il Gardellino (The Gold-Finch) and bird-song is clearly associated with his concertos for flute. The second movement is a mellifluous aria in the rhythm of a Siciliano. The Largo from the Concerto in D minor, RV96 is a duet for flute and violin, supported by bassoon and continuo.
Further examples of Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto Recordings can be heard on:
8.553365 Flute Concertos Vol. 1
Béla Drahos (Flute)
Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia
8.553101 Flute Concertos Vol. 2
Béla Drahos (Flute)
Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia
Track 8 – Cello Concerto in C minor, RV402 - Adagio
Track 9 – Cello Concerto in D minor, RV407 - Largo e sempre piano
Vivaldi left 27 concertos for cello, string orchestra and basso continuo, seven of which were preserved in the library of an amateur cellist, Count Rudolf von Schonborn. Two of them are featured here. The Adagio of the C Minor Cello Concerto features a striking triplet rhythm solo for the cello; the Largo of the D Minor Cello Concerto, is a hushed movement of exposed cello, set against a backdrop of a steadily descending accompaniment.
Further examples of Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto Recordings can be heard on:
8.550907 Cello Concertos Vol. 1
8.550908 Cello Concertos Vol. 2
8.550909 Cello Concertos Vol. 3
8.550910 Cello Concertos Vol. 4
Raphael Wallfisch (Cello)
Nicholas Kraemer (Harpsichord)
City of London Sinfonia, Nicholas Kraemer
Track 11 – Dresden Concerto in G major, RV314a: Adagio
Track 12 – Dresden Concerto in A, RV341: Largo
In 1716 Johann Georg Pisendel came to Venice as part of the entourage of Frederick Augustus, Future Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. After studying under Vivaldi that year, Pisendel spent the majority of his career in Dresden and remains by repute the most distinguished German violinist of his day. As testimony to their friendship, established in that one year in Venice, Vivaldi dedicated many of his concertos to Pisendel, and these are found in the Dresden Saxony Landesbibliothek, the region’s main library. Vivaldi’s connecction with Dresden and the royal house of Saxony continued until near the end of his career, when in 1740 the visit to Venice of Frederick Christian, son of the Elector, was celebrated by the Pièta with a new set of concertos by Vivaldi. The slow movement of the Concerto in A, RV341 is characterized by its striking violin solo over a tremolo accompaniment.
Further examples of Vivaldi’s Dresden Concerto Recordings can be heard on:
8.553792 Dresden Concertos Vol. 1
8.553793 Dresden Concertos Vol. 2
8.553860 Dresden Concertos Vol. 3
8.554310 Dresden Concertos Vol. 4
Alberto Martini (Violin)
Accademia I Filarmonici
Track 13 – Gloria in D, RV 589 - Et in terra pax
Vivaldi probably produced a great deal of his choral music at the Ospedale della Pieta, where he maintained a teaching post for much of his life, although we can only speculate as to whether his charges there were fit for the challenges of the famous Gloria. This delicious slow movement leaves the intricate work to the instruments and deploys the choir in slow-moving block chords. The harmonies and modulations - where the music changes key - are strikingly original and daring for the day.
If you would like to hear the whole of Vivaldi’s Gloria, try:
8.554056 Gloria (coupled with Bach’s Magnificat)
Schola Cantorum of Oxford, Jeremy Summerly
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Nicholas Ward
Track 3 – Concerto in A, RV82: Larghetto
Track 14 – Concerto in G for 2 Mandolines, RV 532: Andante
Track 15 – Concerto in D, RV93: Largo
Despite the age-old popularity of the guitar, nothing that Vivaldi may have written for the instrument survives. However, the music he wrote for lute and mandoline has been appropriated by guitarists for whom it provides a valuable addition to repertoire.
The A major Concerto RV82 was originally a trio for violin and lute, and this together with the Concerto in D major for lute and two violins, RV93, is dedicated to Count Johann von Wirtby who served as royal governor in Bohemia. It is thought that Vivaldi may have met the Count in Prague in 1730 when he was absent from Venice. The G major concerto, written for two mandolines, is splendidly effective in its two-guitar version heard here.
Further examples of Vivaldi’s music on guitar can be heard on:
8.550483 Guitar Concertos
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