Vivaldi

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Vivaldi

Postby DavidTate on Wednesday, 20 July 2011, 9:43 pm

In another context, our gracious host wrote:
reminds me of the remark occasionally heard about Vivaldi's music: he didn't write 600 concertos, he wrote one concerto six hundred times.

I'm currently listening to The Teaching Company's series of lectures on "The Concerto" (http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=7270), and I was intrigued to hear about the degree to which that is, and is not, a fair characterization of Vivaldi.

As it happens, his job required The Red Priest to turn out 2 new concerti per month, for a very long time. So, yes, he recycled a lot of material. On the other hand, he also played a pivotal role in establishing the form of the solo concerto as we know it today, and he was rather more innovative in his composition than most people realize. Of those nearly 600 concerti, there were (at least in the opinion of Dr. Robert Greenberg, the lecturer) probably 20 or 25 genuinely original, distinct, first-rate works. For most composers, that would be a very respectable total -- it's just that they're obscured by the massive volume of more derivative work.

As an aside, I'm enjoying Dr. Greenberg quite a bit. He walks a nice line between informative and entertaining, without ever crossing the line into buffoonery. I learned a lot from the 24-lecture series on "The Symphony", which expanded both my understanding and my tastes.
David Tate
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Re: Vivaldi

Postby owlcroft on Wednesday, 03 August 2011, 3:03 pm

Just so. I didn't mean to asperse Vivaldi, I just found the oft-made and thus familiar remark handy in another context. I concur that Vivaldi's workload quite justified not inconsiderable recycling; also, if a work is good, I see little harm in using it as a basis for other similar work. An interesting example of that commonality is what our household refers to as "the baseball concerto", a work that was (unlikely as this may sound) the background to a baseball TV promo featuring Mark McGwire in slo-mo about to connect with a pitch: the seemingly oxymoronic combination of that with a Vivaldi mandolin concerto was actually quite effective. But listening to Vivaldi works, one hears that same theme in I cannot count how many other works. Still, they are all pleasing to listen to.
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