Tag: Vivaldi

Violin Hijinks with Europa Galante at Zankel Hall 1-16-16

I had a pleasant experience last night at Zankel Hall – Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante playing late baroque concertos and chamber pieces for violin, viola d’amore and small chamber ensemble. I’ve been a fan of Biondi’s playing for years, and for several months this past fall I was mopey because I knew this concert was on and it had sold out. But I snagged a ticket in the end.

The program was based on their album Il diario di Chiara, which is a collection of music that would have been played by Chiara della Pietà, a performer and teacher at Vivaldi’s famous post the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. Chiara, who was dropped at the orphanage’s doorstep as an infant, wasn’t trained by Vivaldi herself, but her own teacher Anna was.* The music is basically Vivaldi and a handful of other composers one rarely encounters (hi, Fulgenso Perotti! loved that thingy for violin and organ!), brought to life again by the brio of the solo and ensemble playing. I think last night was the first time I had heard a viola d’amore in a live performance; but more to the point, this was the type of baroque performance that made things we’ve all heard a thousand times, like the snippet of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” that they played for one of their encores, seem new. I mean, the guy sitting two seats down from me was gleefully air-conducting for several extended sections of the performance.

When I went to the concert I had not yet heard the Il diario di Chiara album, and I spent a few minutes stalking it on the internet last night. Apparently it comes with a bonus DVD, which the critic from Fanfare thought was nice, although “tame.” I am not sure what the rubric is for evaluating  “making of” DVDs about baroque violin music; as a result, I got distracted thinking about what would render such an item “not tame” and didn’t buy the disc until this morning. But it is winging its way toward me even now.



*These ladies didn’t have conventional last names – both are surnamed “della Pietà” after the institution.

I don’t even have a headache

It has been a Vivaldi-ish week. Post Bajazet I enjoyed Andrew Manze & Romanesca playing a passel of chamber works (I find Manze’s playing very good for post-work recuperation – it has a precision that would be of the cold steel variety if he wasn’t also so lively and expressive: it’s warm and cool at the same time) and then today 74 minutes of flautino concertos, which in retrospect seems like one of those manic things one does for what seem like reasons and then afterwards one is both acutely embarrassed and mildly surprised one did not die.

Today in things to stop thinking about before they get EVEN MORE CONFUSING

Remember this?

The text in this aria, “se mai senti spirarti sul volto,” is nearly identical to that used for the aria of the same title in the Gluck version of La Clemenza di Tito. When I heard the above, I assumed that it was from one of the many other versions of Tito that were composed to the same libretto in the eighteenth century.

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Vivaldi – Orlando Furioso / Lemieux, Larmore, Cangemi, Jaroussky 2011 (1)

I have dealt with this opera before. And most of the people in this performance have too. There is an audio recording of it from 2004 which has most of the same principals: Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Orlando (“the knight who lapses into French when he goes really mad”), Jennifer Larmore (Alcina), Veronica Cangemi (Angelica) and Philippe Jaroussky (Ruggiero). But here you can see them as well as hear them, and it’s totally worth it.

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Vivaldi – Ercole sul Termodonte

20130610-205337.jpg When I first saw the title of this opera out of the corner of my eye, my brain read ‘Ercole sul Termodonte’ as ‘school on top of something that might have to do with baths.’ This did not seem like an extraordinarily winning concept for an opera. Fortunately ‘ercole’ is not the Italian word for school. It is the Italian word for Hercules. And while ‘terme’ is the Italian word for a spa or Roman-style public bath, Termodonte is something rather different. It is a type of dinosaur prone to sticking its head into hot springs; the name means “thermal-toothed” the place where the Amazons live.

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Vivaldi – Orlando Furioso / San Francisco Opera 1990 (3)

(Previous section here.)

As I said, this is a set of performances that seems to click really well. Orlando is Marilyn Horne, who is a pleasure to listen to and who also knows just how to pitch this vaguely silly character to the audience – Orlando’s “I have dislodged the marble barrier!” and other such moments are funny in exactly the way they ought to be, with not even a suggestion that Orlando is conscious of the joke, and at the same time the more serious bits, like Orlando’s  moment of madness followed by sleep in Act III, are heartfelt but not heavy-handed.

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Vivaldi – Orlando Furioso / San Francisco Opera 1990 (2)

(Previous section here.)

The San Francisco Opera’s production looks relatively traditional, but they are not taking this opera over-seriously. The whole thing looks very ‘opera seria’ – lots of columns and plumed helmets – but the references to eighteenth-century style and stage technology are played lightheartedly. Angelica, Medoro, and Alcina make their entrances in Act I in some very creaky rafts and boats, for example; Ruggiero’s gold-plated flying horse looks a little silly; and later on, as Orlando frees himself from a rocky prison, a chunk of rock snaps out of the way almost like a turnstile when he says (I quote the subtitles) “I have dislodged the rocky barrier!” which – I think it’s both the stage effect and the translation – elicits a laugh from the audience.*

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The WordPress snow is back! I like the snow. I was inspired by the animated snow to try to find a clip on YouTube of Vivaldi’s “Winter” violin concerto, but I ended up disappointed. There were a lot of recordings that sounded schlumpy, even more where the violinist seemed to be tearing through the solo part as fast as possible just to prove he or she could – and in nearly all cases the recording sounded tinny to me. Possibly Vivaldi’s Op. 8 concertos simply make me grumpy. I played them as a student, both the solo part for my violin lessons and the orchestral parts in youth orchestra, and the pizzicato bit in the “winter” occasionally charms me but most of the time makes me want to punch something. Then again, the first movement of “spring” is even worse, as far as desires to commit violence are concerned.

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