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Antonio Vivaldi (b. March 4, 1678, Venice, Republic of Venice [Italy]—d. July 28, 1741, Vienna, Austria)
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an Italian composer and violinist who left a decisive mark on the form of the concerto and on the style of late Baroque instrumental music.
Vivaldi’s main teacher was probably his father, Giovanni Battista, who in 1685 was admitted as a violinist to the orchestra of the San Marco Basilica in Venice. Antonio, the eldest child, trained for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703.
He made his first known public appearance playing violin alongside his father in the basilica in 1696. He became an excellent violinist, and in 1703 he was appointed violin master at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned or orphaned children. The Pietà specialized in the musical training of its female wards, and those with musical aptitude were assigned to its excellent choir and orchestra.
Vivaldi had dealings with the Pietà for most of his career: as violin master (1703–09; 1711–15), director of instrumental music (1716–17; 1735–38), and paid external supplier of compositions (1723–29; 1739–40).
Vivaldi’s earliest musical compositions date from his first years at the Pietà. Printed collections of his trio sonatas and violin sonatas respectively appeared in 1705 and 1709, and in 1711 his first and most influential set of concerti for violin and string orchestra (Opus 3, L’estro armonico) was published by the Amsterdam music-publishing firm of Estienne Roger. In the years up to 1719, Roger published three more collections of his concerti (opuses 4, 6, and 7) and one collection of sonatas (Opus 5).
Vivaldi made his debut as a composer of sacred vocal music in 1713, when the Pietà’s choirmaster left his post and the institution had to turn to Vivaldi and other composers for new compositions. He achieved great success with his sacred vocal music, for which he later received commissions from other institutions. Another new field of endeavour for him opened in 1713 when his first opera, Ottone in villa, was produced in Vicenza. Returning to Venice, Vivaldi immediately plunged into operatic activity in the twin roles of composer and impresario.
From 1718 to 1720 he worked in Mantua as director of secular music for that city’s governor, Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt.
This was the only full-time post Vivaldi ever held; he seems to have preferred life as a freelance composer for the flexibility and entrepreneurial opportunities it offered.
Vivaldi’s major compositions in Mantua were operas, though he also composed cantatas and instrumental works.
The 1720s were the zenith of Vivaldi’s career. Based once more in Venice, but frequently traveling elsewhere, he supplied instrumental music to patrons and customers throughout Europe. Between 1725 and 1729 he published five new collections of concerti (opuses 8–12).
After 1729 Vivaldi stopped publishing his works, finding it more profitable to sell them in manuscript to individual purchasers.
In the 1730s Vivaldi’s career gradually declined. The French traveler Charles de Brosses reported in 1739 with regret that his music was no longer fashionable. Vivaldi’s impresarial forays became increasingly marked by failure. In 1740 he traveled to Vienna, but he fell ill and did not live to attend the production there of his opera L’oracolo in Messenia in 1742. The simplicity of his funeral on July 28, 1741, suggests that he died in considerable poverty.
Almost 500 concerti by Vivaldi survive. More than 300 are concerti for a solo instrument with string orchestra and continuo. Of these, approximately 230 are written for solo violin, 40 for bassoon, 25 for cello, 15 for oboe, and 10 for flute. There are also concerti for viola d’amore, recorder, mandolin, and other instruments. Vivaldi’s remaining concerti are either double concerti (including about 25 written for two violins), concerti grossi using three or more soloists, concerti ripieni (string concerti without a soloist), or chamber concerti for a group of instruments without orchestra.
Vivaldi perfected the form of what would become the Classical three-movement concerto. Indeed, he helped establish the fast-slow-fast plan of the concerto’s three movements. Perhaps more importantly, Vivaldi was the first to employ regularly in his concerti the ritornello form, in which recurrent restatements of a refrain alternate with more episodic passages featuring a solo instrument. Vivaldi’s bold juxtapositions of the refrains (ritornelli) and the solo passages opened new possibilities for virtuosic display by solo instrumentalists.
The fast movements in his concerti are notable for their rhythmic drive and the boldness of their themes, while the slow movements often present the character of arias written for the solo instrument.
Several of Vivaldi’s concerti have picturesque or allusive titles. Four of them, the cycle of violin concerti entitled The Four Seasons (Opus 8, no. 1–4), are programmatic in a thoroughgoing fashion, with each concerto depicting a different season of the year, starting with spring. Vivaldi’s effective representation of the sounds of nature inaugurated a tradition to which works such as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony belong. Vivaldi also left more than 90 sonatas, mainly for stringed instruments.
More than 50 authentic sacred vocal compositions by Vivaldi are extant. They range from short hymns for solo voices to oratorios and elaborate psalm settings in several movements for double choir and orchestra. He composed some 50 operas (16 of which survived in their entirety) as well as nearly 40 cantatas. Many of Vivaldi’s vocal works exhibit a spiritual depth and a command of counterpoint equal to the best of their time. Moreover, the mutual independence of voices and instruments often anticipates the later symphonic masses of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
APPROACHING PIAZZOLLA’S MUSIC: an analysis of his music and composition styles (2)
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Milonga del ángel
As for Soledad, Milonga del ángel has the milonga rhythm as a basis more or less throughout the entire piece. Except for the middle section, the primary melody is repeatedly presented.
Consequently, the element that is processed is not the melody; instead, it is of more interest to study the contexts of which the melody is placed.
The articulations between the sections are characterised by a continuous flow, and there is no dominant chord that prepare for their arrival; however, the sections are still smoothly merged.
The first primary section (P) establishes the harmonic environment and presents the primary melody twice. Furthermore, the secondary section (S) starts with modulating sequences and then continues with a part that is reminiscent of P. The last section is more or less a recurrence of the first section, although with a more refined environment. As with Soledad, it is possible to read the large scale structure as an ABA structure. In fact, these two milongas are rather similar in large and middle scales respectively.
In the introduction (O), the motivic chord gesture that opens every subsection, except for T and 2T, is presented. Letting this gesture end the O subsection smoothly merges the O and P subsections; thus, the subsections overlap each other.
The changes of key areas between subsections enter without fifth motions in the bass line. Instead, the changes are characterized by ascending chromatic motion. Either it is only the melody that is moving, or it is both the melody and the bass line. The bass line’s gesture is probably derived from the arrastre gesture and therefore I define this kind of key change for as ‘change of key area by arrastre’.
With a single bar gesture as basis, the primary melody is present almost the entire piece through. While preparing for the melody’s arrival by establishing an atmosphere, the introduction also presents a motivic gesture that is frequently recurrent throughout the piece.
In P and P2, the same process continues, though in different keys, and in P1 and P3 it is slightly accustomed. Remains of the primary melody is also to be found in the S(P) subsection. Just like in Soledad, there is a large amount of ‘jazzy’ II-V-I chord progressions in minor mode; altered fifths and ninths are used frequently. Except for T and 2T, the bass line is pending, moving in fifths or moving in descending motion. In the following illustration, notice how the usage of reinterpretation of the chord in bar four (C#7b9/B to E13b9no1/B) enables an immediate transfer to Am.
Just as in Libertango, the melody is moving in triads when the bass line is pending; it seems like the melody is active when the bass line is passive, and the melody is passive when the bass line is active. As the illustration shows, the melody is a descending motion from the second to the fifth note in the scale. Linked together with an arppegio, the structural motive (D B A G F#) is presented at the beginning and at the end.
Unlike the other subsections, T is a more rhythmical passage where two tresillo rhythms and the mordent rhythm confront each other in sequences. P1 and S(P) may be smoothly merged without T though, especially since they end with the same note. Perhaps it is not satisfying defining this passage as a transition; hence, it might rather be defined as an excursion or as sequenced tonicizations (to make it more graphically, I have excluded the chords in the illustration).
The similiarities between Soledad and Milonga del ángel are quite recognisable: e.g. the ‘jazzy’ chords; frequent mordents; accompaniment gestures; lyrical melody; and naturally the milonga rhythm that saturates them. A major disparity though, is the way the change of key areas are realised; in Soledad by descending chromatic motion with pedal, and in Milonga del ángel by ascending chromatic motion. In the latter case though, the gesture is implemented just before the new key arrives; in the former case, there is a preparation that lasts for several bars and it is not that clear where the new key enters.
Just as Soledad, Milonga del ángel has an ABA-structure and with the milonga rhythm as basis it is characterised by long note values, ‘jazzy’ chord progressions and change of key area by arrastre. Throughout the piece, the primary melody is located in different environments regarding harmony, tempo and instrumentation.
Fuga y misterio
In the same manner as for Fugata, I prefer to analyse Fuga y misterio as three sections: fugue exposition; middle section with melody and accompaniment; and a closing coda-section, which differs from the first two sections.
Covering half the piece, the first section (P) is a fugue exposition in four parts, which through a large-scale fifth motion changes key from E-minor to G-minor.
The secondary section (S) presents a contrasting theme that is accompanied by a chord progression that is derived from the fugue theme. Leading back to the primary theme, this section reveals the chord progression that has been hinted in the exposition. The last section (K) is a slow cantabile passage where a new melody theme is presented. While the fugue exposition (P) has a polyphonic texture, the other sections have a texture of ‘melody and accompaniment’. Though every section is in minor, the two first sections are a little ‘edgier’ due to the augmented fourth (or the jazz blue note) that is exposed already from the beginning. The large-scale structure can be read as an ABC-structure.
In the fugue exposition, which is characterized by a rhythmical contrapuntal texture, there are strong accented rhythms. Short note values are predominating. Just as in Fugata, the most frequent surface rhythm of the fugue theme is tresillo 1. The key change between these subsections is realized by transforming the tonic chord into a dominant (e.g Em E7 Am).
Thus, unlike the exposition in Fugata, there is no preparation of the new dominant. In the following illustration, notice how the last bar of the fugue theme is a diminished variation of the two first bars.
Reaching G-minor, the exposition is accomplished and the key of the secondary subsections (Em) is introduced without preparation; the only gesture that indicates E-minor is an ascending diatonic bass line (B C# D#). With the marcato base as a basis, the secondary subsection presents a contrasting melody that is characterized by mordents and harmonic intervals such as the diminished 10th and the added 11th, which serves as top notes in chords.
The last secondary subsection is a recurrence of the fugue theme, presented in a homophonic environment though. As pointed out earlier, the last subsection (K) is a cantabile passage that differs quite a lot from the other passages. It is slower, have longer note values, and it is the first time in the piece that there is a descending bass line in crotchets present.
The fugue exposition is rather similar to the one in Fugata, especially regarding the treatment of gestures, counterpoint and change of key areas; it is rather clear to see Piazzolla’s influences from the inventions of Bach. Notice also how the usage of instrumental rubato automatically implies that tresillo rhythms are accented.
The melody has typically stepwise motion or motion as skips, which reaches chord notes.
Similar to Fugata, this applies to all fugue parts. The most common intervals in parallel motion are thirds and sixths. In contrast to Fugata’s chord progression, which is based on a descending bass line, the chord progression in Fuga y misterio is instead based on II-V-I progressions. With a cycle of fifth as a basis, the II-V-I sequences implies tonicization; Bm-E7-Am Am-D7-G instead of E7-Am-D7-G.72 The first subsection of S is a more homophonic passage where the secondary melody is harmonized with block technique.
As pointed out earlier, the chord progressions are rather similar to the progressions in the exposition’s first eight bars, though with altered chords similar to the ‘jazzy’ one’s used in Soledad and Milonga del ángel. In the first four bars, which are rather static due to its harmony based on primary chords, the low notes in the bass line is reached through octave leaps. This implies an accentuation that enhances the static state. As in e.g. Fuga, there are also several percussive gestures produced by dissonant chords.
Due to its different style regarding tempo, harmony and melody, the last subsection has a completely different character. The most significant characteristics are the descending bass line and the 9-8 appoggiaturas that are exposed in the melody. Implemented as sequences, the chord progression is rather similar to the one that is to be found in the primary subsection of Soledad.
The very last bars are a descending chromatic gesture presented by diminished seventh chords, though with the tonic pedal as bass note. Ending with a B7b9 (without root note though), these last four bars functions as codetta. The gesture may be regarded as a T-DD-s progression, which is similar to the motivic chord gesture in Libertango.
Fuga y misterio has a structure similar to the one found in Fugata: A fugue exposition as a start; melody and accompaniment in the middle; and a closing section that is rather different than the other two. There is no key change between sections (but the key changes within sections though), and the harmony is characterized by chord progressions with primary chords and fifth motions by tonicization sequences.
This chapter will give emphasize techniques and musical events that are, in a general perspective, mutual to the compositions that have been analysed. As suggested of LaRue, I have chosen to categorise the characteristics of Piazzolla’s music that I have found into four categories: harmony; melody; rhythm; and structure (I prefer using structure as a category instead of growth). The sketches and the tables are not exact rules of how Piazzolla’s music functions; they are rather to regard as suggestions how to relate to his composition style.
The change of key areas may be categorised into two main categories: maintaining the key or entering a new key. As pointed out in chapter 1.5, LaRue defines this as ornamental modulation and structural modulation respectively. The techniques, which are to be found in both categories above, I define as ‘tonicization’ and ‘descending chromatics with pedal’. Thus, they are used for both purposes. The following illustration shows my suggestion on how to regard the tonicization technique.
The latter one is concerning the relation between a descending chromatic motion and its pedal accompaniment in the end of subsection. Unlike the tonicization technique, this procedure does not include any intermediate tonic states; there is either no change of key area at all, or the passage has the aim to modulate. It seems like when a new key is going to be established the pedal is fading out before the new dominant chord (this is not the case in the K-section of Fugata though). When the key is maintained the pedal keeps on going, and it seems like it frequently has a role of a dominant. In its simplicity, it may be illustrated as follows:
Additionally, Piazzolla also changes key without preparation by implementing the arrastre gesture74 (as described in Milonga del ángel). As pointed out in Soledad, two techniques are sometimes combined. There are three characteristics regarding melody that I want to point out. The first one I define as ‘ostinato gestures’, which are rhythmical patterns based on tresillo rhythm 4 and 7.
Frequently subordinated the main melody though, they contribute to the melodic tension by exposing characteristic intervals (e.g chord notes like b9, #5 and 13).
The second one, which describes the relation between the top voice and the bass line, I have chosen to define as ‘uniform ambitus’. It seems like when the bass line is pending, the top voice has a more active role; it moves in arpeggios and repeatedly presents an immanent chord progression. Consequently, when the bass line is more active the melody’s ambitus decreases.
The third characteristic regarding melody is the melodic motion. Applicable in small dimensions, when descending, the melody tends to have a stepwise, often chromatic, motion.
Furthermore, when ascending it tends to move in leaps or in arpeggios; consequently, there are also neighbor notes implicated.
Two common large-scale structures that the analysed pieces share are the ABA-structure and the ABC-structure; ABA in the milongas, and ABC in the fugues.
As pointed out earlier, Piazzolla freely uses the tresillo rhythm and its shifts. In addition to the original rhythm, which is the most common, it seems like the second, the fourth and the seventh shift are the most common rhythms that are based on the tresillo. Particularly clear in Fugata, the tresillo rhythm is also to be found in large-scale patterns. In this piece, the tresillo rhythm is carefully distributed which makes the ABC-structure mathematically equal to 3:3:2.
At the time his Symphony No. 2 was composed, Rachmaninoff had had two successful seasons as the conductor of the Imperial Opera at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. He considered himself first and foremost a composer and felt that the performance schedule was detracting from his time to compose.
He then moved with his wife and infant daughter to Dresden, Germany, to spend more time composing and to also escape the political tumult that would put Russia on the path to revolution. The family remained in Dresden for three years, spending summers at Rachmaninoff’s in-law’s estate of Ivanovka. It was during this time that Rachmaninoff wrote not only his Second Symphony, but also the tone poem Isle of the Dead.
Rachmaninoff was not altogether convinced that he was a gifted symphonist. At its 1897 premiere, his Symphony No. 1 (conducted by Alexander Glazunov) was considered an utter disaster; criticism of it was so harsh that it sent the young composer into a bout of depression. Even after the success of his Piano Concerto No. 2 (which won the Glinka Award and 500 rubles in 1904), Rachmaninoff still lacked confidence in his writing. He was very unhappy with the first draft of his Second Symphony but after months of revision he finished the work and conducted the premiere in 1908 to great applause. The work earned him another Glinka Award ten months later. The triumph restored Rachmaninoff’s sense of self-worth as a symphonist.
Because of its formidable length, Symphony No. 2 has been the subject of many revisions, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, which reduced the piece from nearly an hour to as little as 35 minutes. Before 1970 the piece was usually performed in one of its revised, shorter, versions. Since then orchestras have used the complete version almost exclusively, although sometimes with the omission of a repeat in the first movement.
The first movement begins with a slow, dark introduction, in which the ‘motto’ theme of the symphony is introduced and developed. This leads to an impassioned climax, after which a cor anglais solo leads the movement into the allegro in sonata form. Assuming the symphony is performed uncut, this also includes a full repeat of the exposition.
In contrast to the exposition, the development is stormy at times and moves through multiple key centres. Only the first subject and central motto theme are used in the development. After a long dominant pedal, the music slowly transitions to the recapitulation in E major, in which only the second subject is recapitulated, but is heavily expanded on compared to the exposition. This device of omitting the first subject from the recapitulation was also used by Tchaikovsky in his second, fourth and sixth symphonies. The coda in E minor builds up intensely and the movement culminates in two fortissimo outbursts.
This movement really only resembles a scherzo insofar as it relates to the early- to mid-Romantic tradition of symphonic movements, and its use of a typical scherzo form (ABACABA). However, it is in 2/2, while the typical scherzo would be in 3/4 or some kind of triple meter. The movement, in A minor, opens with a lively ostinato in the upper strings. As a fixture in large-scale works by Rachmaninoff, the Dies Iraeplainchant is referenced, here in the opening bars by the horns.
The B section is a lyrical cantabile melody in C major. The music slows down and the opening ostinato is referenced, and in returning to the A section it abruptly speeds back up to its opening tempo. The central trio section notably begins with a sudden, tutti, fortissimo B Dominant 7th chord, and is an example of Rachmaninoff’s mastery of counterpoint and fugal writing, thanks to his studies with Taneyev, to whom this symphony is dedicated. At the conclusion of the movement, the Dies Irae is again stated, this time by a brass choir. The momentum dissolves, and the movement ends pianississimo (ppp).
This movement is in a broad three-part form, and is often remembered for its opening theme, which is played by the first violins and restated both as a melody and as an accompanying figure later on in the movement. This opening theme, however, is really an introduction to the main melody of the movement, which is presented by a lengthy clarinet solo, and is a typical Rachmaninoff creation, circling around single notes and accompanied by rich harmony.
The development is based on the Dies Irae motto theme of the symphony, as if it was continued on from the first movement’s introduction. A chromatic buildup leads to an impassioned climax in C major. The intensity subsides, and the central melody of the third movement is restated, this time played by the first violins, while fragments of the opening theme are heard in the accompaniment. The Dies Irae motto is restated again apparently to bring about an ending to complement the first movement introduction, as the third movement concludes in a tranquil fashion dying away slowly in the strings.
The final movement is set in sonata form. The lively, fanfare-like first theme, derived from the first “Dies Irae”-like theme of the Scherzo, is played by the entire orchestra, leading into a march-like interlude starting in G# minor played by woodwind.
After the return of the first theme, the first subject is concluded, and transitions directly into a massive, broad melody in D major played by strings. After dying down to pianissimo, the opening theme of the third movement, this time in D major, is briefly recalled over string tremolos. After an abrupt interjection, the development section begins, which is in two sections, the first of which introduces new melodic ideas, and the latter of which revolves around a descending scale.
The recapitulation initially only presents the first subject, before moving into a dominant pedal, building up to the triumphant restatement of the broad melody now in the home key of E major, in which fragments of the first theme, motto theme, and descending scale can be heard in the accompaniment. A whirlwind coda brings the symphony to a close, with a fortissimo restatement of the brass chorale that appeared at the end of the second movement.
The final bars present another fixture of Rachmaninoff’s large-scale works, the characteristic decisive four-note rhythm ending (in this case presented in a triplet rhythm), also heard in his Cello Sonata, second and third piano concertos, and in an altered form in his fourth piano concerto and Symphonic Dances.
The manuscript had been thought lost, until its discovery in the estate of a private collector in 2004. It was authenticated by Geoffrey Norris. It contains material that has not found its way into any published edition.The manuscript became the property of the Tabor Foundation, and was on permanent loan to the British Library.
In May 2014 the manuscript was auctioned by Sotheby’s for £1,202,500.
A section of the symphony’s second movement is used several times in the 2014 film Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and is even used in the trailers promoting it. It is featured as part of a score composed by Mexican jazz drummer Antonio Sánchez.
Operatic tenor, Christian Ketter’s arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Zdes Khorosho (Здесь хорошо/ How Fair This Place) Op. 21, No. 7 quotes the symphony’s paralytic third movement in its introduction on the 2014 recording, “Beloved: live in recital.”
Parts of the third movement were used for pop singer Eric Carmen‘s 1976 song, “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again“, which borrowed the introduction and main melody of the third movement as the song’s chorus and bridge, respectively. As Rachmaninoff’s music was still in copyright at the time (it has since expired in most countries), Carmen was made to pay royalties to the Rachmaninoff estate for the use of the composer’s music, both for the aforementioned song and “All By Myself“, which borrowed from his second piano concerto in its verse. The melody was also used by jazz pianist Danilo Pérez as the main theme of his tune “If I Ever Forget You” on his 2008 album Across the Crystal Sea.
“Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 5”
In April 2008 Brilliant Classics released Alexander Warenberg’s arrangement of the symphony for piano and orchestra, titling it “Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 5”. Warenberg arranged Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 as a concertante work for piano and orchestra. The work contains about 40% of the source material from the symphony with some original scoring by Warenberg, modification of the original score and a change to many of the harmonies “to improve the sound and balance”. Warenberg’s arrangement is a three movement concerto with a new second movement and a revised finale “to create a tighter and more effective emotional climax to the concerto’s finale.”
For the concertante’s first movement, the slow introduction developing the main motif is shortened from the symphony with the material not discarded but instead shifted to the concertante’s cadenza immediately after the climax. The concertante’s second movement largely following the symphony’s third movement, except for immediately after the climax when the exposition of the symphony’s second movement is inserted, before returning to the symphony’s third movement recapitulation.