Although I'm best known for my rock criticisms, for my long and extended discussions of the might and majesty of I think I Love You by the Partridge Family or the soft rock velvety fist of The Carpenters' Goodbye to Love, in reality, I actually spend most of my time listening to Vivaldi.
When? Well, when I write. When I commute. When I eat. Always Vivaldi. Now there's a joke (not that funny but I'll repeat it) that says that Vivaldi didn't write 500 concertos but one concerto 500 times. While there are recurring motifs and musical cycles in his music, to dismiss the Venetian maestro as a one trick pony is to underestimate him hugely. And you'd also miss out on some great music.
I would argue - and do! - that the mathematical precision creates a comforting level of expectation and familiarity in the listener. I love hearing him follow the rules of a musical spine. So that he can then, like a great Blues artist, use this solid platform for all manner of interpretation and invention.
I'll pick three Vivaldi pieces that I rate above most. And I'll start with something well known:-
Winter - The Four Seasons (Largo)
For years I hummed this tune unknowing of what it was until an Italian colleague placed it for me - no, not within The Four Seasons - but in the larger parent movement - Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione. Or Opus 8. If there is a more beautiful tune in the world, I don't know it. This melody, so fluent and so evocative, is framed against the tick tock of pizzicato strings. The flowing lines and rise and fall of the melody, against the mechanical sawing of the backing strings, creates magic. Every time! Straight to Number One!
Mandolin Concerto - RV 134 (Allegro)
Dig those power chords! This is classical music delivering the ferocity and riffology of Led Zeppelin, 250 years before Jimmy Page plugged his Gibson into a Marshall stack. Feel the full force of this baroque wall of sound. Showing that classical music can provide depth and power 100 years before Beethoven smashed it all the way to 11 in his 5&9, this is head banging stuff. If you like classical with attitude, this is your track!
Concerto for 2 Oboes - RV 535 (Largo)
The Vivaldi lover's Vivaldi. Interweaving and delicate oboe lines cross and uncross, creating peace, magic and love. This is probably the piece I'd pick for 'and I listen to classical too' slot on Desert Island Disc. Less well known that the Winter piece, it shares with it a dignified beauty. It's so stately you want to salute it as it flows past you graceful and serious. Music for grown ups.
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There's more. So much more. Vivaldi didn't restrict himself to an album every two years with a couple of singles in between. No, the red headed Venice boy, cloistered with his orphans in the Ospedale della Pietà churned them out for years. La Stravaganza, L'Estro Armonico, the hits just kept coming. And then stopped, abruptly and he lay completely forgotten for two hundred years.
As we know though, he came back in a big way. Adverts, films, best ofs; he's now up there with the classical big boys. Seek him out.
Or don't. I don't care. But if you see me on a train this is what I'm listening to.
s-ciào su bitches