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Chill With Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Known in his native Venice as The Red Priest on account ofhis shock of red hair, Antonio Vivaldi was born in 1678, the son of a barberwho 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 phenomenalability and was appointed violin-master at the Ospedale della Piet?á. Thisinstitution specialised in the education of orphaned and illegitimate girls andboasted a formidable musical reputation. Vivaldi's association with the Piet?ácontinued intermittently throughout his life, from 1723 under a contract thatprovided for the composition of two new concertos every month.

His later career brought involvement with the theatre, asdirector, manager and as the composer of some fifty operas, many of which arenow either lost or forgotten.

Visitors to Venice had borne witness to Vivaldi's prowess asa violinist, although some found his performance more remarkable thanpleasurable. He certainly explored the full possibilities of the instrument,while perfecting the newly developing form of the Italian solo concerto. Heleft nearly 500 concertos, many for the violin but there were others for avariety of solo instruments or for groups of instruments.

He claimed to be able to compose a new work quicker than acopyist could write it out, and he clearly coupled immense facility with aremarkable 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 leftfor Vienna, where there seemed some possibility of revitalising his careerunder imperial patronage. He died there a few weeks after his arrival, inrelative poverty.

Church Music

The surviving church music of Vivaldi includes the wellknown Gloria, in addition to a number of settings of psalms and motets.   


The most famous of all Vivaldi's concertos are Le quattrostagioni (The Four Seasons), characteristic compositions to which the composerattached explanatory programmatic sonnets. These four concertos, for soloviolin, string orchestra and harpsichord, form part of a collection Il cimentodell'armonia e dell'invenzione (The Conflict of Harmony and Invention), one ofseven collections of such compositions published in the composer's lifetime. Inaddition to concertos for solo violin, Vivaldi also wrote concertos for manyother solo instruments, including the flute, oboe, bassoon, cello and violad'amore, and for groups of solo instruments.

Chamber Music

Vivaldi wrote a number of sonatas and trio sonatas, many ofthem designed for one or two violins and basso continuo. He also wrote a seriesof chamber concertos, compositions similar in approach to the solo and multipleconcertos, but scored for smaller groups of instruments.


Track 1 - Concerto for Two Violins, RV516: Larghetto eSpirituoso 


In 1711 a group of twelve Violin Concertos was published anddedicated to the Grand Prince of Tuscany. It was the most important group ofworks in the first half of that century and contains concertos for one, two andthree violins. From the eighth concerto we hear a fascinating slow movementLarghetto for two violins.

            Ifyou would like to hear the whole of the Concerto for Two Violins then try:

            8.553028      FamousBaroque Concertos

                                    BelaBanfalvi and Zsuzsa Nemeth (Violins)


Track 2 - The Four Seasons, Spring: Largo e semprepianissimo

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 FourSeasons) had circulated widely in manuscript before being published inAmsterdam in 1725, when explanatory poems, written by the composer himself,were added to clarify the programme of each concerto. Music representing themoods of the four seasons has always been popular, and baroque composers suchas Werner and Fischer among others produced cycles of concertos representingthe four seasons. But none were to do so in such precise pictorial detail asAntonio Vivaldi in his concertos.

The first concerto, Spring (Track 2),of which we hear thehushed second movement, shows the goat-herd asleep, while the viola serves as awatch-dog, barking regularly in each bar against the murmur of the foliage.

Summer (Track 4) itself is a time of languor. In the Adagiomovement heard here, the slumber of woozy shepherds is disturbed only byoccasional thunder and lightning, not to mention the irritation of troublesomeflies!

The third concerto, Autumn (Track 7) is a celebration ofharvest with an excess of wine bringing a sleepiness to the second movement,marked Adagio Molto.

The last of the seasons, Winter (Track 10), bring coldwinds, the stamping of feet and chattering teeth. The Largo here offers theshelter of warmth by the fireside while the rain falls outside.

            Ifyou would like to hear the whole of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, then try:

            8.553219      The FourSeasons

                                    TakakoNishizaki (Violin)



Track 5 - Flute Concerto in D, Il gardellino, RV90: Largo                              

Track 6 - Flut
Disc: 1
Guitar Concerto in D major
1 Larghetto e spirituoso
2 Largo e sempre pianissimo
3 Larghetto
4 Adagio
5 Il gardellino - Largo
6 Largo
7 Adagio molto
8 Adagio
9 Largo
10 Largo
11 Adagio
12 Largo
13 Et in terra pax
14 Andante
15 Concerto for Guitar in D
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