Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vivaldi - Oboe Concerto In A Minor RV 461

Despite being one of the few Baroque composers that had an international reputation during his lifetime, Antonio Vivaldi's music was hardly known by anyone outside of musicologists and scholars until the 20th century.  Vivaldi had received commissions for music from European royalty and had twelve volumes of works published. These published works, such as the opus 3 set of violin concertos titled L'Estro Armonico published in 1711 helped establish his international career and influenced composers such as J.S. Bach.  Vivaldi ceased publishing his works strictly for monetary reasons. He made more money from handwritten copies than the printed ones.

Towards the end of his life his instrumental music had gone out of style in his native Venice. He concentrated on opera and traveled to Vienna in hopes of staging them, but the patron he counted on for a living until his operas could be performed died. Vivaldi was destitute when he died in Vienna at the age of 63 in 1741, and his music was promptly forgotten.

Vivaldi was almost unknown from his death in 1741 until 1926 when a boarding school run by Salesian Fathers in Piedmont, Italy discovered a large collection of music manuscripts in their archives. It was decided to sell the manuscripts to aid the school, and they called upon the National Library in Turin to determine their worth. A scholar at the University Of Turin asked for the manuscripts to be sent to him for inspection, the scholar determined that they were manuscripts of Vivaldi's music.

It took many years of work and extended research to catalog the manuscripts as well as track down some of the missing pages, with the work being delayed by the Second World War. But at the end of the war Vivaldi's music was being printed in a new edition that was distributed throughout the music loving world, and the Vivaldi revival had begun and research is still going on to identify and discover more of his music.

While many of Vivaldi's over 500 concertos were for violin, he also wrote for many different instruments and instrument combinations. His concertos for wind instruments are notable, and he wrote more than twenty for solo oboe. The oboe was a popular instrument in the Baroque era as it was an instrument used in the orchestras of Bach and Handel as well as in concertos.

The date of composition isn't known for the Oboe Concerto RV 461.  It is in three movements:

I. Allegro non molto - Vivaldi begins with the strings playing the initial statement. The oboe plays between statements of the ritornello. This concerto is slightly different in that the ritornello played by the strings is somewhat shorter than usual while the oboes solos are slightly longer.

II. Larghetto - The slow movements of Vivaldi's concertos vary in tempo and length. This slow movement is in a major key, short in length and provides a slight contrast to the two outer movements.

III. Allegro -  The music returns to A minor and the tempo quickens as oboe and strings play off one another.

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