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The Chamber Cantatas of Antonio Vivaldi

The Chamber Cantatas of Antonio Vivaldi

Michael Talbot
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Chamber Cantatas of Antonio Vivaldi
    Book Description:

    Vivaldi's chamber cantatas for solo voice, some forty in total, are steadily gaining in popularity: but because of their relatively small place in the oeuvre of a composer famed for his productivity, and also on account of the general scholarly neglect of their genre, they are little discussed in the literature. This book comprehensively explores their literary and musical background, their relation to the composer's biography, the chronology of their composition, and their musical qualities. Each cantata is discussed individually, but there is also a broader consideration of aspects concerning them collectively, such as performance practice, topical allusion, and the conventions of Italian verse. The author argues that while Vivalid's cantatas are not as innovative as his concertos and operas, he produced several masterpieces in the genre that rank with his best music. MICHAEL TALBOT is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Liverpool.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-454-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Music Examples
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  6. Conventions and Abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. CHAPTER ONE The Rediscovery of Vivaldi’s Cantatas
    (pp. 1-24)

    In his own day Vivaldi’s cantatas went almost unnoticed. The thirty-seven that survive today, which probably represent a high proportion of the original total, may seem a respectable enough number, but viewed as a segment of his oeuvre, or in comparison with the cantata output of the ‘big producers’ of his time, they make little impression. This rather negative statistical assessment is based on a general impression, but the thrust of the argument receives support from Table 1.1, in which the output of six major composers of Vivaldi’s time in four genres (opera, cantata, concerto, sonata) is compared.¹ Vivaldi’s cantatas...

  8. CHAPTER TWO The Cantata Genre
    (pp. 25-60)

    Much confusion is liable to arise from the fact that a generic label applied to musical compositions (sonata, symphony, cantata, etc.) as part of their title is rarely perfectly coextensive with the same word operating as a modern historical or analytical category. In other words, some pieces originally entitled ‘cantata’ manifest a set of characteristics untypical of the genre – to the extent that one may perhaps wish to exclude them altogether from discussion – whereas, conversely, other pieces not so titled may display cantata characteristics in abundance and legitimately be taken into account. In the opening volume of his history of...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Vivaldi and the Voice
    (pp. 61-88)

    Whether or not he had been much exposed to vocal music previously, Vivaldi became immersed in it from his teenage years onwards. He trained as a priest from 1693 to 1703, and this experience must have left him with a thorough knowledge of both canto fermo (plainsong) and canto figurato (figural music – the catch-all term for composed sacred vocal music). His work as a jobbing violinist alongside his father, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi (c.1655–1736), must have introduced him to countless sacred and operatic works; his first known public appearance as a violinist was at Christmas 1696, when he was engaged...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR The Mantuan Cantatas
    (pp. 89-119)

    The period spanning little more than two years that Vivaldi spent at the court of the governor of Mantua, Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, is one of the most clearly defined, and most singular, of his career. His experiences in Venice, his instincts and his strategic sense must all have told him that the life of a maestro di cappella at a court would reduce his freedom of action beyond tolerable limits, yet he took the bait. The experiment was ultimately unsuccessful, even if Vivaldi was able to extricate himself neatly and remain on good terms with a patron whose name...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Cantatas of the Middle Years
    (pp. 120-163)

    The 1720s were Vivaldi’s glory years. On his return from Mantua, he slipped back effortlessly into his former pattern of activity. In October 1720 his new opera La verità in cimento signalled, just in time for Marcello’s satire, his return to the world of Venetian opera. Very soon, he became an operatic composer in demand outside Venice. In 1721 he received a scrittura (commission) for Milan. Commissions for Rome (1723, 1724), Mantua (1725), Florence (1727), and Reggio Emilia (1727) followed. Many of these external commissions required him to take personal charge of the performance in situ, obliging him, despite his...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Dresden Cantatas
    (pp. 164-187)

    After the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, the institution with which Vivaldi enjoyed the longest professional relationship was the court of Dresden, seat of the Saxon electors, who, during the same period (1712–40), were also kings of Poland. The seeds for this association were sown by the accession, in 1694, of Friedrich August I (1670–1733), known as ‘Augustus the Strong’.¹ In 1696 the Polish throne became vacant. This monarchy was elective, and in a disputed contest Friedrich August emerged as the winner, being crowned as Augustus II at Cracow on 15 September 1697. A condition of becoming king...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Vivaldi’s Cantatas in Perspective
    (pp. 188-200)

    The cantata stands a little apart from the other domains that Vivaldi cultivated. One symptom of this is the rarity with which the material of his cantatas – and, above all, of his continuo cantatas – recurs in his works belonging to other genres. Whereas a slow movement of a violin sonata may pop up as that of a concerto, or the theme of a concerto ritornello reappear in an operatic aria, such specific links involving themes in the fullest sense (as opposed to motives and figures) are hardly ever encountered between his cantatas and his other music. Since Vivaldi was in...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 201-205)
  15. List of Vivaldi’s Cantatas Published in the New Critical Edition
    (pp. 206-207)
  16. Spurious Works
    (pp. 208-208)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-216)
  18. Index to Musical Works
    (pp. 217-222)
  19. General Index
    (pp. 223-234)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)