Sunday, January 24, 2021

Vivaldi - Violin Concerto In E Minor RV 278

The concertos for violin by Antonio Vivaldi (some 230 of the over 500 are for solo violin) contain some of the most recognizable and popular concertos for violin in music.  The set of 12 concertos called L'estro armonico (The Harmonic Inspiration) contained concertos for 4, 2, and 1 violin and were published in 1711. This set of concertos was some of the most influential music written in the Baroque period as far as string technique, musical form, and musical feeling. J.S. Bach transcribed 5 of these concertos, four of them shortly after they were published (he had access to the printed music while employed in Weimar) and one of them years later when he was employed at Leipzig, a concerto for four violins that he transcribed for four harpsichords. It was the transcriptions that Bach made that helped bring about the revival of Vivaldi's music in the 20th century, for by then his music had been forgotten. 

His set of 12 solo violin concertos, Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention) the first four of which are the celebrated Four Seasons, was printed in 1725 and added to his contemporary renown.  What made his music popular then and continues to make it popular now are his melodic and harmonic invention, his use of musical representation of non-musical things and moods, and the drama of some of the music. Vivaldi was essentially a dramatic composer, and wrote over 46 operas in his lifetime. Vivaldi's style  annoyed some of the conservative leaders in the operatic hierarchy, so some of the operas were never staged. 

Vivaldi's opus numbers only reached to his opus 12 set of 5 violin concertos, so most of his compositions were not published in his lifetime. It wasn't until the 1970's that the RV numbering catalog of his works was implemented, which has helped identify many of the works. RV stands for Ryom-Verzeichnis catalog named after Peter Ryom, the Danish musicologist who created the system from previous catalogs and findings of manuscripts. 

Fame can be a fickle thing, even in Vivaldi's time, for his music began to lose favor in Venice and thus his livelihood was threatened. He made trips to Vienna and Prague around 1730 to stage some of his operas to earn some money. The Violin Concerto In E Minor RV 278 is not in any collection published during Vivaldi's lifetime, and musicologists believe the concerto was written on one of those money making excursions. The concert is in 3 movements:

I. Allegro molto - Largo - Allegro molto - Andante - The key of E minor seems to have been a dramatic and passionate key for Vivaldi. The Bassoon Concerto In E Minor RV 484 is but one more example besides this concerto.  This was written late in Vivaldi's career, and there is a dark atmosphere to it. The concerto begins with an outburst from the strings that doesn't last very long before there is a contrasting section of slow, melancholy music. This lasts but a short while as well as another outburst from the strings appears and leads to the entrance of the violin soloist. The soloist comments on some of the material already given, and is interrupted by another outburst from the tutti. It is interesting to notice that whenever the soloist appears, the basso continuo instruments are silent as the violins and violas give a simple accompaniment to the soloist. The outbursts get weight and depth when the bass instruments join in. The soloist never quite makes it to a climatic moment, as it either fades away or is interrupted by the tutti. And that is how the movement ends, with one more outburst.

II. Largo - The next movement begins with long notes in the violins and violas that  are accompanied by a dotted rhythm in the basso continuo. The dotted rhythm switches to the treble instruments as the bass takes up the long notes, and the soloist enters. As the soloist plays the sad tune, the dotted rhythm persists in the viols. This movement is an enigma, is short, and ends in E minor.

III. Allegro - The movement begins with the 1 violins playing the tune, 2nd violins playing the notes of the E minor chord, and the violas and bass play alternate sixteenth note - quarter note accompaniment. The soloist enters and is accompanied by the bass only for a section, then the other strings accompany while the bass is silent. As the soloist plays, it makes a statement and then changes the harmony for the next statement, but the accompaniment doesn't. This leads to a slight dissonance that spices up the music even more so. The tutti takes over again, with leaps in the violins. The soloist returns and its part gets slightly more complex with double stops. One of the strange things about this concerto is that the soloist never really has a grand moment as in some of Vivaldi's other concertos. There's no big finish to the first or third movements. The moods and  passions of Vivaldi are personified in this unique concerto.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this.. appreciate it.. this is enormously helpful to me.❤️🙏🏻🎼