Thursday, January 21, 2021

Vivaldi - Concerto For 2 Mandolins And Strings RV 532

 Antonio Vivaldi wrote in most of the genres of music for his time, but he is most well known for  his concerto output of more than 500. The majority of these concertos were written for solo instrument and strings, with around 230 of them for solo violin, his own instrument. The rest are for various other instruments, with about 70 of them written for two or more soloists.

His duties at the Ospedale della pietà, the home for abandoned children, included working with the female children to teach them music and instruct them on ensemble playing as the girls made up the music ensemble of the home. Many of concertos were written to showcase the ensemble to visitors and guests, so there must have been all manner of musical instruments to learn from for the girls besides the usual strings. 

Traditional bowl back mandolin

The mandolin is an instrument within the lute family of stringed instruments. It's history goes back to ancestors of the modern version which evolved from still older Arabian instruments. The lute made its appearance in Europe in the 12th century by way of Andalusian Moors and the Crusades. The modern mandolin was developed from the lute in Italy and has a complex evolvement history from lute to mandolin. It's name itself comes from yet another plucked instrument in the family; the mandola. When smaller mandolas were developed, they were called the diminutive of the name, mandolino.

The instrument that is usually now regarded as the mandolin is an instrument with 4 sets of pairs of strings, with each pair tuned to the same pitch. Modern tuning for the mandolin is the same as the violin.  

Modern style mandolin
I. Allegro - The mandolin is not known for its volume or staying power. Modern amplification has helped, but of course the instrument of Vivaldi's time not only did not have amplification besides the sound box of the instrument, but they were strung with gut strings that produced even less volume. That is the reason for the technique of rapidly alternating between the pair of strings to give more tonal presence to the instrument. This first movement begins with strings playing rapidly and loudly with the mandolins barely being heard in the background. As the strings finish their first statement, they become quiet so as to let the soloists be heard. The soloists are accompanied by the quieted strings and continuo with their statement. These forces trade off until the strings bring the movement to a close.

II. Andante - The volume goes down and the tempo slows as the mandolins play a tune in E minor that echoes back and forth between them. To insure that the mandolins are the center attraction, Vivaldi  instructs only the violins and violas to play a pizzicato accompaniment in unison. 

III. Allegro - The final movement changes the meter 3/8 time and ends this concerto. This concerto has been transcribed for two guitars and it's interesting to note that many performances of the concerto with guitars is slower in tempo. Rapid tempos seem to benefit the original version for mandolins that Vivaldi wrote, but his skill and knowledge in writing for the instrument (especially in the middle movement) shows it's more versatile than usually thought. 


No comments:

Post a Comment