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Vivaldi recommendations

Edited: August 3, 2022, 5:36 AM · I've got Dover scores and CDs of Op.3 and Op.8.

24 violin concertos should be enough, or is there anything important I'm missing? (Heinz Holliger playing the six oboe sonatas seems to be lost in the mists of time).

Incidentally, the word "cimento" is fascinating. I've briefly looked it up in Reynolds' Cambridge Italian Dictionary and Garzanti, but since there are Italians on this forum, their view would be interesting.

Replies (19)

August 3, 2022, 10:24 AM · There are the sonatas. Opus 2 is really good, about half of it I think are masterpieces (op.5 is decidedly less interesting). There are sonatas that stayed unpublished during Vivaldi's life; a set called "Manchester sonatas" (I don't know why) and four called "Dresden" (they were a gift to Pisendel and the autograph is in Dresden). Two of those at least are master pieces (C-Major and c-minor).

Opus 1, a set of trio sonatas (2 vln. plus continuo), contains a set of folia variations that is at least as interesting as Corelli's version; Vivaldi takes advantage of the extra options that come with a second violin.

Unfortunately all the recordings of sonatas I am aware of were made by HIP true believers. Their choppy style tends to de-emphasize (sometimes to the point of invisibility) Vivaldi's great talent as a melodist.

Then there is church music. The Gloria is the most famous piece but there are many magnificent works. The oratorio "Juditha triumphans" with lots of exciting music in it is more secular than religious (Judith chops head off of hostile enemy commander after seducing him). I used to have an LP of it from before the HIP era and found it very exciting. None of the modern ones I have heard can compete--too HIP.

I have never gotten enamored of any of the operas; their librettos appear to be substandard across the board. They seem to be a string of arias interrupted by (too) much recitative.

Edited: August 3, 2022, 11:34 AM · I like what you say about HIP, Albrecht.
To paraphrase Auer, some music needs a little tabasco, but not all of it a lot!
Edited: August 3, 2022, 11:39 AM · As I recall, the “Manchester” sonatas are named after the library in which they were rediscovered.

It seems that Gordon is looking for music both to play and to listen to: I would recommend the operas, again relatively recent rediscoveries, from a library in Torino, if memory serves me correctly, and I am writing this on a steaming hot afternoon at the end of a long siesta. Recordings of them seem to all be HIP, which I like. Many of the recorded versions are “editorially patched” to cover missing music, missing pieces of libretto, etc. Personal prejudice to be admitted here is that I hugely prefer Vivaldi to Haendel. I have only seen one of the Vivaldi operas staged: it was very effective, but for the most part they seem to get programmed as ‘concert versions’. I dislike this practice and don’t generally encourage it with my own money.

August 3, 2022, 11:40 AM · I'll listen to them more than I'll play them - I plan to learn the four seasons in a couple of years' time, but more as études than as something I'd ever perform.
August 3, 2022, 12:05 PM · I applaud your plan and your focal composer, Gordon!
August 3, 2022, 1:02 PM · For anyone who is not a modern performance practice true believer, there's the Fabio Biondi sonata recordings, and the Federico Guglielmo ones.
Edited: August 3, 2022, 5:16 PM · I think there are good reasons why Vivaldi's 4 Seasons Concertos are so popular. I never heard it before I bought the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra recording (mono-LP) conducted by Karl Münchinger and featuring violinst Werner Krotzinger in the late 1950s. There have been subsequent recording by the SCO and Munchinger, but for me, this has always THE ONE. It was reissued on CD this century, and I bought that because it is superior to the CD copy I made from my LP.

Another fun recording of Vivaldi's 4 Seasons is an I Musici DVD filmed among the waterways of Venice. The 4th of those concertos (WINTER) is currently viewable on YouTUBE.

It is instructive for players to find a sheet music version that includes the text ("poetry") that describes the scenes of all 12 movements.

Edited: August 3, 2022, 8:44 PM · FWIW: I checked them both out on youtube. I rather liked Biondi (in op.2/3 in d-minor). He brings out the cello line where it is musically important (especially in the fist movement). His style of HIP is more on the moderate side, not too choppy. I'd still prefer fewer ornaments* and more attention to the long melodic arches that Vivaldi constructed.

Guglielmo on the other hand (in op. 2/10 in f-minor) seems far less convincing to me. Even though he plays with what sounds like a modern bow he chops up the opening motif into single notes. For the second movement he changes from organ to harpsichord at continuo**. The harpsichord then plays a full chord at every quaver, even as the harmony usually changes at the pace of crotchets or slower. It sounds truly ugly. Then for the last movement (a Giga but very sad and gentle) he goes back to organ. But now he plays the violin part with aggressive bowing at a fast tempo and misses the character of the movement entirely.

* Ornaments I think are difficult. They can point to key transitions or connect a phrase over large intervals. Biondi has quite a few nice moments like this. But they also can take away from the simple line the composer supplied or make non trivial passages trivial by adding trivial notes.

** Anyhow, if you don't think you can keep your listeners interested for the 7 minutes of this sonata without changing instruments you should maybe look for different repertoire.

August 3, 2022, 11:47 PM · Vivaldi's Four Seasons is often derided and vastly overperformed but passes the gold standard of musical worth which is the test of time. As far as the rest of his output is concerned, thanks to online streaming sites we never need to hear the same work twice which would have been pretty much the experience of his contemporary audience.
Edited: August 4, 2022, 10:41 AM · Sheesh, you can have the complete Op.1-12 on 19 discs if you want.
I think I'll give that a miss.

I should also have asked what editions of the seasons people prefer - I've gone off Schott. (scratch that - IMSLP is fine)

August 4, 2022, 10:13 AM · thanks Albrecht for pointing at the Vivaldi sonatas, which I was not aware of. Fabio Bondi was mentioned, he is of course world class. Europa Galante is featured a lot on classical radio here in Belgium.
August 4, 2022, 11:54 AM · I don't feel I have to use much or any vibrato when playing Vivaldi's music. The natural resonances from the instrument itself seem to go a long way. It's kind of nice to have one less thing to worry about it; it allows me to focus on the bow hand more I suppose.
August 4, 2022, 12:05 PM · There are people who will not listen to twelve opuses' worth of Vivaldi on 19 CDs who will gladly commit as much time to TV shows like "Friends" or "Dallas."
Edited: August 4, 2022, 1:09 PM · Big collections are a tricky subject. I've got various box-sets of discs, including a 96-disc baroque compendium (of which I've listened to about 30 discs - once you hear Corelli on the recorder instead of the violin, you lose a little interest), but the only big sets I've completed are Laurel and Hardy, Xena and the X-Files, lol, and Third Rock from the Sun, and, err, ALF.
August 4, 2022, 1:43 PM · Scott Ross' complete Scarlatti on harpsichord is pretty rad
Edited: August 5, 2022, 6:48 AM · I warmly recommend the boxed set of Haydn piano sonatas performed by John McCabe.

Christian I love Scarlatti and I will surely look for that.

August 5, 2022, 7:02 AM · How about the complete Riccardo Muti on 91 discs?
August 5, 2022, 10:04 AM · John McCabe, mentioned by Paul above, was not only a pianist but also a composer whose work deserves attention.
August 5, 2022, 10:37 AM · If you want to try for a record, there's all of Bach on 153 discs.

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