The Life and Work of Antonio Vivaldi
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The Life and Work of Antonio Vivaldi By Morgan Kennard
Early Life • Was born on March 4th 1678 • Son Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, a barber and an expert violinist. • Most likely taught/ shared this talent and passion with his son.
Early Life CONT. • Was trained for the priesthood; in order to obtain free education. • Ordained a priest in March 1703 (became the Red-headed Priest) • Was unable to say Mass not long after due to his asthmatic bronchitis.
Employment • Began work at the Ospedale della Pieta in 1703 ; A sanctuary for orphaned and illegitimate girls. • Taught them skills to make up for their hard life; such as music. • His jobs included: Maestro di Violino Di Choro, purchasing musical instruments, violin teacher, master of concerts and Resident Composer. • Worked there on and off until 1740, almost 40 years, in between travels.
Music and Style • Wrote many Concertos • Favored the String part of the Orchestra; particularly the violin. • He wrote many beautiful solos for the violin that would make new demands on its performers and the very technique they used.
Music and Style CONT. • Most famous of all his Concertos Vivaldi was the “Four Seasons”. • Published in 1725 as part of IL cimento dell’ armonia e dell’inventione. • Based on poems Vivaldi himself had written describing each of the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. • Each sonnet is given its own concerto divided into 3 movements.
“Autumn” • The first movement is meant to depict grand commemoration of the harvest. • Has a faster livelier tempo, almost meant for dancing. • The Second Movement describes how the fresh atmosphere lulls people to sleep. • Much slower with a soft dynamic • Third movement is lively again describing a glorious hunt.
Listening Guide • •
“Autumn”: MVT. I Allegro 0:00 Here the ritornello begins. Phrase A being introduced by all of the strings together. This consists of a set of 12 beats, divided into what I believe is this rhythm. (I’m still not the best at determining beats) (1+2+3 4+, 1+2+3 4+, 1e+a 2+3 4). Thee last four counts which complete the phrase of 12 are known as the cadence. All of which is then repeated at a softer volume in a technique/style that is known as terraced dynamics. 0:13 Here phrase B is then introduced with a similar rhythm as Phrase A and different notes, completing the ritornello melody. 0:19 Here phrase A of the ritornello returns, and then is repeated twice more, seeming to get slightly higher each time (this is most noticeable on the third repeat). Other slight variations are added to the rhythm, such as the slight drawing out of the cadence. 0:56 Phrase A is returned to its original form and pitch. 1:05 Episode 1 begins, with the solo violin taking breaking off on its own and diverting from the ritornello and previously established melody. It starts doing series of mini scales (about three) trill like, repeatedly lower in pitch. On the third time it goes down into a longer actual scale that not only goes down but climbs back up. Then it again does a series of mini trill like scales the same as at the start only higher (about 6). Meanwhile the rest of the strings play a slight accompaniment.
Listening Guide Cont. •
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1:19 here the strings start to take a more active part, first seeming to try and bring back Phrase A, but thwarted by the solo violin. They then start a sort of call and response trend, as the solo alternates between playing long notes and beautiful quick ascending and descending scales, and the strings play what seems to be almost an upward scale in between. 2:01 The strings start to play a variation on theme A of the ritornello. 2:24 Solo violin takes off on another episode, similar to those before it, only with the scale like parts having less of an interval between the notes, and drawn out more. 2:47 Strings once again play an intricate variation of the original theme, ending with the solo playing a series of short and crisp downward scales. 3:15 the piece takes on a decidedly minor tone. Solo violin goes off on another episode, one with a more mournful sound, and slower pace. The rest of the strings provide a simple constant accompaniment beneath it; softly so as to enhance and compliment the soloist, rather than take away. 4:18 the ritornello returns and theme A is played through by the whole orchestra, once again in the major mode to finish out the piece.
Listening Guide CONT. • •
Mvt. II Adagio Molto: 0:00 Begins in what is clearly a minor tone. With what I believe is the harpsichord (I’m not entirely sure) playing slow little deliberate scales that seem to be ascending gradually. Meanwhile in the background the rest of the strings play simple and soothing chords. 1:20 after having reached the peak, scale seems to start to descend, as well as the chords. 2:38 Piece begins to slow down and is gradually brought to a peaceful close. Mvt. III MVT. III Allegro: 0:00 The Ritornello is introduced, Theme A sounding much like the gate of a horse, as the beat is divided unevenly. This of course is repeated with the use of terraced dynamics just as before. 0:10 Theme A is repeated once again with slight variations added to it, before the introduction of theme B, which takes on the characteristics of hunters horns. A series of somewhat high notes, the first few short and the last long. This also is repeated (theme B, not theme A’s variation) with terraced dynamics. 0:26 Theme A returns in its original form (including the repeat). 0:35 A variation of theme B is performed, in which the theme is lengthened, and rhythm slightly stretched.
Listening Guide Cont. • • • • • • • • • •
0:49 Theme A returns in its original form, no variation. 0:57 Strings once again go on a variation of theme b, with the solo breaking in and alternating between notes. 1:20 the rest of the strings return and bring the piece back to theme A of the ritornello. 1:29 Solo violin begins to alternate between notes, climbing the scale upward, then the strings playing major accompaniment between bouts, and then slightly during. 1:52 Piece is once again returned to Theme A. 2:01 Episode The solo violin goes off again alternating between notes while both descending and ascending. 2:15 Theme A returns yet again. What a surprise. 2: 24 Episode Solo violin plays a series of frantic scales, while the strings play simple but fast accompaniment in-between bursts. 2:38 Solo violin melody slows down and becomes much less frantic, with a reminiscent recall of theme B toward the end. 2:55 Theme A returns once again in its entirety, with the first half (not the terraced dynamic) being repeated in order to finish out the piece by all of the strings.
“Autumn” Video • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o42SqE Y87lo
“Winter” • First movement depicts a person out in the winter cold fighting against the harsh wind. • Key is minor and violin is very spastic. • Second movement much brighter as the person rests by the fire during a rainstorm. • Tempo is slower and almost a major tone. • Final movement shows the person trying to walk on the ice without slipping. • Tone is once again minor and tempo keeps switching between fast and slow.
Listening Guide •
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from, The Four Seasons, by Vivaldi. Mvt. I Allegro Non Molto: 0:00 Starts with one of the strings playing steady and slow pizzicato, while the rest play softly in the background, gradually crescendo until they reach a fairly loud volume. 0:37 Episode. The first violin breaks free of the steady pace, and plays with a franticness almost disjointed pull, much like the bitter cold winter wind. The rest of the strings continue to play their previous melody in-between these bouts. 0:58 Steadily return to theme A as established in the beginning, with slight variation/ development. Crescendos. 1:10 Theme B is introduced with a series of fast notes, followed by longer ones. 1:22 Episode. First violin once again on its own plays a series of frantic scales upward. 1:44 Strings once again play their melody much faster in between the bouts, as earlier. 2:01 Return to the steady melody of the beginning. 2:17 Episode First violin plays a less frantic, but still fast version of earlier. 2:28 rejoined by strings playing a faster variation on their basic melody. 2:57 theme B returns among all the strings, and is played with slight variations to it and theme A till the end.
Listening Guide Cont. • Mvt. II Largo: • 0:00 Strings pizzicato softly in the background, while the solo plays a slow and soothing melody, with lots of vibrato. • 0:32 Starts a new melody, which it repeats over and over again, holding the last note out longer steadily and steadily over and over again. • 0:49 returns to melody much like before, ending with a trill/tremolo, before a brief rest. • 1:02 Returns with the same basic melody as at the beginning. The rest of the strings are still using pizzicato in the background. • 1:44 introduces a new idea, which is then repeated softly, before it ends with a trill/ tremolo and holding out a long note.
Listening Guide Cont. • • • • • • • • • •
Mvt. III Allegro: 0:00 Solo violin plays alone a stirring melody with great intervals between notes in a kind of curving gesture that reminds one of the slippery feeling of ice. Meanwhile the rest of the strings have no real accompaniment in the background, at least, not as far as I can tell. 0:20 The strings join back in and play a series of slow descending scales themselves, before they break up such scales into a series of quarter notes that end up growing higher and louder, before returning to original melody. 0:42 Strings break into two groups; one plays the same rhythm as before, while the other does a series of trill descending scales. 0:55 Episode. Solo breaks out on its own again, playing much the same style as it was before, only with lower notes. 1:18 Starts to play staccato bouncing the bow against the strings, and then concludes with a long and intricate descending scale. 1:30 Strings return once again with a slight variation on the melody that they played earlier. 1:50 Strings then turn to a softer new melody. It is very relaxing and cautious in nature, and slightly slower than those in the beginning. The style is legato and tone brighter, although still not decidedly major. 2:22 Episode. Solo violin returns and brings back with it the general frantic tone of the piece, with its jumping intervals 3:40 Return to the established melody combined between the strings and the solo with the frantic bowing, crescendos, and varying mini scales, ending with a long held out note that brings the piece to a close.
“Winter” video • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu6Hr9 kd-U0
Death • Officially resigned from the Pieta and moved to Vienna in 1740. • Sought support from Charles VI one of his many admirers. • Died next year 1741 of his asthmatic bronchitis and buried in a paupers grave.
Bibliography • • • • • •
Antonio Vivaldi. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxvivaldi.html Antonio Vivaldi biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.notablebiographies.com/Tu-We/Vivaldi-Antonio.html Cross, R. (n.d.). Vivaldi's girls: Music therapy in the 18th century Venice. Retrieved from http://www.users.cloud9.net/~recross/why-not/Vivaldi.html Green, A. (n.d.). Antonio vivald's Four Seasons: Notes, historical information, and sonnets. Retrieved from http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/baroqueperiod/ss/fourseasons.htm Green, A. (n.d.). Antonio vivaldi profile. Retrieved from http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/classicalcomposers/p/antoniovivaldi.htm Samuelsen, Hakon, and Hakon Samuelsen. Vivaldi Winter. 2009. video. youtube.comWeb. 1 Jan 2013. . Vivaldi automne/fall full (11). 2012. video. youtube.comWeb. 1 Jan 2013. .