Characteristics of Vivaldi’s Concertos for the Bassoon

In the bassoon repertory we have 37 different bassoon concertos which are composed by Vivaldi. When I consider all of his bassoon concertos, they all share the same deep and dark tone. The reason is that the baroque bassoon has a different tone color than the modern instrument. So, the usage of this deep and dark sound adds a more melancholic atmosphere to his concertos. However, the accompaniment parts, especially those of the violins, can make it more brilliant. I can say, two different types of mood are used in the same structure. On the other hand, with the transformation of concerto idea and being away from vocal influences, instruments start to show their technical capabilities. However, I think, although the bassoon parts have some difficult technical patterns, some of the musical phrases are like baroque arias. If I talk about the technical difficulties, I think it is not impossible to play those with today’s instruments because bassoon is a very sophisticated instrument. When I look at the movements and the differences to other baroque composers, Vivaldi always starts with fast a movement, continues with a slow one and finishes with a fast one. And if I talk about their form, the first ritornello part is played by the tutti orchestra, gaining an importance, but harmonically it is not developed. It always starts with the home key and goes on to the key of dominant. Generally, until the solo part begins, we expect, that there is continuity through walking basses, but in all of the concerto openings he uses bassoon as a basso continue instrument. With the bassoon line, strings, especially violins, always play the solo theme. Usually the first phrase can be of a sentential character and it can be finished with a PAC and in the middle there is a little modulation. But it always returns to the home key. In Episode 1, a solo instrument joins to the orchestra, with other words it starts to play the solo line. In Vivaldi’s concertos bassoon part and the tutti part are independent but not contrasted to each other. There are many diverse themes instead of using one theme. But there is not a Subordinate Theme. He uses the same theme but varies it. In some tutti passages, we can hear that there is a theme which comes several times in different instruments as well as in solo parts, and again we can listen to the same theme on the solo bassoon. When we look at the form, it is not different than the ritornello section because all the thematic-motivic material is the same until the beginning of solo development section. At the beginning of solo development it can modulate to the key of dominant with a little cadential segment. 2nd ritornello should be separated from the first one: Ritornello comes again with the same material but the tonality is different. However, it is like a small break for the bassoonist. In the 2nd episode new material comes on the key of dominant and this section has more virtuosity than the other ones. We can observe a structural opposition between tutti and solo sections, i.e. the thematic opposition between the ritornello and the episode. It begins to go on to the home key. Some concertos has more than 3 or 4 ritornellos and episodes but as aforementioned there is no tendency towards unexpected tonal changes between these parts end each one always has a little closing part again on the same material.

Source:

  1. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jlym/pages/vivaldi.html
  2. http://www.answers.com/topic/vivaldi-concerto-cantata-with-bassoon
  3. http://www.allmusic.com/album/vivaldi-bassoon-concertos-mw0001387336

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