Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Vivaldi Double Concerti

This morning I listened to a CD of Antonio Vivaldi's Six Double Concertos for Flute, Violin, Strings, and Harpsichord. This is a recording featuring Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute (a world reknown flautist), Isaac Stern on violin (a world reknown violinist), and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra led by Janos Rolla.

The six concerti on this recording were originally written for two violins, but Stern and Rampal arranged them to include a flute. Where the music occasionally went outside the range of the flute, Stern and Rampal exchanged parts. It wasn't obvious to me where this was done, but that's part of the fun of playing and hearing Baroque music.

These are relatively short pieces; each three-part concerto ranges in time from eight to twelve minutes. All the concerti follow the familiar allegro-andante/largo-allegro (fast-slow-fast) tempo scheme. They are excellent examples of the Baroque musical style.

While Vivaldi (1678-1741) was a popular composer in his day, his music lay dormant for two hundred years before it was rediscovered and revived in the 1940's. Today Vivaldi's most familiar pieces are his Four Seasons concerti, which have been featured in film and television. But Vivaldi was a productive composer, writing mostly concerti of various types.

For thirty-five years Vivaldi worked in a school for orphaned girls. Many of his works were written to be performed in the school's Sunday afternoon public concerts. As many of these works are technical, the school orchestra must have been fairly talented. After awhile, the Viennese wealthy began sending their daughters to the school for musical training, though it was intended to be a school for the poor and orphaned.

It's pleasant to imagine a sunny Sunday afternoon with an all-girl orchestra, with two leading violinists out front, playing these concerti for any and all who would come to listen.


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5:57 PM  

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