Thursday, 12 November 2015

1711 Vivaldi & Albinoni

Up until now the music of Vivaldi had only been published in Venice. In 1711 he shot to international fame with opus 3 entitled ‘L'Estro Armonico’ meaning ‘Harmonic Inspiration’, his 3rd major collection and a vast improvement on my earlier Vivaldi selections. Published in Amsterdam and then in London and Paris these chirpy tunes were widely circulated across Western Europe and a massive influence on Vivaldi’s northern European contemporaries Handel, Bach and Telemann. This music was a sensation across Europe and a visit to Venice to hear it performed by the young lady orphans Vivaldi taught became a must for the well to do classes.

Along with Corelli’s opus 4, Vivaldi’s opus 3 was apparently the most popular set of instrumental music throughout the whole 18th Century. The best of the best of the opus 3 are the two allegros in A Minor from concerto no.6 of which you will probably be familiar. If you like the allegros from opus 3 (and how could you not?) then there is much more to come because almost all of my Vivaldi selections are allegro (which means quick) movements and all will have to measure up to this. 

As well as his opus 3 we have in 1711, insofar as my Greatest Hitstory is concerned, Vivaldi’s first departure from violin concertos and probably one of his very earliest compositions for oboe, the RV779 Sonata in C major. This is one of my favorite pieces by anyone of the whole decade. Ben Fatto Vivaldi!

The oboe is relatively new at this time and as with the violin, new improvements had been made to the instrument, making it more popular with composers. Telemann and Handel had already composed pieces for oboe (see my last posting) and were probably among the very first to do so but the instrument soon became more popular in Italy.

The other main composer in Venice at this time was the self proclaimed ‘dedicated Venetian amateur’ also known as Tomasso Albinoni.  Being from a wealthy background he did not need to rely on his music to make a living but this did not stop him from composing some very good music as we have already seen, or rather heard. First up from him for this decade are a couple of melodic violin sonatas (and yes I have gone for the ‘allegro’ movements again)

Vivaldi was not the only composer to find fame in this year. Handel moved to London in 1711 and had huge success with his opera ‘Rinaldo’ which was his break through work so to speak. A pity for me it is opera and not instrumental music! 

It must have been around this time that Corelli’s chamber orchestra came to London to play. Handel had been enjoying his new found position as leading London composer and possibly felt threatened by Corelli’s year long stay in the city. There had been a bit of history between Corelli and Handel. It may have been when the young Handel visited Rome in 1706 that Corelli and Handel first met. Corelli was having trouble playing one of Handel’s pieces and Handel snatched the violin off Corelli, who though not a virtuoso, was arguably the greatest violinist in Europe, to show him how the piece should have been played. Corelli would not rise to the insult and merely replied ‘my dear saxon, this is music in the French style, of which I have no knowledge’. 

Let me remind you that Corelli was extremely popular and highly acclaimed (remember he was the teacher of Vivaldi and all those other composers I mentioned in my 1680s posting) but his music was very orderly and slightly set in its way. It was a known fact that Corelli refused to compose or play on the violin any note higher than the D with his 4th finger stretching up to 3rd position.  

Well on Corelli’s trip to London, the younger Handel, envious of the London public’s admiration for Corelli played a mean trick, cheekily writing a sonata with a note at the end being just one note higher than the note Corelli had publicly declared would be the highest note he would ever play. Corelli, while performing was unaware and when he got to the offending note, immediately stopped playing, glared at a sniggering Handel and walked off stage, never speaking to Handel again! 

So here are the best tunes of the year.....




After studying Michelangelo’s designs for St Peters in Rome, Sir Christopher Wren did an excellent job, in completing St Paul’s in London which had the first triple dome in the world. Handel may have made his bread and butter from writing operas but his main hobby was playing the keyboard and he loved the organ at St Paul’s often playing for a delighted congregation after church services. They even had lock ins at the cathedral after hours to hear Handel play. In fact the whole area around St Paul’s was a hotspot for both amateur and professional musicians and the Queen Anne’s Tavern located in St Paul’s churchyard had a harpsichord where Handel also used to go along with the choristers from the cathedral and knock out a few tunes for his adoring and no doubt starstruck public.

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