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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, Bach: Magnificats, Concerti / Savall
Release Date: 12/09/2014   Label: Alia Vox  
Catalog: 9909   Number of Discs: 2
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Gloria - Vivaldi, Corelli, A. Scarlatti / Trevor Pinnock
Release Date: 11/09/1993   Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)  
Catalog: 437834   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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Vivaldi: Concertos for the Emperor / Andrew Manze
Release Date: 03/13/2012   Label: Harmonia Mundi  
Catalog: 2907332   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: Concerto for Flute in G minor, Op. 10 no 2/RV 439 "La notte"

About This Work
Vivaldi's "Night" concerto tosses, turns, and eventually sleepwalks into his Op. 10 collection of concertos, the instrumentation there stripped down to a mere flute and strings in perhaps the musical equivalent of dreaming that you're naked Read more in public. The original version, though designed for a chamber ensemble, is more richly scored: Calling for either flute or violin as soloist, the chamber concerto yanks the bassoon out of its continuo role to become nearly a full co-soloist in the last movement; all of this is backed by strings and continuo. Vivaldi appended descriptive titles not only to the concerto as a whole, but also to two of its movements; with nothing more than this to go on, though, the nocturnal program remains vague. Unusually for Vivaldi, this concerto falls into four movements rather than three, yet it's not quite the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern Vivaldi favored in his sonatas. The first movement progresses from a Largo introduction to a Presto called "Fantasmi" ("Phantasms"). The Largo creeps along in short, dotted phrases separated by substantial rests. After several hesitant utterances, the flute falls into long, vertiginous trills and then leaps into the Presto section, which is replete with creepy, abrupt arpeggios jumping out of nowhere. The music returns to the mood and tempo of the beginning and is interrupted by the brief second movement, another Presto. This frenzied, shivering interlude gives way to the third movement, another Largo, this one marked "Il sonno" ("The Dream"). Neither pleasant nor nightmarish, this dream is at least slightly disturbing, the strings providing one long moan while the flute wanders through uncertain harmonies, employing a melody also found in Vivaldi's "Autumn" concerto. The concluding Allegro is every bit as jittery as the second Presto, with the bassoon assuming new prominence by sometimes providing limited counterpoint to the flute's frantic part or sometimes doubling it.

-- James Reel Read less

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