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Antonio Vivaldi Music Essay, Research Paper

Throughout history there have been many distinct periods of time. These

various eras are all alike in a way because they all slowly flow into each

other. One of these unique times was called the Baroque period. The Baroque

time began during the 1600’s and ended early during the early 1700’s. The

way Baroque music was looked at was varied depending on where you looked at

it from. In Italy, it was largely energetic and spectacular. Yet, if you

were to travel North, you would encounter the “gloom’s of muted firelight.”

This, along with the “shadowy pales of another world,” simply means that

this music wasn’t greatly appreciated in Southern Italy, as it was more

towards the North. The people of the North were not as affectionate

towards this type of music. Although, the more time that had passed in the

1600’s, the more popular the baroque music became. It was greatly adored by

the listeners. The beauty that this type of music contained was extremely

astonishing. Also the drama in this type of music and theatre was what made

this time stand out from the rest.

The actual term “baroque” is extracted from “baroco” which is a name used

by medieval philosophers to identify a reasoning that writers of the 16th

century found absurd and pointless. On the contrary, Baroque music is far

from being absurd or pointless. The word “baroque” is derived from that or

from the word “barrochio” that is an Italian word used since the middle

ages to indicate shifty or tricky procedures. Wherever it’s beginnings, the

word “baroque” had been used since the 18th century to indicate paintings,

poems, architecture, literature, and all else that is dynamic, dramatic,

and to some eyes, astonishing and incredibly even ugly. This really comes

to a surprise to me because I’ve listened to baroque music like Antonio

Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach and none of the music struck me as being

“ugly.” The first word that came to mind when I was listening was “relaxing.”

Like all other music, there are some people that think higher of it then

others. Sir Francis Bacon said, “^?I cannot but be raised to this

persuasion, that this third period of time will far surpass that of the

Grecian and Roman learning^?” After reading this quotation you can clearly

see that Sir Francis Bacon thinks the Baroque time is far superior to the

Grecian and Roman periods. The basis of his opinion probably rests on the

fact that he has seen artwork, or heard music from the other two times he

had compared to the Baroque period (the Grecian and the Roman.)

The Baroque time itself was filled with musical geniuses. People like

Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philip Telemann, Johann Pachelbel, Franz Josef

Haydn, and Georg Frideric Handel. All of these people, were amazing when

holding an instrument, sitting at a piano, or writing on manuscript paper,

but the finished products (whatever they might be) were and always will be

superb. Among these people, was Antonio Vivaldi.

Antonio Vivaldi was born on March 4, 1678, and on May 6, 1678 he was

baptized by a mid-wife, because she was afraid he might die. This woman’s

name was Madama Margarita. Antonio Vivaldi’s mother Camilla, the daughter

of a Venetian tailor Camillo Calicchio, marries Gianbattista Vivaldi on

August 6, 1677. Due to the stato libero, Antonio was presumably born

prematurely, and declared to be free from any impediment from matrimony,

also because he was not baptized in church until two months after his

birth. Antonio Vivaldi, being a sickly child from the very start was ill,

and in fear of his death before being baptized, Madama Margarita had had

him baptized.

The people, who studied and researched Antonio Vivaldi, in trying to trace

back his family history, could not trace back any farther than his paternal

grandparents, who lived in Brescia. Their son Giovanni Battista (or

Gianbattista) was born in 1665, and when he was ten, his mother took him to

Venice, presumably on the death of his father. Originally Vivaldi’s dad had

become a barber, but he was also an accomplished violinist. Which makes it

easy to understand where Antonio got his musical talent from (especially

with the violin.)

Antonio Vivaldi’s output was enormous. He wrote 94 operas, and although

theses are rarely revived, 19 of them are preserved. He had written around

500 concertos. It is said that he invented the ritornello form. This is

where varied restatements in different keys of a refrain, alternate with

modulating episodes of free thematic character, where a soloist

predominates. If he did not invent this, he was certainly the first to use

this technique . If can be found in almost all of his works. The same is

true with the three-movement plan. Several occasional features of Vivaldi

concertos were taken farther and standardized by his successors. Some of

his successors were the northern Italians, including Tartini and Locatelli.

These men often used Antonio Vivaldi’s techniques and strategies for their

own personal musical interpretations.

Roughly 350 concertos are for one solo instrument and strings, over 230 of

them were made for the violin (this alone, shows Antonio Vivaldi’s love for

the instrument.) Other solo instruments (in descending order of frequency)

are bassoon, cello, oboe, flute, viola d’amore, recorder, and mandolin.

There are 40 double concertos (meaning it was written for two different

instruments in particular,) mostly for two similar instruments but

including such rare combinations as viola d’amore and lute. He also really

liked, and wrote often, ensemble concertos, in which three or more soloists

participate, number over 30 and introduces, among other instruments,

clarinets, therbos, horns and timpani, also did this.

Antonio Vivaldi also has his own original way of interpreting his thoughts

into his music. He will start out with an idea. Then, think of the music in

his head,which comes to mind when thinking of his idea. After that, he

writes down his ideas on manuscript paper and changes voices and other

noises into instrumental riffs and parts in the piece. For example, in the

central movement of the

“Spring” concerto, we hear simultaneously a sleeping shepherd (solo

violin,) a rippling brook (orchestral violins,) and a vigilant sheepdog (a

viola.) This is just one of many examples of his outer surroundings

interpreted into his music.

Going back to the baroque period, this is how that period of time and

Antonio Vivaldi tie together. Approximately 90 of his sonatas are by in

form and style reflecting the life and culture of Italy during the time of

Baroque. The special role of what was going on in Italy could easily be

interpreted through his music. His most interesting sonatas are probably

the ones written for groups of two violins performable without bass. These

are the ones that sound the most acoustic. It sounds like this because of

the absence of the bass.

Antonio Vivaldi died in July of 1741. The exact day of his death

is unknown (like his birth date) but he was buried on July 28, 1741. The

Italian composer was a major figure in Baroque music and he exercised a big

influence on the development of the concerto. His techniques and strategies

will be looked at and admired for years. His style has and will be mimicked

and redone. Antonio Vivaldi’s music was forgotten for a century after his

death. Yet, after his death, Johann Sebastian Bach had arranged a number of

Antonio Vivaldi’s concertos for the keyboard. As predicted, before his

death, his work was copied. Johann Sebastian Bach, a talented composer need

not use the work of others yet took it upon himself to use the previously

done work of Antonio Vivaldi, and arrange what he had done, for the

keyboard. Large quantities of Antonio Vivaldi’s works have been found

since the 1920’s and they are now widely published, performed, and

recorded. Even though directly after his death Antonio Vivaldi was in a

way forgotten about, he will always be remembered and honored as his works

play throughout churches, studios, and homes throughout the globe.


1) http://www.islandnet.com/~arton/baroque.html

2) http://www.columbia.edu/~ijhl/vol1no1.html

3) http://www.islandnet.com/~arton/baroque.html

4) http://www.columbia.edu/~ijhl/vol1no1.html

5) http://weber.u.washington.edu/~acamp/music/baroque.html

6)Vivaldi, Alan Kendall, p.13, 1978

7)Baroque, Harold Kellwroth, p.212, 1982

8)Baroque, Harold Kellwroth, p.245, 1982

9)Vivaldi, Alan Kendall, p.11, 1978

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