Booklet notes in English / Commentaire en français / Einführungstext auf Deutsch
L'Amore per Elvira
With the Vivaldi revival entering its second century, we are finally becoming better acquainted with the man and his music. Naturally his concertos remain his most potent selling point, both on record and in concert, but thanks to the modern recording industry, his sacred music and operas are forcing a fresh appraisal of this extraordinary Venetian.
Still awaiting thorough exploration, however, are his forty-odd cantatas for solo soprano and alto, an aspect of his output that has largely been neglected by scholars and performers alike, yet one which contains some of his finest and most inspired music.
It would appear that Vivaldi first started writing cantatas for the Mantuan court whilst holding the secular post of Maestro di Cappella di Camera. The fame achieved through the publication of his concertos titled L'estro armonico (1711) soon enabled him to make his operatic debut in the provincial town of Vicenza with Ottone in Villa (RV 729), the success of which led to various commissions for Venetian houses between the years 1714 and 1718. Unsurprisingly the Mantuan court were keen to acquire the services of such a promising young composer and soon he was producing works such as Teuzzone (RV 736) and Tito Manlio (RV 738) at the Teatro Arciducale (also known as the Teatro Comico) in the carnival season of 1718-19.
Vivaldi's patron in Mantua was Landgrave Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt (1671-1736), a military man who had won his spurs fighting for the English against the French in the Netherlands in 1691-92. He was evidently a man of exquisite and expensive taste and was eventually recalled in 1735 by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in favour of a candidate with smaller expense claims!
Twelve of Vivaldi's Mantuan cantatas survive, some of which appear to have been part of a cycle of possibly twelve works. They were probably written for the court's elite inner circle, some members of which appear in the cantatas sporting Arcadian pseudonyms, a popular practice amongst contemporary Arcadian communities. Precedence had already been set by Vivaldi's Serenata a quattro voci (RV 692) where Daliso (who appears in cantatas RV 652 and RV 665) represents Philip himself, Tirsi (who appears in RV 649 & 659) represents Margherita Pavesi Furlani and Eurilla (who appears in RV 649) represents Philip's daughter Theodora.
The most prolific name however is that of Elvira, the object of three cantatas. Possibly conceived as a set, these works form a little story. In Tremori al braccio (RV 799) the lover, (whose name we later learn to be Fileno) trembles at his inability to confess his love to Elvira, only overcoming his reticence in the finale (though not without reservations). In the second work Elvira, anima mia (RV 654), Fileno bears the sad tidings to Elvira that he must leave for a while and asks for one last kiss before he leaves. In the final work, Lungi dal vago volto (RV 680), the returning Fileno spies Elvira in the distance and he finally reaches her in the happy concluding aria.
Not long ago the performance of these three cantatas would have been impossible: Tremori al braccio was discovered as recently as 1999 by Oliver Fourés in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. It provides a marvellous opening to the trilogy: the three trilled quavers depicting Fileno's trembling arms at the opening are a masterstroke and the harmonic structure of the opening recitative is inspired, as are those of its compatriot works.
Housed in the Diözesanarchiv, Graz, are five sonatas by Vivaldi for violin and violonzello (sic). These works have hitherto been neglected mainly on account of their missing bass parts. Three survive elsewhere in slightly altered forms; the fast movements of the first sonata (RV 4) survive in the sonata dedicated to Johann Georg Pisendel (RV 2), the fourth sonata (RV 7) shares three movements with a sonata extant in both Udine and Cividale del Friuli (RV 7a) and the fifth sonata (RV 17) shares three movements with the ninth Manchester sonata (RV 17a). The second and third sonatas are as yet unknown in other sources hence the reconstruction of Vivaldian bass parts for the purposes of this performance.
Although the Manchester sonatas were probably presented to Cardinal Ottoboni in 1726, at least five of these twelve works were written earlier including that which survives in Graz. One sonata was probably penned as early as 1716/7, conceived for Pisendel at the same time as RV 2 (see above). This evidence tends to point to a compositional date for the Graz set as 1716 - 1720, similar to that of the Elvira cantatas which also bear some startling thematic similarities.
The received wisdom of recent academic research tends to suggest that the most popular accompaniment for the baroque violin sonata would have been either harpsichord or cello. Although the title of these sonatas only specifies the cello, we have opted for the more decadent combination of cello, harpsichord and guitar or theorbo - a more lavish yet still historically plausible alternative.
The final work due for discussion is the sole surviving sonata by Vivaldi for violin and obbligato cello, a combination he also used in three concertos. Unlike the violin sonatas, this work adopts Vivaldi's standard three-movement concerto layout and even uses a simplified version of ritornello form in the first movement before reverting to the more standard binary form for the second and third movements. Whilst it is unsurprising for an advocate of the concerto to introduce its elements into a sonata, the three movement sonata had already been pre-empted by the Venetian trio sonata of the 1660s - 1690s, examples of which Vivaldi must surely have known. Adrian Chandler: 2006
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"...härlig musik- och ljudkvalitet..."more >>Classic FM Magazine
A 'splendid' recordingmore >>BBC Music Magazine
...bright-toned, immaculately articulated vivacity ...more >>Gramophone
...memorable boldness and imagination.more >>Klassik.com
'Mhairi Lawson erzählt wunderbar mit ihrem flirrend leichten Sopran...'more >>MusicWebInternational.com
The disc is definitely high on my list of recommendations for this year.more >>The Scotsman
...a very listenable and very charming little collection.more >>International Record Review
Impressive music-making, perceptive Vivaldi performances.more >>Manchester Evening News
...an immensely enjoyable programme, one you can just sit down and listen to from end to end.more >>
19 February 2015
19 February 2015St Mary's Bathwick
, Bath England United Kingdom
Vivaldi — The Red Priest: Bath
24 February 2015
24 February 2015St Mary's
, Warwick England United Kingdom
Per Monsieur Pisendel 2
12 March 2015
12 March 2015Djanogly Hall, Lakeside Arts Centre
, Niottingham England United kingdom
Concertos for 4 violins: Nottingham
19 March 2015
19 March 2015The Cathedral Church of St Marie
, Sheffield england United Kingdom
Per Monsieur Pisendel 2
15 April 2015
15 April 2015King’s Hall
, Ilkley North Yorkshire England United Kingdom
Handel & the Italians: Ilkley
17 April 2015
17 April 2015Cadogan Hall
, London England United Kingdom
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons & Concerti per il violino in tromba marina — London
05 June 2015
05 June 2015Music Hall
, Aberdeen Scotland United Kingdom
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons & Concerti per il violino in tromba marina — Aberdeen
20 June 2015
20 June 2015All Saints Church
, Boughton Aulph Kent England United kingdom
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons & Concerti per il violino in tromba marina — Stour
20 July 2015
20 July 2015Buxton Opera House
, Buxton England United Kingdom
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons & Concerti per il violino in tromba marina — Buxton
26 September 2015
26 September 2015The Priory Church of St Mary & St Michael
, Cumbria England United Kingdom
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons & Concerti per il violino in tromba marina — Cartmel Priory
20 November 2015
20 November 2015St George's
, Bristol England United Kingdom
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons & Concerti per il violino in tromba marina — Bristol
03 December 2015
03 December 2015TBC
, Chichester England United Kingdom
Handel & the Italians: Chichester