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Vivaldi, Antonio Vivaldi in Bohemia
Vivaldi´s church music was greatly cherished and acclaimed all over Bohemia, as witnessed by the music inventory of 1737-38 in ...
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- Author: Vivaldi, Antonio
- Catalog number: 150
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Vivaldi, Antonio Vivaldi in Bohemia
Vivaldi´s church music was greatly cherished and acclaimed all over Bohemia, as witnessed by the music inventory of 1737-38 in the Prague Church of the Knights of St. John with the Red Cross compiled in 1737-38.
|2||Donec ponam inimicos tuoss||2:24|
|3||Virgam virtutis tuae||2:05|
|6||Dominus a dextris tuis||1:36|
|7||Judicabit in nationibus||1:45|
|9||De torrente in via bibet||3:01|
|11||Sicut erat in principio||0:51|
|12||Et in saecula saeculorum, amen||2:43|
|13||Laudate pueri Dominum||1:51|
|14||Sit nomen Domini||2:46|
|15||A solis ortu usque ad occasum||1:46|
|16||Excelsus super omnes gentes||2:46|
|17||Quis sicut Dominus||2:14|
|18||Suscitans a terra inopem||1:19|
|19||Ut collocet eum||1:45|
|21||Laudate pueri Dominum, Sicut erat in principio||1:36|
|29||Sicut locutus est||1:18|
|32||Ad te clamamus||1:51|
|33||Eia ergo, advocata nostra||1:30|
|34||Et Jesum benedictum||2:38|
Vivaldi in Bohemia
Antonio Vivaldi had a fairly extensive relationship with the Czech Lands (Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia), which is why the title of this CD can be understood in many different ways. It is almost certain that he did visit Bohemia; admittedly, there is no solid proof of this, but musicologists agree that Prague was one of the stops on Antonio´s and his father´s tour of „Germania“ in late 1729 and early 1730. The composer´s operas, some of which were presented in Prague just then, represent one of the salient parts of his output. However, Vivaldi´s fine standing of more than two decades (then) was primarily based on the popularity and impact of his solo concertos instead, which had swept like a great tide of fashion all over Europe, including the Czech Lands. After all, the many aristocrats with whom Vivaldi kept in touch included a number of noblemen resident in Bohemia. It was to one of them – count Václav Morzin – that the composer dedicated, in the year 1725, his eighth printed collection including (among other works) his set of violin concertos Le quattro stagioni, which became as famous then as they remain to this day. For another Czech nobleman Vivaldi composed concertos for lute and trios, and to yet another he sold, on the threshold of his demise, a large set of his instrumental compositions. The key to the programme of our recording should be looked for elsewhere, however, namely in the third-largest part of Vivaldi´s output – his church music. The compositions on this CD have one thing in common; to this day their sources have remained preserved in Czech collections of sheet music.
At the height of the baroque period, the Czech Lands were a great power in the field of church music. True, there was no ruler´s court in Prague to have a brilliant imperial court orchestra; instead, however, there was a great concentration of church choirs, which were unparalleled anywhere else in Central Europe. Rich monastic churches in particular boasted not only the splendour of their edifices rebuilt in baroque style with opulent decorations, but also fine music that resounded from their organ lofts. While Jesuit churches were among the prominent ones, very little has been preserved of music of Jesuit provenance since the order was abolished later on by Emperor Joseph II. A copy of the parts of Vivaldi´s music on the psalm Dixit Dominus RV 595 has survived; it was originally the property of the Jesuit seminar of St. Francis Xaverius in the New Town of Prague. The composition, uniquely preserved by way of this source of music, belongs (like all other pieces of music on this CD) among Vivaldi´s early works of church music dating back to about 1715-1717. As was customary in those days, the composer set the psalm text to music in a number of independent parts, making use of a variety of compositional techniques and forms – from solo arias through polyphonic parts and choral fugues up to concertos for choir. In doing so, he followed the sense of the psalm, both in the his use of rhetoric figures of music and also in instrumentation (e.g. the clarino trumpet announcing doomsday in Judicabit in nationibus). Other such effects of instrumentation include the use of two concerto cellos with two sopranos in Tecum principium. In three of its parts Vivaldi made use of other authors´ compositions: the splendidly polyphonic Gloria Patri comes from a madrigal by Antonio Lotti, and the parts Tu es sacerdos and the final double fugue in Et in saecula saeculorum are based on works by unknown composers. Each time, however, Vivaldi reworked his borrowings thoroughly, and it is interesting to hear them finely blend with the whole of the composition, adding to its multi-form nature.
Vivaldi´s church music was greatly cherished and acclaimed all over Bohemia, as witnessed by the music inventory of 1737-38 in the Prague Church of the Knights of St. John with the Red Cross compiled in 1737-38. There we can find eight of Vivaldi´s works, of which only one has been well preserved. The psalm Laudate pueri RV 600 for solo soprano and orchestra and three other Vivaldi compositions listed in the inventory came into the Knights´ possession together with a collection of the then deceased Prague organist Jan Kryštof Karel Gayer in 1734. Gayer had acquired quite a selection of sheet music during his stay in Italy, possibly including the above-mentioned works by Vivaldi. However, as already suggested, there were a number of ways by which compositions by Vivaldi and other Italian composers were reaching the Czech Lands.
The case of Vivaldi´s Magnificat RV 610b gives a good idea of how early and immediate the arrival and influence of Italian repertoire must have been in Bohemia. Today, we know of three sources of this composition preserved in the Czech Lands, and of the previous existence of others, now lost. The music was in the possession of the Cistercians in the monastery of Osek, in the hands of the church choirs of the Knights of St. John´s Cross in Prague, in the Jesuit church of St. Nicholas in the Lesser Town of Prague, in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, it was well known in Wroclaw, and it was also in the hands of the Czech baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka in Dresden. Apart from a few subsequent adjustments such as the addition of two trumpets, the three preserved Czech sources represent the earliest version of the work. All other known sources, including the composer´s autographed score (preserved in Italy) represent later versions of the work – as it was revised twice by Vivaldi. For this CD, the composition was recorded in its first version, as preserved solely in the Czech sources. What makes it different from the later revisions is its concise and lapidary nature in particular, which makes each of the constituent parts of the work so impressive.
Vivaldi´s Salve Regina RV 617 is also known only thanks to a unique Czech source, preserved this time in Brno (Moravia), in a collection of sheet music in the monastery of the Brethren of Mercy (Society of the Misericordia). This is the oldest of Vivaldi´s four musical versions of this antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Intended for soprano and strings, it is characteristic mainly in its use of solo violin in a number of roles. Thus, the very introductory movement accompanied by obbligato violin and basso continuo comes as quite a surprise in this sense – as the whole ensemble is first heard as late as the second part. In the third movement, the solo violin plays to the accompaniment of strings in ritornelli only to reappear in the final part conceived in the form alla siciliana.
In their time, Vivaldi´s church compositions were well known in the Czech Lands and were played in relatively large numbers, often soon after they were written. However, only a small proportion of what used to be well known works in the Czech Republic can still be found in the local sheet music collections. It is possible, though, that some of the lost sources will still emerge and give us a chance to study, for example, Czech copies of Vivaldi´s Gloria or Beatus vir, which are also on record in the inventory of the Knights of St. John´s Cross. Even so, time and destiny seem to have been relatively kind to us in this case – considering that two otherwise unknown works by the famous Venetian have been able to survive against all odds. The sources preserved in the Czech Republic also provide us with a fairly balanced insight into a number of aspects of the composer´s early church music.