02/27/15 J.S. Bach & Antonio Vivaldi

For Monday, 3/2: Read Chapters 20 & 21

Music Is Everything

What is happening in this piece?

How are these 3 bits of music related?




Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750

  • Composer
  • Keyboard player
  • Choir Director
  • Music Teacher
  • Father of 20 children (!!!)
    7 with Maria Barbara Bach (1684-1720)
    13 with Anna Magdalena Bach (1701-1760)

1703-07 Organist, St. Boniface’s Church, Arnstadt
1707-08 Organist St. Blasius’s Church, Mühlhausen
1708–17 Director of Music, Weimar, 1708–17
1717–23 Director of Music, Köthen
– His employer was Calvinist, so he wrote mostly secular music during this time
1723–50 Director of Music, Leipzig

Generally considered to be the greatest classical composer of all time (with some competition from Beethoven and Mozart), “for his matchless combination of masterly musical engineering… and profound expressivity.” (Anthony Tommasini, music critic for the New York Times.)

– In his lifetime, Bach was known as a great performer on the organ, and a great improviser. His own music was considered old-fashioned and too complex and fussy.
– After his death, his music wasn’t popular, but other composers admired it.
– Composer Felix Mendelssohn revived Bach’s music almost 80 years after his death, by putting on a performance of his music not heard since his death.

Questions to consider:
Chapter 21 in your book is titled “Process as Meaning.” What does that mean?
What is this thing called Counterpoint?

The Art of Fugue – Contrapunctus I

Vivaldi and the Baroque Concerto

VivaldiAntonio Vivaldi (1678–1741): Italian composer, violinist, music teacher, priest

Concerto: a piece of music that features solo instrument or a
small group of soloists set against a larger ensemble, usually an orchestra.

Contrast is important in Baroque music in general, and in the concerto in particular:
– Alternates soloist and ensemble
– Ritornello: a section of music, played by the ensemble, that returns several times, like a refrain, alternating with contrasting music
– 3 movements in an alternating pattern: Allegro-Adagio-Allegro, fast-slow-fast. The movements also alternate between major and minor.

– Vivaldi wrote more than 500 concertos, including about 230 violin. The rest feature instruments such as bassoon, cello, oboe, flute, viola d’amore, recorder, lute, or mandolin.
– He also wrote operas, sacred choral music, sonatas and chamber music.

Vivaldi’s best-known work is a group of 4 violin concertos known as the Four Seasons.

– Program Music: instrumental music that attempts to tell a story or convey an idea: a time, place, mood, event, etc.
– As opposed to Absolute Music, which explores structure and technique without trying to be “about” anything specifically.

Does this music seem to tell a story, and if so, what is it about?

Here’s the text it’s based on!

To tremble from cold in the icy snow,
In the harsh breath of a horrid wind;
To run, stamping one’s feet every moment,
Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold

Arpeggio: notes of a chord played consecutively instead of simultaneously, from Italian arpa: harp

Vivaldi: Four Seasons, “Spring,” Movement 1, Allegro

Joyful spring has arrived,
the birds greet it with their cheerful song,
and the brooks in the gentle breezes
flow with a sweet murmur.

The sky is covered with a black mantle,
and thunder and lightning announce a storm.
When they fall silent, the little birds
take up again their melodious song.

Movement 2, Largo

And in the pleasant, flowery meadow,
to the gentle murmur of bushes and trees,
the goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog at his side.

Movement 3, Allegro

To the festive sounds of a rustic bagpipe
nymphs and shepherds dance in their favorite spot
when spring appears in its brilliance.

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