Discussion 4 – Bach or Vivaldi

Find one fascinating fact about the Bach’s/ Vivaldi’s music and his life. Please try not to repeat the facts about the composers.

Chapter 23:

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Of Vivaldi’s many compositions for solo violin and orchestra, the most glorious is The Four Seasons, a group of four violin concertos, each of which musically describes a single season. Vivaldi intended that this work be “programmatic,” that is, carry meaning outside of the music itself. As if to ensure that the music duplicate the descriptive power of traditional vocal lines, he added poems at appropriate passages in the score for the instruction of the performers. At the section called “Spring,” for instance, Vivaldi’s verses describe “flowing streams” and “singing birds.” While the music offers listeners the challenge of detecting such extra-musical references, its brilliance lies not in its programmatic innovations but in its vibrant rhythms, its lyrical solos, and its exuberant “dialogues” between violin and orchestra.

Johann Sebastian Bach, whom we met in chapter 22, served as a brilliant church musician for much of his life. However, he was also one of history’s greatest composers of secular music, that is, music with no obvious religious function. Influenced by both Vivaldi’s concertos and the Italian music style that inspired the expressive conjunction of solo and orchestral forms, Bach developed the musical potential of the concerto form more completely than any previous composer. He claimed that his study of Vivaldi had taught him to “think musically” and to endow the creative process with “order, coherence, and proportion.” To the two dozen concertos he produced during his lifetime, Bach brought a high degree of rational control, expanding the ritornello sections and bringing solo episodes to new levels of complexity.

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