This piece was formulated whilst in the second term of my music A-Level, but I recently stumbled upon it and liked it. I know that makes is sounds like I’m 60 and appreciating a piece I wrote at 16 (and yes I was 16, not 17; I’m a July birthday, “the babies of the year” as we were collectively known. Whether that was a compliment, insult or simple observation remains to be seen), but there we go — it’s probably further advocation of the notion that I’m an 80-year-old trapped in an 18-year-old’s body! I hope you enjoy it.
Il Gardellino begins in the key of D Major, although, on page 4 the melody and accompanying parts begin to suggest that a key change is imminent and by bar 40, the music is firmly in the key of B Minor. In bar 77, the piece turns into D Major for a single bar, before resorting back into the B Minor key; this surprise bar is then repeated again in bar 88, where the piece makes a sudden turn into the key of E Minor for only one bar, Vivaldi uses this as a subtle hint – using triads from the circle of fifths that cry out to the listener that a key change is needed – that the piece will soon move to the tonic key. The tonic key then returns in bar 85 but it is short-lived, as the music turns then, into the key of D Minor – where the music goes from the tonic to dominant, a notion very characteristic to Baroque music and Vivaldi’s music.
Movement 1 begins in common time and is structured using ritornellos and reoccurring motifs. Motif A and Motif B are shown in the violin 1 and 2 parts, with the ritornello often falling to the flute part. Motifs A and B begin strongly and continue unchanged until bar 9 when we begin to see varied forms of Motif A, bearing a trill-like pattern in the flute part. On the second beat of bar 13, every instrument apart from the flute drops out completely to give the flute a virtuoso passage, which is the first episode. Other instrumentation is reintroduced in bar 21, where Motif A and B are repeated exactly; this then ends in beat two of bar 24 where new descending patterns are played, bringing us into another short one bar flute solo which ends on the second beat of bar 28 where the flute and violins 1 and 2 are reintroduced. By bar 47 (the 3rd ritornello), another variation of Motif A and B is replenished and ends in bar 52 – the motifs again return in bar 57 and 59 as semi-quaver rhythms. Bar 69 sports a pedalled bass note in the violoncello part. Various parts are then dropped out and brought in before bar 96 when all parts come in, reiterating the rittornello as it returns for the final time.
The ritornellos and two motifs are the prominent melodic themes in the piece, with the instrumentation boasting a wide dynamic and pitch register. The piece begins with the main ritornello in all instruments, using a dotted rhythm helping to add emphasis to certain notes which is a typical feature throughout this piece, and then when the rhythmically variated form of Motif A is played, a trill-like pattern is played by the flute, the semi-quaver and quaver rhythm in the first ritornello add a strong pulse and energetic feel to the music. In bar 13, a performance direction is given, ‘a piacimento’, meaning freely, at own will; this allows the flautist to improvise and add notes and ornaments as they wish, as well as letting them dictate the tempo of the piece. In this virtuosic passage in the flute part, the flautist plays oscillating semi-quavers in the 4th interval. Bar 29 also sees the two violin parts playing parallel 3rd’s, with the flute part also playing a D Major ascending scale on the 4th beat of the same bar which is instantly followed by a high tessitura in bar 30 adding intrigue into the piece and interesting dynamics and melodic change which also lightens the texture of the piece. Vivaldi also includes a courtship ritual in the two violin parts, created by having the flute or violin parts interact with each other in a call and response type style; this is played in order to imitate two birds talking to each other – in keeping with the translated name of the piece ‘the goldfinch’. In bar 33 triadic arpeggios are played in the flute part in which hints of Motif A are reintroduced, also showing rhythmic diminution and is allowing Vivaldi to make subtle suggestions that the ritornello and the motifs may return soon. Falling 6th’s are used in bar 39 which is also another splash of Motif A – finally, by the time the piece gets to bar 47, after all the hints, the ritornello finally return and then end in bar 52. The end of the ritornello is immediately followed by staccartissimo in the flute part marked as ‘simile’; this is Vivaldi using the abbreviation of staccartissimo. In the following bars, the violin 1 and 2 swap parts so they are now a 3rd apart. Bar 65 sees a descending, falling sequence which is in answer to his previous rising, ascending sequences; the G# on the first beat of bar 68 hints at the dominant key of A, where the piece may be heading. Then, another courtship ritual is heard from bar 69-74 with the use of trills, and the flute and violin 1 parts imitating birds conversing with one another. D Major is finally present in bar 85, where the melody teases the listener with arpeggios and oscillating semi-quavers with the notes and rhythm of Motif A, imitating Motif A. On the last page, in bar 92-95, the same four semi-quavers from the ritornello at the start of the piece, hinting that the ritornello will return which, in bar 96, does return, and the piece ends on a breve on D in the key of D Major.
In Il Gardellino, a virtuoso flute is used and a lot of the virtuosic passages are left up to the flautist. Two violins are used, with these two parts usually filling the gaps of the flute and also accompanying the flute and they are also used in the courtship rituals that are featured in the piece, the instrumentation often play melody and accompaniment and polyphonic textures. The viola and violoncello are also featured in the piece and are primarily used to add accompaniment to the other parts. The baroque flute was made of three or four sections or joints with a conical bone from the head and joint down, these would’ve all been made out of wood, meaning that all dynamics would have had to of been made by the flautist, who would of had to change their mouth shape and airflow and force of breath in order to create any sort of dynamic range and ability – it was commonly used in chamber music, but was later introduced into orchestral music. The range of instruments used leads to exiting and sometimes complex harmonies in the music, which is partially due to the addition of the viola and the violoncello which help to add a different range to combat the treble clef (which is used in the flute and both violin parts). The addition of the viola, which uses the alto clef is especially interesting as it adds something different to the piece and a different range and tone that cannot be achieved on the other clefs or instruments in the piece.
The rhythm in Il Gardellino is steady, and the time signature reflects that as it is in common time, keeping the piece at a steady four beats per bar. The music keeps a consistent pulse and flow throughout the piece, keeping the music rather upbeat and lively, but also allowing the flautist to have a steady and not too fast beat, allowing the player to breathe at will as it would have been more taxing on their lungs. The texture of the piece is varied and instruments give the piece a wide range of pitch in the piece, therefore also helping the textural range of the piece. Throughout this piece the texture is rather dense, due partly, to the range of instrumental pitches playing simultaneously; however in places, the texture suddenly lightens. For instance in bar 30, where we see the two lower instruments (the viola and violoncello) suddenly drop out, leaving the other instruments to play alone – this adds to the variety of the piece and helps to add interest and intrigue to the music, making it more interesting and exciting for the listener.
Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678, and is one of the most significant, and prolific, composers of the late Baroque period. His father was a violinist, and Antonio learned the instrument to a very high standard from an early age. He was ordained a priest at the age of 25, the same year that he was appointed master of violins at Pio Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. This orphanage, one of four in Venice, was funded by the city to provide tuition for local orphans – the boys learning a trade and the girls learning music – and during Vivaldi’s time there it gained an international reputation for the high standard of the girls’ singing in the choir and playing in the orchestra. Vivaldi’s priestly duties did not last long (he was nicknamed The Red Priest because of the colour of his hair), and he later became the Musical Director at the orphanage, responsible for composing the music, training the girls in theory as well as their practical music making. It was not a permanent job – he had to be reappointed on an annual basis. He wrote a number of operas and much religious choral music but, given the success of the Four Seasons and other popular works such as the Gloria, it is perhaps surprising to learn that Vivaldi died in poverty, his style of music having fallen out of fashion during the Classical period, and his music was not played at all until a revival in the early twentieth century. J S Bach, his contemporary in Germany, held Vivaldi’s music in high regard and transcribed six of his concerti for organ and harpsichord. In all, Vivaldi wrote about five hundred concerti, and he is the composer who most systematically developed the three-movement form, exploiting the potential for dramatic tension between the soloist and tutti, and exploring opportunities for colourful sonorities within a largely homophonic texture. Pictorial effects, such as those most obviously manifest in The Four Seasons, abound in his music. Il Gardellino movement 1 is one of three movements of three concertos. The work of this Vivaldi piece was published by Michel-Charles Le Cene in 1728, Vivaldi’s concerto for flute was not only the first collection of flute concertos published in Italy, it was nearly the first set of flute concertos ever published. Most are transcriptions of earlier works or new compositions modelled on earlier works, usually chamber concertos from much earlier in Vivaldi’s career. Called in both cases “Il Gardellino”, the work, with its gentle themes for the flute soloist and bucolic harmonies for the string ripieno, lives up to its name. The opening Allegro is as light and evanescent as the opening of “Spring” from the Four Seasons. The central Cantabile is as warm and lovely as a soprano aria from a pastorale. The closing Allegro is as vigorous and dance-like as the finale from a divertimento.
Some contextual information sourced from:
Click to access AQA-7271-TG-AOS1.PDF