Although Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) had already
accomplished himself as a composer of violin sonatas
and of sacred music, nothing propelled his career more
than his first set of concertos -- L'estro armonico
(Op.3) -- which first appeared in 1711. Besides being
widely popular with both musicians and audiences of the
day, L'estro armonico had a significant impact on the
development of the relatively new solo-concerto. The
set's influence was felt all across Europe -- no less a
figure than J.S. Bach transcribed six of the Op.3
concertos for keyboard.
La Stravaganza (Op. 4) appeared shortly after, in
around 1713, and was dedicated to Vettor Dolfin (the
surname given in its Tuscan form, Delfino), a young
Venetian noble to whom Vivaldi had taught the violin.
While enormously successful in it's own right, this set
of twelve concertos was a complete departure from Op.3.
While the influence of the Corellian concerto grosso
had been significant in L'estro armonico, in La
Stravaganza Vivaldi severed himself completely from
past traditions. The Op.4 set is characterized by
harmonic daring, passage work bordering on the bizarre,
and a new, uniquely flexible, solo-concerto "form" that
would become so typical of Vivaldi. The originality and
variety of material is also noteworthy; each work seems
to systematically refute a different aspect of the
traditional concerto, and even some standards of
composition at the time. All this is not without its
own sense of musical humor. However, the set also
demonstrates the care the composer took over the
selection and grouping of works destined for
publication; i.e. grouping the concertos into pairs --
one major, one minor -- with an adjustment made to
ensure that the whole set ends in major.
The Op.4 concertos are the earliest examples of a
theatri al conception of the solo concerto to be
offered to international audiences of music lovers.
This, even more than Vivaldi's daring writing for the
solo violin, is the true significance of the word
stravaganza in the title. Indeed, among Vivaldi's
printed works, the road to the future is marked by the
Stravaganza concerti rather than those of L'estro
armonico. Vivaldi would never retrace his steps in the
direction of Op.3, and the collections which followed
Op.4 further develop the concept of the instrumental
solo as outlined in Op.4.
This, the Violin Concerto in C Major (RV 185 Op. 4 No.
7) was a departure in several ways. It is the only work
of the set to have four (4) instead of three (3) and
more closely follows the model and the style of the
Concerto Grosso. Unusual in this concerto is that the
opening movement is Largo (a departure from his earlier
works) and the third movement is based on a dialog of 2
equal solo violins. The dance-like final Allegro
employes the closed-Corellian 'concertino' of two
violins and a cello as well as the corresponding
interplay between the concertino and ripieno.
Although originally scored for Violin and Strings (2
Violins, Viola, Cello, Bass & Continuo), I created this
arrangement for String Quartet (2 Violins, Viola &