Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced – appropriate for upper college undergraduates
Berliner Philharmoniker. Concerto for Transverse Flute, Strings and Continuo in G Minor RV 439. Rec. 13 Oct. 2012. Antonio Vivaldi, 2012. MP3. (Emmanuel Pahud)
Worthen, Douglas E. “A Semiotic View of the Flute Concerto Genre from Vivaldi to Mozart.” Order No. 3285238 University of Hartford, 2007. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2016.
Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice, Italy in 1678. Vivaldi was a prolific composer, providing over 500 concertos along with a multitude of works for opera and the church. He left his home of Venice in 1741 to go to Vienna with the prospect of finding new sponsors for his music. However, he soon passed away after his arrival in Vienna. Vivaldi’s works were a monumental influence on Johann Sebastian Bach. Antonio Vivaldi was one of the first composers in Italy to make the transverse flute commonly known. In 1729, Vivaldi wrote Six Concertos for the transverse flute, op. 10. The transverse flute was only recently becoming popular at the time so repertoire for the instrument was scarce. Only one of the six concerti were original works, the other five were taken from previous chamber concertos that did not contain orchestra. This is a normal practice for composers to transcribe previous works into new pieces for other instruments.
One of the flute concertos that were adapted was the Concerto in G minor for flute, strings and bass continuo, RV 439. This piece was nicknamed “La notte,” translating to the night. The work contains six movements alternating between slow and fast sections. Vivaldi has specified that the first Presto section is call Fantasmi (translating to phantoms) and the last Largo section is named Il sonno (translating to sleep). The piece is programmatic and allows the listener to hear spirits and other nightly creatures playing tricks and causing nightmares in the faster tempos with the slower tempos representing the sleep that is being interrupted.