Antonio Vivaldi

Biography

Born: Mar 4, 1678; Italy   Died: Jul 28, 1741; Austria   Period: Baroque
The creator of hundreds of spirited, extroverted instrumental works, Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi is widely recognized as the master of the Baroque instrumental concerto, which he perfected and popularized more than any of his contemporaries. Vivaldi's kinetic rhythms, fluid melodies, bright instrumental effects, and extensions of instrumental technique make his some of the most enjoyable of Baroque music. He was highly influential among his Read more contemporaries and successors: even as esteemed a figure as Johann Sebastian Bach adapted some of Vivaldi's music. Vivaldi's variable textures and dramatic effects initiated the shift toward what became the Classical style; a deeper understanding of his music begins with the realization that, compared with Bach and even Handel, he was Baroque music's arch progressive. Though not as familiar as his concerti, Vivaldi's stage and choral music is still of value; his sometimes bouncy, sometimes lyrical Gloria in D major (1708) has remained a perennial favorite. His operas were widely performed in his own time.
Details regarding Vivaldi's early life are few. His father was a violinist in the Catherdral of Venice's orchestra and probably Antonio's first teacher. There is much speculation about other teachers, such as Corelli, but no evidence to support this. Vivaldi studied for the priesthood as a young man and was ordained in 1703. He was known for much of his career as "il prete rosso" (the red-haired priest), but soon after his ordination he declined to take on his ecclesiastical duties. Later in life he cited ill health as the reason, but other motivations have been proposed; perhaps Vivaldi simply wanted to explore new opportunties as a composer. It didn't take him long. Landing a job as a violin teacher at a girls' orphanage in Venice (where he would work in one capacity or another during several stretches of his life), he published a set of trio sonatas and another of violin sonatas. Word of his abilities spread around Europe, and in 1711 an Amsterdam publisher brought out, under the title L'estro armonico (Harmonic Inspiration), a set of Vivaldi's concertos for one or more violins with orchestra. These were best sellers (it was this group of concertos that spurred Bach's transcriptions), and Vivaldi followed them up with several more equally successful concerto sets. Perhaps the most prolific of all the great European composers, he once boasted that he could compose a concerto faster than a copyist could ready the individual parts for the players in the orchestra. He began to compose operas, worked from 1718 to 1720 in the court of the German principality of Hessen-Darmstadt, and traveled in Austria and perhaps Bohemia. Throughout his career, he had his choice of commissions from nobility and the highest members of society, the ability to use the best performers, and enough business savvy to try to control the publication of his works, although due to his popularity, many were published without his consent. Later in life Vivaldi was plagued by rumors of a sexual liaison with one of his vocal students, and he was censured by ecclesiastical authorities. His Italian career on the rocks, he headed for Vienna. He died there and was buried as a pauper in 1741, although at the height of his career his publications had earned a comfortable living. Read less
Vivaldi - Pieta /   	Philippe Jaroussky
Release Date: 10/28/2014   Label: Erato  
Catalog: 625810   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: The Four Seasons / Anne Akiko Meyers
Release Date: 02/04/2014   Label: eOne  
Catalog: 7790   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: Concertos For Two Cellos / Julian & Jiaxin Lloyd Webber
Release Date: 10/14/2014   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 573374   Number of Discs: 1
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Music For Strings: Hindemith, Prokofiev, Bartok, Vivaldi / Marriner
Release Date: 10/14/2014   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 002127202   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: Concerti Per Flauto / Steger,  Fasolis, I Barocchisti
Release Date: 10/14/2014   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 902190   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Gloria in D major, RV 589

 

About This Work
During the year 1713 there was a shift in Antonio Vivaldi's responsibilities as maestro di violino of Venice's Pio Ospedale della Pietà. Up until that point secular music had been his bread and butter, but he then turned his attention to the Read more composition of sacred choral works, some of which became the finest treasures of his vast musical output. It was sometime during the next few years that Vivaldi put to paper the now-famous Gloria in D major for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra (RV 589). It is remarkable to think that for two centuries after Vivaldi's death the very existence of this beloved work was unknown even to Baroque scholars, and that it was only rediscovered in the late 1920s. Having been long buried -- with a host of other unknown pieces in a pile of forgotten Vivaldi manuscripts -- the Gloria had its first modern performance in the fall of 1939. The rest, as they say, is history.

In composing, Vivaldi broke the standard Gloria text into 11 sections, each of which is given a discrete musical setting. All the vocal parts, from the two soprano and alto soloists right down to the tenor and bass, were originally written for women's voices, as no men were allowed at the all-female Pio Ospedale della Pietà (Vivaldi and the few other male staff were, of course, members of the priesthood); occasionally the bass part moves so low that even the remarkable female basses of the Pietà must have had to transpose up an octave. Just two wind instruments -- an oboe and a trumpet -- are added to the usual Baroque contingent of strings, and the basso continuo would probably have been played by organ.

A joyous tone is set at the very start of the Gloria, with jubilant shouts of "Gloria in excelsis Deo" from the chorus. "Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis" (section two) is sung in imitation to a less exuberant B minor backdrop; the violins add some pointed rapid-note gestures, quite similar in kind to those found in Vivaldi's many string concertos.

Vivaldi moves back to a rambunctious allegro, this time in G major, for the solo soprano duet of section three ("Laudamus te"); the start of section four ("Gratias agimus te") is slow, dignified, and entirely homophonic, but as the chorus moves on to sing "propter magnam gloriam" it becomes a fugal Allegro.

A wonderful Largo duet between the solo soprano and the solo violin follows ("Domine Deus, Rex coelestis"); the chorus joins again for the very joyful F major section six ("Domine Fili unigente").

The spacious Adagio of section seven ("Domine Deus, Agnus Dei") features both chorus and the alto soloist, who takes the spotlight once again, this time more gregariously, in section nine ("Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris"). Between these sections is the interlude "Qui tollis peccata mundi". The penultimate portion of the Gloria (section ten, "Quoniam tu solus sanctus") takes the shape of a brief reprise of the broken-octave music from section one, while the stunning double fugue that ends the Gloria (section eleven, "Cum Sancto Spiritu") is in fact an arrangement by Vivaldi of a piece composed in 1708 by Giovanni Maria Ruggieri -- a piece also adapted by Vivaldi for use in his other, lesser-known Gloria RV 588. collapse

-- Blair Johnston
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