Friday, September 4, 2015

Vivaldi - Gloria In D Major RV 589

Antonio Vivaldi spent many years as the master of violin at the Conservatorio dell'Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, an orphanage for displaced boys and girls. The boys were taught a trade while the girls received a musical education. While the boys had to leave the facility when they were 15, the best girl musicians stayed on to become members of the orchestra and choir. It was for this organization that he wrote most of his works, including over 500 concertos for various instruments, roughly half of them for solo violin.

While Vivaldi is most well known for these concertos, he also wrote in other forms, including sacred choral music.  There was evidence of Vivaldi's choral music in other sources but no actual manuscripts were found until the 1920's in the National Library of Turin.

Gloria in excelsis Deoshortened to Gloria, is an ancient text that dates to as early as the 2nd century, and is part of the Catholic Mass. It can be recited or sung to music, and there are hundreds of melodies and musical settings of the text. The Gloria RV 589 In D Major is thought to have been composed around 1715 and had its first hearing in over 200 years in 1939 in Siena, Italy. The work has become a favorite of choral groups since then.

Vivaldi's setting breaks the text into twelve separate movements, each with its own blending of instruments and voice to the text.. He wrote the work for strings, two trumpets, 3 soloists (2 sopranos and contralto) and choir.  The work opens with fast-paced music punctuated with octave leaps in the violins, typical of Vivaldi's opening concerto movements, with the choir adding the richness of the text. The 3rd movement is a duet for 2 sopranos. In keeping with the Baroque era's fascination with counterpoint, Vivaldi shows his skill in writing a fugue for chorus in the 5th movement. Like many composers of the time, Vivaldi usually has either soloists or choir sing in a movement, but he breaks with tradition in the 8th movement where the solo contralto and choir join in response to each other.  The 11th movement is a shortened version of the opening movement's material that leads to the 12th movement, a 4-voiced fugue for choir.

I. Gloria in excelsis Deo
Glory, glory, to God in the highest

II. Et in terra pax
and on earth peace and goodwill to men.

III. Laudamus te
We praise you, We bless you.
We adore you, We glorify you.

IV. Gratias agimus tibi
We give you thanks

V. Propter magnam gloriam
because of your great glory.

VI. Domine Deus
Lord God, King of heaven,
God Father Almighty.

VII. Domine, Fili unigenite
Lord, the only-begotten son,
Jesus Christ,

VIII. Domine Deus, Agnus Dei
Contralto and Chorus
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
Who takes away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us.

IX. Qui tollis peccata mundi
Who takes away the sins of the world
Receive our supplication.

X. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris
Who sits at the right hand of the Father,
Have mercy on us.

XI. Quoniam tu solus sanctus
For you alone are holy,
You alone are the Lord,
You alone are the highest
Jesus Christ.

XII. Cum Sancto Spiritu
With the Holy Spirit,
In glory of God the Father,


  1. This piece is one of my favorites. It has the frenetic activity typical of Vivaldi, yet it has restful, angelic sections.

  2. ***Present-day Latin text

    ***Gloria in excelsis Deo
    et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
    Laudamus te,
    benedicimus te,
    adoramus te,
    glorificamus te,
    gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam,
    Domine Deus, Rex caelestis,
    Deus Pater omnipotens.

    Domine Fili unigenite, Iesu Christe,
    Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris,
    qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis;
    qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.

    Quoniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus Altissimus,
    Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spiritu: in gloria Dei Patris.

  3. A glorious recording of this work. Both Lott and Marshall sound incredible. And the tempo of Laudamus Te is wonderful. I wish it were even a tiny bit slower. Modern recordings take this movement at a breakneck pace it's hard to relish the absolute beauty of the part-writing.