Monday, July 2, 2012

Concerto in C for Piccolo (Flautino), RV443 by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

I think I first came across this piece on an album that was some sort of compilation of relaxing Baroque era music. I know it was on cassette tape and I also know it was something I found at a garage sale back when I was in high school! So my love for this piece (or at least for the second movement of this piece) dates back pretty far (I won't say how far though!).

The work was originally not written for piccolo, obviously. Instead it was written for a Sopranino recorder, which is one of the highest-pitched recorders (only the Garklein, a tiny recorder pitched in C was higher than the F-pitched Sopranino). Today it's most often played on the piccolo, though there are some great recordings around that feature the Sopranino Recorder.

Vivaldi, the composer of this work, lived and worked for most of his life at an orphanage in Venice. He was actually trained to be a priest (thus earning him his nickname Il Prete Rosso, the Red Priest, due to his hair), but because of his precarious health (he suffered from asthma his entire life) he withdrew from active duty shortly after being ordained. He was hired to be the master of violin for the Devout Hospital of Mercy (and eventually became its music master), which took in oprhans, abandoned girls, and illegitimate offspring of the nobility (on the down low of course!). He worked there on and off for the next 30 years. Most of his works were written for the girls of this orphanage, often with Vivaldi himself playing the complicated violin solos.

Unfortunately for Vivaldi, while his works were immensely popular during his lifetime, after he died the works died out with him. Even Mendelssohn's revival of Bach's music didn't really get people interested in Vivaldi's music. It wasn't until the 20th century that the true revival of his music began, with many unpublished and forgotten works resurfacing. Works by Vivaldi have been uncovered as late as 2006.

You can see Lenka Smolcakova performing the work here on Sopranino Record.

Mvt. I
Mvt. II

And here's the last movement, since they have no recording of Ms. Smolcakova performing it. This one is performed with a modern orchestra and a piccolo. You should be able to hear the difference between the instruments. I much prefer the Sopranino Recorder!

Mvt. III

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