Record of the day: A. Vivaldi, "Concerts for viola d'amore"

Record of the day: A. Vivaldi, “Concerts for viola d’amore”

Antonio Vivaldi
Concertos for viola d’amore (Cd Hyperion CDA66795)

The viola d’amore, an instrument with an enchanting name, was much loved by Bach who entrusted it with memorable pages of his “Passions”, but it was gradually put in a corner by composers. The nineteenth century ignored it completely and in the twentieth century the only one who seriously wanted to dedicate time to it was Paul Hindemith, who wrote and played “Kammermusik N°6” himself in 1930.
Puccini, curiously, chose it to support the intonation of the famous closed-mouth chorus of Madama Butterfly, after which silence fell on it again until Bruno Maderna in 1971 created a stupendous solo piece dedicated to her .

Antonio Vivaldi, like other baroque composers including Telemann and Biber, was a great admirer of the viola d’amore and
he dedicated several concerts to her, which were performed for the first time by the students of the Ospedale Della Pietà in Venice where Vivaldi was a music teacher; Vivaldi probably must have felt particularly in tune with the instrument given that these pages are among the happiest of those that came from his pen.
In addition to the strings on which the bow is used, the viola d’amore has others inside which vibrate sympathetically and give its voice that very sweet, slightly nasal colour, which makes it unmistakable among all the instruments: not However, it has a large volume of sound, and perhaps this lack of phonic power contributed to the oblivion reserved for it by composers of subsequent centuries.

The English violist Catherine Mackintosh, who in addition to playing also directs the amazing Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, tells us
offers an overview that includes six concerts, easily overcoming the many difficulties strewn by Vivaldi along the way.

The viola d’amore is in fact a difficult instrument to intonate well and requires a steel technique during the most rapid passages. The naturalness with which these asperities are faced is astounding, as is the perfection of the concertation, which while respecting philology still allows for moments of warm lyricism that highlight the beauty of this instrument even more. The stupid criticisms regarding the alleged repetitiveness of Vivaldi’s work are denied by these imaginative pieces, with careful writing and full of ideas.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.