A phenomenal violinist and unusually prolific and innovative composer, an impresario and opera presenter, and extravagant priest accused of scandals and teacher of young girls in a Venetian orphanage. Author of perhaps the most recognizable work of music ever, and at the same time, until recently, of totally forgotten over 400 instrumental concertos. Some spiteful people claim it is in fact one concerto in four-hundred versions! We can view his work as some musicologists viewed it, especially in the 19th-century Germany: ‘in essence only very rarely are his compositions characterised by deeper emotion, noteworthy power of thought and sincere dedication to art.
The less imagination and depth he shows in his compositions, the more ingenuity of all sorts there is.’ But we can also view it differently, following a story of another composer: ‘So often did he hear this fine works being praised that he hit upon a felicitous idea of transcribing them all for piano. He studied the way the themes were treated, their mutual relationships, modulation patterns and many other qualities. Adapting ideas and figurations meant for violin, but not suitable for a keyboard instrument, additionally taught him to think in musical categories, so that having completed that work, he did not need to use the ideas suggested by his fingers, but could instead direct his fingers using his own imagination.’
The author of the first quote is the famous musicologist Wilhelm von Wasielewski. The second quote is a story of Johann Sebastian Bach drawn from his first biography penned by Johann Nikolaus Forkel. Paradoxically, the totally forgotten output of Antonio Vivaldi surfaced indeed thanks to research into Bach’s work, for whom Vivaldi was one of the most important inspirations in the process of shaping his personal composing style. A number of Vivaldi’s violin concertos were arranged by Bach to suit his needs as a harpsichordist and organist. Whom would we believe more? And how do we perceive il Prete Rosso nowadays?
The genius Giuliano Carmignola will play for you Vivaldi’s violin concertos. The NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra under Christian Danowicz will prove that the Four Seasons are not only a focus of ensembles playing historical instruments. Moreover, the performance of a new work by Katarzyna Brochocka commissioned by the NFM will pose a question whether modernity can still engage in a dialogue with Vivaldi. The young ensemble 4 Times Baroque, supported by the international scholarship programme eeemerging, one of whose partners is the NFM, will fathom the depths of the Italian virtuosic idiom. And at the end another giant of period performance, Rinaldo Alessandrini will present his interpretation of L’Olimpiade – a masterful story of love games for whom Olympic games are but a distant background.
Please pencil in the first four days of March 2018 for the upcoming Early Music Academy at the National Forum of Music. Those of you who still think Vivaldi wrote one concerto in 400 variants will be most cordially welcome. Even if we fail to make you change your opinion, the arguments we use in our festival debate will surely be worth your ears.