Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vivaldi's Concerto For Four Violins & Orchestra

This clip is from the first movement of Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins and Orchestra in B minor, opus 3, No. 10. The violinists are Ivry Gitlis, Isaac Stern, Ida Haendel and Shlomo Mintz accompanied by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of  Zubin Mehta.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra provides excellent background notes on this work:
Vivaldi developed his ideas about concerto form during his tenure, beginning in 1703, as the music director of the Ospedale della Pietà, in Venice. The Pietà was a state sponsored institution offering musical instruction to illegitimate, orphaned, and indigent girls, yet its artistic standards were exceptionally high, and Vivaldi’s concerts there earned him an international reputation. His first published set of concertos, L’estro armonico, Op. 3, appeared in 1711, and comprised 12 of his best works for one, two, and four solo violins. Reprinted many times and performed all over Europe, L’estro armonico was perhaps the most popular and influential music publication of the eighteenth century.
 Like most of Vivaldi’s 500-odd concertos, the B Minor Concerto for Four Violins, Op. 3, No. 10, is in three movements (fast-slow-fast), with the outer movements in ritornello form — that is, unfolding as series of alternating orchestral and solo episodes. But this is also a highly original, even experimental work, not least because its novel instrumentation — four solo violins, solo cello, strings, and continuo — stimulated Vivaldi’s imagination. (Bach was so impressed with this work that he arranged it as a concerto for four solo harpsichords.)


  1. The opening section of this amazingingly beautiful melody uses only two notes, F# and B. They are a fourth apart, yet the melody doesn't sound like a fanfare, since it's in a minor key. Vivaldi's ability to make such interesting music with so few notes is dazzling.

    1. Simplicity works in the hands of a master, which Vivaldi undoubtedly was.


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