Vivaldi's Top Five
Updated: May 4
For our last blog about our composer of the month (Vivaldi) we take a look at the top five pieces by the great composer.
The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni): Composed around 1720, this is Vivaldi's most famous and popular work. It is a set of four violin concertos, each of which is dedicated to a particular season of the year. The Four Seasons is renowned for its inventive and colourful musical effects, as well as its stunning virtuosity, especially in the solo violin parts. The four concertos of The Four Seasons are divided into three movements. The first movement is usually fast and lively, while the second movement is slower and more lyrical. The third movement is often a lively dance or a brisk finale. Each concerto is accompanied by a sonnet, which provides a poetic description of the scenes and moods of the season that the music represents. The sonnets provide vivid descriptions of the sounds, sights, and sensations of each season. For example, the sonnet for "Spring" describes the chirping of birds, the babbling of brooks, and the fragrant scents of flowers.
Gloria: This sacred choral work was composed in the early 18th century, and it is one of Vivaldi's most frequently performed pieces. The piece features a choir, soloists, and orchestra, and it is characterised by its joyful and celebratory mood. Vivaldi's Gloria is a setting of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, which is a hymn of praise to God that is traditionally sung during Catholic Mass. It is sung in Latin. Vivaldi's setting of the Gloria is notable for its exuberant melodies, lively rhythms, and inventive orchestration. The piece is divided into twelve movements, and it features both choral and solo sections. The music often features intricate counterpoint and complex harmonies. The piece concludes with a jubilant fugue that is one of Vivaldi's most memorable musical creations.
L'estro Armonico: This is a set of 12 concertos for string orchestra and solo violin, which Vivaldi published in 1711. The title, L'estro Armonico, translates to "Harmonic Inspiration," and the music is indeed full of inventive and creative ideas. Each concerto features a virtuosic solo violin part that is accompanied by a rich and colourful string orchestra. The collection was a sensation when it was first published, and it helped establish Vivaldi's reputation as one of the leading composers of his time. The 12 concertos that make up L'estro Armonico are divided into four sets of three concertos each. The concertos are notable for their imaginative and inventive use of melody, harmony, and rhythm. Vivaldi often uses unexpected chord progressions, surprising modulations, and lively syncopations to create a sense of excitement and energy in the music. The solo violin parts demand a high level of technical skill from the performer.
Stabat Mater: This is a sacred vocal work that was composed in the early 18th century, and it is one of Vivaldi's most profound and moving pieces. The text of the Stabat Mater is a medieval hymn that depicts the sorrow of the Virgin Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus. Vivaldi's setting of the text is notable for its emotional intensity, its beautiful vocal melodies, and its expressive use of harmony and rhythm. The music is characterised by its poignant melodies, haunting harmonies, and dramatic contrasts of mood and texture. The piece is scored for two solo voices, choir, and orchestra, and Vivaldi's orchestration is masterful in its ability to convey the sadness and grief of the text. The work ends with a powerful and moving Amen, which is one of Vivaldi's most powerful musical statements.
La Stravaganza: This is a set of 12 concertos for solo violin and string orchestra, which Vivaldi published in 1712. The title, La Stravaganza, translates to "The Extravagance," and the music is full of wild and unexpected ideas. Each concerto features a solo violin part that is characterised by its virtuosity and expressiveness, and the orchestration is colourful and imaginative. The collection was another major success for Vivaldi and helped cement his reputation as a daring and innovative composer. Vivaldi often uses unusual and striking musical effects, such as extended trills, rapid scalar passages, and unexpected dissonances. The solo violin parts are highly demanding and require a high level of technical skill and musical sensitivity from the performer. The orchestration is also notable for its rich and colourful use of strings, with Vivaldi often using multiple solo violins to create a sense of dramatic contrast and complexity.