L’estro Armonico, Vivaldi’s Opus 3

L’estro Armonico, Harmonic Inspiration, is a work of Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi published in 1711.  Popular in the composer’s lifetime, as were many of his works, the collection of concertos has been transcribed countless times since its original publication.  L’estro Armonico contains twelve concertos, which, according to Wikipedia, were written in a 7-format.  The 7-format cycles through sets of three concertos. The first of each set is scored for four violins and orchestra, the second for two violins and orchestra, and the third for solo violin and orchestra.  Thus, there are seven violin parts in each set of three.  Vivaldi repeats the 7-format four times in the work, his Opus 3.

By far, the fifth concerto of the set was the most popular.  During the 18th century, it was referred to simply as “Vivaldi’s Fifth.”  The concerto is an upbeat work in A-Major that is, following the 7-format structure, scored for two violins and orchestra.  To my ears, the first movement is interesting for a Baroque concerto in that the most memorable theme, laid out in the opening notes, consists of a triumphant calling out – in the romantic era, the theme would undoubtedly have been produced by a brass section.  In the third movement, the violins engage in an exhilarating tit for tat that, in quintessential Vivaldi style, produces moments of harmonic bliss.

I’m really writing about L’estro Armonico today because the work Suzuki terms “Concerto in A Minor,” which I’ve been working on for going on eight months, is the sixth of the twelve concertos in the collection.  Astute readers will note that since it is number six, it is the third of the second set of three concertos, so following the 7-format this one is scored for solo violin.  As with all the compositions from the L’estro Armonico, over time the sixth has gone through many transcriptions.  Suzuki uses an arrangement by the Hungarian violinist/composer Tivadar Nachez.

John Berger, writing at teachsuzukiviolin.com, intimates that in the 1970s when he was growing up, this concerto was the aspiration of all serious students, the first real music in the Suzuki repertoire.  I have felt that way too, since first learning about the The Vivaldi Concerto.  I can now get through the first movement, and the third is off to a decent start.  The second movement is still off in the distance a bit – the largo is the second piece in Book Five.  We’ll see if I can manage to make it through the whole concerto by the end of 2018.  To get there I have to – I get to – amongst other treasures, also make it through the first movement of the Bach Double.

The journey is the joy.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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