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Antonio Vivaldi

1678 - 1741

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741) was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and cleric. Born in Venice, he is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He composed many instrumental concertos, for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.

(b. Venice, March 4, 1678; d. Vienna, July 28, 1741)

Italian composer, the most original and A influential of his generation. He traveled widely, was eminently successful at getting his works published, and produced new offerings with astonishing fecundity; as a result, his music became known and emulated throughout Europe. His best-known work, four concertos for violin and strings known collectively as The Four Seasons (Le Quattro Stagione), is among the earliest pieces of program music to have held on to a place in the repertoire.

Both of Vivaldi's grandfathers were tailors. His father, a professional violinist, joined the musical staff at the basilica of San Marco in Venice in 1685, remaining there for nearly 50 years. Antonio, the eldest of nine children, learned music fromhis father and trained for the priesthood; he was ordained in 1703, but ceased performing pastoral duties late in 1706. Also in 1703 he got his first full-time job as a musician, as maestro di violino at the Pio Ospedale della Pieta, one of four church-sponsored orphanages in Venice specializing in the musical training of girls. He gave instruction on violin as well as on the viola all'inglese, an instrument related to the viola d'amore; in 1716 he was named maestro dei concerti, but soon after that he gave up regular teaching in order to spend more time abroad, though he continued to supply the Pieta with concertos on a regular basis until 1729.

During the early 1720s, he spent substantial amounts of time in Mantua and Rome, overseeing performances of operas he had written. By the end of the decade he was again on the road; he appears to have taken leave of Venice for lengthy stays in Vienna and Prague in the early 1730s, again related mainly to the production of newly written operas. The Venetian public began to lose interest in him by the late 1730s, and in 1740 he set off for Vienna once again, where he died in straitened circumstances.

Vivaldi composed voluminously in many genres: He wrote more than 50 operas, several dozen sacred works, four oratorios (of which the best known is Juditha triumphans, written for the girls of the Pieta in 1716), and more than 40 secular cantatas. He turned out solo sonatas and trio sonatas by the bushel and, most important, composed more than 500 concertos for solo and multiple instruments in all kinds of configurations. Of his operas a handful have been revived in modern times, and his buoyant setting of the Gloria, RV 589 (1708), is still immensely popular. But it is the concertos that had the greatest impact on Vivaldi's contemporaries and have kept his name alive for more than 250 years. Roughly 320 of them were written for a single solo instrument, the rest for various groupings of solo instruments. This emphasis on displaying the virtuosity of a single soloist was one of the most influential aspects of Vivaldi's work. Also important was the three-movement structure he favored, which became the norm. The techniques he used to keep these works interesting and lively—deftly varying texture and figuration, writing more "purposefully" for the ripieno, and favoring angular, energetic rhythms' that packed considerable punch—were adopted by composers all over the continent. Even so, something in the sound of Vivaldi's music remained unique and impossible to imitate.

Vivaldi was among the most widely published composers of the first half of the 18th century. The collections of his Opp. 3 through 12—comprising 80 concertos for various groupings (Op. 8 includes The Four Seasons)—were brought out between 1711 and 1729. Around 1730, when he was in his early 50s, Vivaldi decided not to publish any more concertos. It was more profitable for him to sell the actual manuscripts, which brought him a guinea per concerto. Instead of producing sets of concertos for the mass market, he began writing individual pieces for wealthy patrons, who purchased the works outright for their private delectation. The composer, amply rewarded for his labor, was content for these one-of-a-kind creations to disappear into the private collections of the rich and famous.

Unfortunately, these works were quickly lost to the world, since in many cases they were represented by only a single manuscript stashed in a library somewhere. The loss is particularly unfortunate because the pieces embodied the composer's most advanced thinking: They were individualistic and unconventional (if judged by the conventions Vivaldi himself helped to establish), emotionally probing, sophisticated, and surprising. In the final decade of his life, Vivaldi's style became a good deal more dramatic and provocative. Because he was mostly concerned with opera, his concertos tended to present material in a more theatrical manner than his earlier works had, and to exhibit an almost vocal fluency in the solo part. There is an increased interest in embellishment, beauty of line, and expressive freedom, which supersedes the concern for formal balance, symmetry, and correctness of manner that characterized the earlier concertos.

What set Vivaldi's concertos (whether early or late) apart from those of his contemporaries was the way they combined earthy vitality with virtuosic abandon and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of fantasy. These qualities, readily apparent to the more sophisticated among Vivaldi's patrons and peers, were undoubtedly what prompted J. S. Bach, the composer's junior by seven years, to study the works and make arrangements of several of them for his own use at the keyboard.


The qualities of Vivaldi's music - concise themes, clarity of form, rhythmic vitality, homophonic texture, balanced phrases, dramatic dialogue between soloist and ensemble - directly influenced many composers including J. S. Bach, who transcribed several of Vivaldi's concertos for keyboard.

"I have heard him boast of composing a concerto faster than a copyist could write it down!"
                                             Charles de Brosse on the music of Vivaldi

Key Works

The Four Seasons, 0p. 8, nos. 1-4, RV 271

These four concertos for violin and orchestra are part of a set of 12 published in Amsterdam in I725 titled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell,unwentione, or The Trial of Strength Between Harmony and Invention. Unlike most of Vivaldi’s concertos, these four have a clear programme: each concerto was accompanied by an illustrative sonnet printed in the principal violin’s partbook, each on the theme of the respective season. The author of these poems is unknown, although there is some speculation that Vivaldi himself may have written them. The concertos remained popular long after Vivaldi’s death, particularly in France (where “Spring” was a favourite of the French court), and today they are some of the most recorded and performed works ever.

CONCERTO NO. 1, "SPRING" (ALLEGRO-LARGO-ALLEGRO, 7:30) In the Largo of “Spring”, the text tells how “the goatherd sleeps with his trusty dog beside him”; the languorous musical

setting is interrupted only by the “barking” of a solo viola.

CONCERTO NO. 2, " S U M M E R " (ALLEGRO NON МОLTО-ADAGIO/PRESTO- PRESTO. 9:15) Here the hot sun beats down on the farm labourers but a storm looms, finally breaking in the third movement in  a furious hailstorm matched by an equally furious hail of rapid passagework in the orchestra and solo.

CONCERTO NO. 3, " A U T U M N " (ALLEGRO- ADAGIO M0LT0-ALLEGRO, 11:15) “Autumn” opens with a clomping peasant dance to celebrate the harvest and concludes with a hunt (complete with “horns,  guns, and dogs”) that eventually
rings down a wild stag.


Finally, “Winter” describes first the shivering and chattering

of teeth, then the calm moments by the lire, and

lastly the fierce joy of sliding on the crackling ice and hearing the whistling of the winter winds.

Gloria, RV 589

Written for the Ospedale, Vivaldi’s Gloria contains a wealth of Baroque styles and contrasts. The opening choral annunciation is followed by a more contemplative “Et in terra pax” in minor, which in turn is followed by a lively duet for women’s voices. The work alternates choral sections and solos throughout; after a brief reprise of the opening music, an energetic choral fugue based on an earlier Gloria by Giovanni Maria Ruggieri brings the piece to a rousing conclusion.

Concerto for flute, "The Goldfinch", op. 10 no.3, RV 428

The “Goldfinch” Concerto is well known for its more overt representations of birdsong, the composer making use of an instrument for which he rarely wrote. The simple slow movement, set only for flute and continuo, is particularly fine.

Nulla in mundo pax sincera

The opening Larghetto may sound familiar to many listeners, having appeared in many soundtracks. The motet was written for less dramatic purposes, however; the text is a devotional prayer toJesus and his peace. In the final Alleluia, the soprano demonstrates the type of florid virtuosity usually resolved for the strings, finishing with a flourish.

First edition of Juditha triumphans

Antonio Vivaldi

Frontispiece of Il teatro alla moda

La Serenissima

Nisi Dominus - Motets

Nisi Dominus, RV 608  0:00

[1] I Nisi Dominus: Allegro  2.46
[2] II Vanum est vobis: Largo  1.29
[3] III Surgite postquam sederitis: Presto  1.54
[4] IV Cum dederit delectis suis somnum: Largo  5.09
[5] V Sicut sagittae in manu potentis: Allegro  1.46
[6] VI Beatus vir qui implevit: Andante  1.32
[7] VII Gloria Parti: Larghetto  4.51
[8] VIII Sicut erat in principio: Allegro  1.09
[9] IX Amen: Allegro  2.04

Concerto for strings in F major, RV 141  22:45
fa majeur / F-Dur

[10] I Allegro molto  1.39
[11] II Andante molto  1.21
[12] III Allegro molto  1.29

Clarae stellae, scintillate, RV 625  27:20

[13] I Clarae stellae, scintillate: Allegro  5.59
[14] II Coeli repleti iam novo splendore: Recitativo  0.40
[15] III Nunc iubilare: Allegro  3.02
[16] IV Alleluia: Allegro  2.43

Concerto for strings in C major, RV 109  39:51
ut majeur / C-Dur

[17] I Allegro  1.30
[18] II Adagio  2.36
[19] III Allegro molto  1.12

Vestro Principi divino, RV 633  45:10

[20] I Vestro Principi divino: [Allegro]  4.03
[21] II O felix culpa: Recitativo  0.38
[22] III Quid loqueris ad cor: [Presto]  2.12
[23] IV Alleluia: [Presto]  1.16

Salve Regina, RV 616  53:25

[24] I Salve Regina: Andante  3.40
[25] II Ad te clamamus: Allegro  1.32
[26] III Ad te suspiramus: Larghetto  4.33
[27] IV Eia ergo: Allegro  1.32
[28] V Et Jesum: Andante molto  2.10
[29] VI O clemens: Andante  2.36

Concerti della Natura

1. "La Tempesta di Mare" Concerto RV 253 in E flat major Op.8 No.5 
2. "La Notte" Concerto RV 104 in G minor
3. "Il Gardellino" Concerto RV 90 in D major
4. "La Caccia" Concerto RV 362 in B flat major Op.VIII No.10
5. "Il Rosignuolo" Concerto RV 335a in A major
6. "La Pastorella" Concerto RV 95 in D major
7. "Alla Rustica" Concerto RV 151 in G major

Magnificat, RV 611.

1. Magnificat. Adagio
2. Et exultavit. Allegro
3. Quia respexit. Andante molto
4. Quia fecit. Andante
5. Et misericordia. Andante molto
6. Fecit potentiam. Presto
7. Deposuit potentes. Allegro
8. Esurientes implevit. Allegro
9. Suscepit Israel. Largo
10. Sicut locutus. Andante
11. Gloria. Largo - Allegro

Concerti per fagotto - I, II, III

Concerti per fagotto I

Concerto RV 493 in sol maggiore

Concerto RV 495 in sol minore

Concerto RV 477 in do maggiore

Concerto RV 488 in fa maggiore

Concerto RV 503 in si bemolle maggiore

Concerto RV 471 in do maggiore

Concerto RV 484 in mi minore

Concerti per Fagotto II

1. Concerto in la minore, RV 499
2. Concerto in do maggiore, RV 472 9:18
3. Concerto in fa maggiore, RV 490 20:40
4. Concerto in sol minore, RV 496 32:00
5. oncerto in si bemolle maggiore, RV 504 43:50
6. Concerto in mi bemolle maggiore, RV 483 56:27
7. Concerto in do maggiore, RV 470 1:04:33

Concerti per fagotto III

Concerto RV 485 in fa maggiore

Concerto RV 502 in si bemolle maggiore

Concerto RV 474 in do maggiore

Concerto RV 480 in do minore

Concerto RV 494 in sol maggiore

Concerto RV 475 in do maggiore

Bassoon Concertos

Concertos for Bassoon

Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in G major, RV493

Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in G minor, RV495

Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in C major, RV477

Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in F major, RV488

Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in B flat major, RV503

Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in C major, RV471

Concerto for bassoon, strings & continuo in E minor, RV484

Organ Concertos

Concerto in D minor for violin, organ, & strings RV541 ;
Concerto in C major for violin, cello, organ & strings RV544a ; Concerto in A major "Il Rosignuolo" for violin, organ & strings RV335 ;
Concerto in F major for traverso, organ & string RV767 ; Concerto in C minor for violin, organ & strings RV766 ;
Concerto in C major for violin, traverso & organ RV779 ;
Concerto in F major for violin, organ & strings RV542.

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