Vivaldi Concerto



Venice had unique atmosphere caused by it's history, landscape, culture and arts.

Venice was changing by 1700:

  • no longer a leading economic/political power -lost its dominant position for trading with Asia
  • no longer a leading policital power - lost possesions in eastern Meditarian to Austria
  • Venice therefore refocused its identity around culture e.g. arts+entertainment flourished, Venetian carnival attracted 10s of 1000s of foreiners per year, nobility enjoyed the amusement too.

Venice 18th century:

  • city of music.
  • wealth of vocal/instrumental music was perromed in the city's churches, opera houses, palace (palazzi) and open air.

Venice is where his fame and reputation grew.

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St Mark's Basilica - made Venice a musical centre

Church music flourished in mid-16th century.

St Mark's Bascila (Roman Catholic Cathedral in Venice) had the richest of Venice's musical traditions.

Musicians in Venice that attracted people to St Mark's and whole north of Italy:

  • Adrian Willaert
  • Claudio Menilo
  • Andrea Gabrieli
  • Giovanni Gabrieli 
  • Claudio Monteverdi

'maestri di capella' after Monteverdi weren't as talented:

  • Legrenzi - said to be Vivaldi's teacher, enlarger St Mark's orchestra to 34 instrumentalists e.g. Vivaldi's father was a violinist.
  • Lotti
  • Galuppi
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=institutions that raised orphaned and abandoned girls with government and private funds, and were attatched to hospitals.

By late 17th century, St Mark's and other leading churches' sacred music was being moved away from, moving towardsthe public favour of this 'ospedali' music.

Some of these ophanages earned reputations in music e.g. Ospedale della Pieta, where Vivaldi was appointed as violin teacher in 1703. Most of his music was written for this orphanage and it was one of the most important musical venues in Venice. There was an inner courtyard upstairs where the orchestra performed behind screens while well-to-do Venetians listened.

Vivaldi had a direct link to the highest Venetian institution, which emplyed many renowned musicians.

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'L'estro armonico'

meaning  'harmonic inspiration' or 'harmonic fire' (to generate successful sales)

one fo the 1st sets of Italien concertos to be published outside Italy 

set of 12 string concertos 

published in 1711 Amsterdam

established his reputation accross Europe - helped establish model of 18th century concerto 

this concerto grosso! = trio sonata form 2 violins and cello solos (he liked this arrangement but only used it in 2/12 concertos) + accompaniment (v3, v4, 2 violas) + continuo

  • more demanding virtuosic/experimental music for solo violin 1 (like in his 'Spring' where even though there are solos for 2 violins, there are more moments of virtuoisity for violin 1 because Mozart played virtuosic violin)
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genre introduced by Vivaldi- when he first started writing these, it was still developing as an autonomous, clearly-structure, relatively fixed form

3 movement work for challenging solo intrument (piano/violin) + orchestra

BUT L'estro armonico = CONCERTO GROSSI (Baroque form) = kept traditionla form of concerto grossoas inherited from composers e.g. Corelli/Torelli BUT in other ways he anticipated the solo  concertos of the future (through technically demanding solos and dramatic opposition of tutti and soloists and lyrical outpouring of slow movements)

concerto grosso usual form = more than 1 solo ('grand concerto' in Italien)

  • alternation between solo passages in concertino 
  • AND tutti passages through ripieno doubling -no sections for ripieno only AND ripieno is a small group of players NOT an 'orchestra'
  • (also written by Corelli- used less virtuosic soloist, Torelli and Handel)

Bach arranged some of his concertos - some for harpsichord, some for solo organ

Vivaldi wrote over 500, the majority for solo instruments

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Antonio Vivaldi


major late-Baroque composer 

born in Venice - spent most of his working life there

  • important in developing the concerto e.g. Four Seasons set of concertos for solo violin+orch
  • composed over 40 operas and church music

admired by Bach 

virtuosic violinist - would have been the soloist in many of the 1st performances of his works

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his concertos have 3 movements - quick, slow, quick (Corelli-favoured 4 movements in his concerti grossi - slow, quick, slow, quick OR MORE in his 6-movement 'Christmas Concerto')

this concerto's structure is old-fashioned compared to some of the 11 other concertos 

4 movements:

  • 1- Allegro 
  • 2- Adagio e spiccato + Allegro
  • 3- Largo e spiccato  
  • 4- Allegro

D minor - modulations to minor keys (Vivaldi creates interest using rhythm/melody)

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entirely D minor 

  • 1-20 - canon  - solo violin arpeggiated tonic triad based on Dm chord, pedal point (from 6)
  • 20-31 - solo cello + continuo - harmony based on pattern of falling 5ths
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3-bar Adagio - introduced by cello, answered by violas                   (SPICCATO)

  • provides textural contrast
  • provides big harmonic contrast 
  • introduces tutti for first time (soloist+ripieno together)

Allegro - alternation between tutti and solos , [Mozart often repeated ritornello 1 at end and throughout in his concertos], 3 tuttis similiar but not exact transpostitions 

  • Ritornello 1 (4-23) - 4-part fugal exposition[subj a and csub b+c in continuo]- tutti (16) ;
    • subject in basses 'a'
    • violas use immitation = answer
    • cellos contnuo with 1st countersubject 'b'
    • when subject and answer have entered twice = 4-part texture
  • Episode 1 (23-32) - 'a' in embellished violin, 'c' prominent - soloists+continuo
  • Ritornello 2 (32-48) - 'a' continuo, 'a' violas, 'b' 'c' elsewhere, inverted c used - tutti
  • Episode 2 (48-56) - use of 'c', use of start of 'a' - soloists+continuo at start
  • Ritornello 3 (56-73) - free use of 'a''b''c', new semiquaver patterns, 11-bar A pedal- tutti
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simple ternery structure (tutti-solo-tutti/rit-ep-rit)                         [SICILIANO-early 17th c movement]

  • Tutti (1-3) - homophonic siciliana style phrasing
  • Solo (3-17) - v1 acc by v2+violas - repetition of 'tutti' ideas e.g. (3-5=11-3) (13-4=15-7)
  • Tutti (17-20) - repeat of 'tutti' 

no solos for cello at all 

only violin 1 as an important solo part using melodic features: (long cantible line-operatic ariastyle-freely over simpleacc-improvised in reprise of a siciliano)

  • conjunct 
  • occasional large leaps
  • 7ths (4)
  • diminished 5ths (5-6)
  • some chromatic notes 

no continuo - bass line played by violas 

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emphasis on solists + breif tutti sections + repetition of entire textures (unlike mvt.2 where repetition is of themes)

  • Ritornello 1 (1-14)
    • (1-11) Soloists - v1+2+cello no continuo then just cello+ripieno - chromatic descent in cello (distinct feature of mvt.4)
    • (11-14) Tutti - descending chromatic movement in continuo 
  • Ritornello 2 (14-30) 
    • (14-27) Soloists - all solos without continuo then just vln1+ripieno (23-27) - new idea (14-9) BUT e.g. (20-2=4-6 in Am) (23-7=7-11 in Am)
    • (27-30) Tutti - (=11-4 in Am)
  • Episode (30-53)
    • (30-42) Soloists - v1+2+ripieno then v1+violins+violas(-playing bassline) no continuo/cello - new material 
    • (43-46) Tutti - new material 
    • (46-53) Soloists alternating with Tutti - no continuo - new material; solo sequences, tutti echoing solos, solos repeat tutti phrases, tutti repeats it's previous phrase
  • Ritornello 3 (53-73)
    • (53-67) Soloists - solos with no continuo then v1+cello doubling - (53-6=1-3 +ornaments) (56-9=4-6) then new material
    • (68-73) Tutti - (68-70=11-13-)- then this is repeated down an octave
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TONALITY No.11 in Dm

  • Mvt.1 - enitrely Dm
  • Mvt.2
    • R1 - Dm , Am (16-20)
    • Ep1 - Dm, Am (from 27)
    • R2 - Am to Gm, use of Dm cadences (35-6 and 42)
    • Ep2 - Gm to Dm, touches on F,C,Bb before cadencing in Dm
    • R3 - almost entirely Dm
  • Mvt.3
    • Tutti - Dm
    • Solo - Dm passing through other keys e.g. Gm, Fm (5-8)
    • Tutti - Dm
  • Mvt.4
    • R1 - Dm
    • R2 - Dm to Am (18)
    • Ep - Dm to Gm (35-42) to Dm to Am, traces of Gm and F (46), back to Dm in imp cads
    • R3 - Dm


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MELODY No.11 in Dm

  • motivic
    • e.g. ascending 2 semiquavers and 1 quaver heard twice in subject 'a' 
    • e.g. D-E-D dottedq-semiq-q pattern in mvt.3
  • repeated note patterns
    • e.g.Ds in opening duet mvt.1 
    • e.g.quavers in Adagio
  • simple acc patterns
    • e.g. 35-42 mvt.4 (to provide slow harmonic background)
  • stepwise/conjunct beginning of fugue, followed by disjunct leaps outlining circle of 5ths
  • scalic e.g. semiquavers in 'c' OR e.g. descending scales + broken chords mvt.1 OR e.g.rising scales in bass line of mvt.2 (37)
  • leaps
    • e.g. arpeggio patterns mvt.1
    • small leaps up to a 5th e.g. 'a' circle of 5ths
    • occasional large leaps e.g. 8ve leap down high to low dominant note perfcad bass mvt.2
  • juxtaposition of leaps + repeated notes e.g.solo part 35-42 mvt.4- melody+acc in same part
  • elaborate melody lines are decorations of scalic ideas e.g. v1 scale A-G-F-E-D-C# decorated with changing notes (16)
  • sequences (typical Vivaldi) e.g. descending sequence cello solo (20-25)
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HARMONY No.11 in Dm

  • conventional tonal harmonies
  • triads in root position (especially I and V) and 1st inversion e.g. Neapolitan 6th
  • 7th chords (root mainly, sometimes 1st (marked 6/5) or 3rd inversion (marked 4/2))
  • diminished 7th chords e.g. start of mvt.3 AND secondary 7th chords e.g. in 1st inversion (3rd last chord of piece) 
  • circle of 5ths e.g. 5-7 mvt.2 using 7th chords
  • embellishment of passing notes
  • long dominant pedal and shorter tonic pedal (end of fugue)
  • suspensions common in mvt.4 especially [conventional at the time]
    • e.g. 11-3 mvt.2 has two 7-6 suspensions (for harmonic tension)
    • e.g. chain of suspensions end of mvt.4 + chromatically descending bass line
  • Adagio = most harmonically colourful passage with all root position 7th chords
    • secondary dominant chord (1) V7 of V using 1st note outside Dm = G#
    • striking chromatic descent (1)
    • secondary dominant chord (2) V7 of IV using F# and Cnat
    • bass displays incomplete circle of 5ths (E-A-D-G)
    • neapolitan 6th (3) 1st inversion so bass no longer has circle of 5ths
    • V7 chord (3) attractive false relation created Cnat/Eb violoncello with C#/Enat violins - to lead into I in Allegro
  • continuo plays figbas BUT 'tasta solo' e.g. mvt.2 = continuo keyboard shouldn't play chords and no figbass
  • shaped by perfect cadences e.g. last 2 bars 
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TEXTURE No.11 in Dm

  • Mvt.1 
    • 2-part unison canon a beat apart (1-6) - shows 2 violins are equal (contrapuntal) +tonped
    • canon becomes a bar apart (7) - easier to hear descending scales
    • then homophony (20-31) (solo cello+simple bass continuo improv keyboard fills harmony)
  • Mvt.2 
    • chordal homorhythmic-style tutti passage (Adagio)
    • (Allegro) -often referred to as a fugue (CONTRAPUNTAL)
      •  4-part fugal exposition based on fugal imitation of 'a' beginning on D-A-D-A
      • 'b' and 'c' recurring like fugal countersubjects 
      • contrasts between solo and tutti passages
  • Mvt.3 
    • v1 melody = focus
    • rhythmically simple acc e.g. even quavers in middle section
  • Mvt.4 
    • MEL-DOM-HOM [variety table page 122]
    • some contrapuntal interest e.g.immitation in violins then between v1+cello (from bar3) OR immitation violins (30-3)
    • solo violins play in 3rds (14-19)
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SONORITY No.11 in Dm

trio sonata group;

  • concertino (solo group) = 2 violins + cello
  • ripieno (string acc)
  • continuo = standard acc in Baroque music
  • only one of the violins has solo in some passages e.g. Mvt.3 where v2 plays in ripieno 
  • 'soli'/'solo' = when solo violins are without ripieno
  • when v3/v4 ripieno play, soloists double them 
  • 2 violas play same music
  • cello is just above continuo NOT with other solos, virtuosic solo breaking from continuo e.g. end of mvt.1
  • 'violone' = stringed instrument with similiar range to double bass
  • 'cembalo'= harpsichord, sometimes a archlute/organ is used instead[although these were more common church concertos] - role to provide harmony using figbas
  • could have been 2 harpsichords - 1 for ripieno, 1 for concertino

main distinction is between concertino and other instruments BUT start of mvt.1 and mvt.4 show contrast between solo violins and cello/continuo

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TEMPO + METRE No.11 in Dm


  • fast (like his other concertos) Allegro 
  • 3/4


  • slower Adagio then faster Allegro 
  • 4/4 


  • slower Largo
  • 12/8


  • fast Allegro
  • 4/4
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RHYTHM No.11 in Dm

Mvt.1- rhythmic continuity

  • opening duet keeps going with continuous quavers 
  • latter part of duet OR in cello solo there are constant semiquavers 

Mvt.2 - based on small number of rhythmic patterns that are features of 'a' 'b' 'c':

  • quaver rest, 2semiq, 2+ quavers
  • chain of crotchets
  • descending semiq scale passages
  • syncopation e.g. end of 'a' just before 'b' (7)

Mvt.3 - siciliana style features: (slow, compound time, lilting rhythms of a dance)

  • dottedquaver-semiq-quaver idea - heard in tutti sections and in v1 part

Mvt.4 - similiar to 'Allegro' of mvt.2 beginning with anacrusis BUT some stirking moments:

  • change from open continuous quavers to cello semiquavers (7)
  • differentiation between cello semiquavers and rhythmically sparse acc
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DYNAMICS No.11 in Dm

few dynamic markings [Baroque conventional]

uses loud-soft dynamic contrasts called 'TERRRACED DYNAMICS'

without dim. or cresc.

Mvt.1 - no dynamics marked 

Mvt.2 - f and p at end indicate echo effects e.g. p(59) f(60)

Mvt.3 - pp in acc to allow the solo to not get overshadowed (solo has no marked dynamics here)

Mvt.4 - pp in acc, f used in similar way, p and f at end

  • e.g. p to reinforce quieter effect produced when music is repeated an octave lower (70)
  • e.g. f robust ending 
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this is so helpful!!

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