VIVALDI OPERA QUINTA
Antonio Vivaldi Series
Baltic Baroque, kunstiline juht Grigori Maltizov
Released in September 2014. Fourth record of Vivaldi Series.
The violinists all perform with a bright forward sweet tone and superb sense of line (no bulges here). These are solo parts which very much sing. The whole group is alive to the dance element in these pieces and their performances are lively and well pointed. The result is rather infectious. (Planet Hugill − A world of classical music)
|1−4||Sonata XIII à Violino Solo e Basso Fa maggiore, RV 18||6:40|
|5−7||Sonata XIV à Violino Solo e Basso in La maggiore, RV 30||6:38|
|8−11||Sonata XV à Violino Solo e Basso in Si bemolle maggiore, RV 33||7:31|
|12−14||Sonata XVI à Violino Solo e Basso in Si minore, RV 35||7:32|
|15−17||Sonata XVII a Due Violini e Basso Continuo in Si bemolle maggiore, RV 76||9:15|
|18−20||Sonata XVIII a Due Violini e Basso Continuo in Sol minore, RV 72||5:47|
Ensemble Baltic Baroque
Artistic director Grigori Maltizov
Maria Krestinskaya − baroque violin (#1−4, 8−11, 15−20)
Evgeny Sviridov − baroque violin (#12−20)
Anfisa Kalinina − baroque violin (#5−7)
Sofia Maltizova − baroque cello
Reinut Tepp − harpsichord (#5−7)
Imbi Tarum − harpsichord (#1−4, 8−20)
Recorded 2011−2013 in Swedish St Michael’s church (Tallinn), St Jacob’s church (Viimsi) and the House of Blackheads (Tallinn)
Engineered by Tanel Klesment and Margo Kõlar
Edited and mastered by Maido Maadik
Liner notes by Anna Bulycheva
Booklet translated and edited by Inna Kivi and Tiina Jokinen
Front cover painting by Johan Anton Richter
Designed by Mart Kivisild
Executive producer – Peeter Vähi
Liner notes in Estonian, English and Russian languages
The violin sonatas were first published under the title VI Sonate, Quatro à Violino Solo e Basso e due a due Violini e Basso Continuo di Antonio Vivaldi, Opera Quinta O vero Parte Seconda del Opera Seconda (Six sonatas by Antonio Vivaldi, four for violin and bass and two for two violins and basso continuo, op 5, or the second part for the preceding op 2).
In order to present their works to the audience, the 18th century composers tried to supply the title pages of the scores with as precise and detailed descriptions of the contents as possible which obviously turned out to be rather copious.
The majority of the sonatas of op 5 are dances. Baroque music in general is saturated with expressively energetic and vibrant dance rhythms. They are encountered at each step and in a more concealed way even at the least likely places − in sacred works.
The modern listener has probably made an acquaintance with allemandes, courantes and gigues through the suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. In case of Vivaldi, though, the musical essence of those dances makes them unrecognizable from the ones in Bach’s works, the reason being that in the war between the two main choreographic schools of Europe – the Italian and the French − Vivaldi and Bach occupied their positions on the “frontlines” of the opposing sides. The competition started as early as during the Renaissance period and culminated in the 17th century. Masters of the ostentatious French noble dances and representatives of the more popular Italian dance style were fiercely competing in the ball and ballet adoring European courts. The French got the upper hand here conquering Europe with their choreography, language as well as fashion. Hence Bach’s courantes, minuets and gigues were all composed in the French manner and that is how they became known also in Germany.
The Italians, though, did not surrender so easily, and stubbornly followed their own path. Their superiority lay in a more compact manner, higher tempos and frenzied acrobatics, the proof of which are almost all the dances in Vivaldi’s violin sonatas. The tempos of his allemandes, courantes and gigues vacillate between fast and very fast. With tempos like that, moody rhythmic combinations or ingenious polyphonic art, so frequent in Bach’s suites, proved virtually impossible. (That is why Vivaldi’s contemporaries that had been educated under the French influence often considered him primitive.) On the other hand, Vivaldi’s music is loaded with enormous motive energy.
The light and graceful sarabande in Sonata RV 18 has retained its original mobility. The Latin-American dance that came to Europe in the 16th century was initially lively and cheerful, acquiring its slow and serious character only during a course of time. In Italy, sarabande succeeded in mainting its youthfulness and mobility for a considrebly longer period.
Vivaldi, however, does not ignore the French dances; his sonatas in op 5 are embellished by minuet as well as gavotte. Of the two possible options − “light” and “tender” − of the French gavotte, maestro obviously preferred the former. Minuet was probably chosen as the youngest and more fashionable representative of the Baroque dance family. Vivaldi like everybody else, having his scores published in Amsterdam, had to consider the different tastes of different countries.
The sonatas in the collection have been sorted by their escalating order of complexity, whereas not so much from the technical as from the musical and composition aspect. Judging by the First sonata in F major (RV 18) in the collection one might get an impression of light or even frivolous music. A sweetish prelude is followed by three unpretentious dances − courante, sarabande and gigue, the latter being utterly incredible with its rhythm unchanged throughout the movement, thus resembling more an etude. Could the sonata have been meant for Vivaldi’s students-beginners? At that time it was not uncommon for the composers to modestly title their works “Etude” or “Practise”.
Thumbing the publication of 1716, we get a step further. The three-movement Sonata in A major (RV 30) begins with a noble and extraordinary prelude. The speedy courante is in a complete accord with the Sonata in F major, whereas the final gavotte is considerably more refined and full of unexpected turns.
A dreamy prelude, flowing courante and moody gavotte meet the ear also in the following four-movement Sonata in B-flat major, RV 33. Allemande with truly acrobatic violin and cello parts is a new addition.In the three-movement Sonata in B minor (RV 35), Vivaldi displays even greater figurativeness: after a gallant prelude, within the allemande the violin and the cello develop a serious dialogue. Exchanging quick remarks, they engage in a real duel. Also courante contains a multitude of expressive details. It is not exactly the technical complexity that increases from the first to the fourth sonata, but more the musical content and depth that escalate.
The highlight of the collection are two trio-sonatas. While solo-sonata was a new genre in Vivaldi’s time that only began to occupy its place on the musical Olympus, then the roots of the venerable trio-sonata went back to more than one century. This was also the genre that Vivaldi as a successor of old masters decided to use for his premiere performance in front of a wider audience in 1705. Having published 12 trio-sonatas in his op 1, he briefly turns back to them in his op 5.
Although these sonatas contain three parts, they require four instruments for an ideal performance. The upper melodic line is performed by the two violins, while the basso continuo part is given to the cello and harpsichord of which the first holds the melodic and the latter the harmonic line. Some researchers believe that by that time Vivaldi was already so fascinated by solo sonatas that in his trio-sonatas he subjected the second violin’s part to the first or kept it altogether secondary. This, however, is not the truth. The composer had not lost his skills or good taste in composing ensemble works. In those works he lets his phantasy loose and the trio-sonatas in op 5 are much more extensive, innovative and comprehensive than the solo-sonatas.
The competition between the two violins in the Sonata in B-flat major (RV 76) brings out real flashes of inspiration. The solo instruments in the prelude almost melt into an amorous duet. In both fast movements (allemanda and corrente), they resume their opposing roles and compete for the first place. Just one additional merging voice in the ensemble conjures complicated harmonies and chains of chords from the strings.
The collection’s final Sonata in G minor (RV 72) is undoubtedly the most significant work here. Vivaldi’s contemporaries who obtained the publication and played it through, were highly rewarded. The sonata is centred around an allemande that could justly be called cappriccio or fantasy for its ingenuity.
Prelude − a true monologue of the first violin with the second violin having only an accompanying role.
The finale of Sonata RV 72, on the other hand, is light − a not too long peaceful minuet. It is as if Vivaldi bids his audience goodbye bowing according to all the rules of etiquette, looking forward to new meetings.
The Six sonatas op 5 were numbered 13−18, thus underlining them being a sequence to the Twelve sonatas op 2. It is rather intriguing that the title pages of those two opuses give different publishers. Sonatas op 2 were published in Amsterdam, 1716, by Estienne Roger publishing house, while sonatas op 5, also in Amsterdam, but by Michel Charles Le Cène publishing house. What lies behind that difference?
The story began already in 1685 when Louis XIV revoked the so-called Edict of Nantes that from the times of Henry IV had granted french huguenots their religious rights. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of huguenots fleed the country, among them also the twenty-year-old Estienne Roger. Like many of his fellows, he moved to Amsterdam where 30 years later, he runs a company which by that time has published more than 500 scores and numerous books. In May 1716, Roger’s elder daughter Françoise marries Michel Charles Le Cène who, for some time, worked together with his father-in-law but was also free to publish under his own name. On September 11th, the same year, Roger transferred the company to his younger daughter Jeanne. Roger died on July 7th, 1722, followed suit by Jeanne in December, and next year in August, also Françoise. That made Le Cène the sole owner of the company. He died heirless in 1743.
In 1716, however, there was still ample time left before the sad ending. Working hand in hand, Roger and Le Cène maintained high quality of their publications and pleased music-lovers with excellent copies of scores by the most sought-after composers, among them also Vivaldi.