Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi

Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi

Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi

Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi


Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi incorporates an analytical study of Vivaldi's style into a more general exploration of harmonic and tonal organization in the music of the late Italian Baroque. The harmonic and tonal language of Vivaldi and his contemporaries, full of curious links between traditional modal thinking and what would later be considered common-practice major-minor tonality, directly reflects the historical circumstances of the shifting attitude toward the conceptualization of tonal space so crucial to Western art music. Vivaldi is examined in a completely new context, allowing both his prosaic and idiosyncratic sides to emerge clearly. This book contributes to a better understanding of Vivaldi's individual style, while illuminating wider processes of stylistic development and the diffusion of artistic ideas in the 18th century.


Antonio Vivaldi’s music has come under especially close critical scrutiny in recent decades. the philological and historiographical account of his works is fairly accomplished, being replenished by recent thrilling discoveries of such monumental scores as the opera Montezuma, late liturgical compositions, and previously unknown instrumental pieces. Also, progressive methods of source studies increasingly penetrate such traditionally perplexing branches of Vivaldian scholarship as the chronological attribution of his instrumental and sacred music and fill some of the gaps in his personal and artistic life. Vivaldi’s contribution to the formation of the new and the development of the existing genres and structural models is explored in its immense quantity, variety, and artistic values. All of these studies, confronting their subject from multifarious angles, contain fragmentary yet stimulating observations on Vivaldi’s individual harmonic idiom. However, the treatment of tonality and harmonic procedures remains the least explored side of Vivaldi’s style. in fact, a study of the theoretical issues surrounding the crystallization of common-practice harmonic tonality has never previously been combined with in-depth analysis of a wide range of his music.

The present book’s concern is a particular study of the arrangement of tonal space in the music of Vivaldi, taken against the vast background of (mainly Italian) music and theoretical writings of his period. My ultimate aim is to unite early Settecento musical practice and theory as much as possible, while applying contemporaneous theoretical premises for analyzing the works. My interest in Vivaldi resulted in a doctoral thesis (Hebrew University, 2001) devoted to the harmonic procedures and tonality treatment in his concerto first movements. Since then I have been researching this fascinating repertory and revisiting some of my earlier conceptions in various forms. This book stems to some extent from these earlier studies, although my views have undergone significaningh of the Getty Research Institute in early 2008 about the Getty’s imminent “On the Record” initiative, which would entail grants to organizations for archival and research activities on the history of artistic practice in Los Angeles, I knew that Los Angeles Filmforum had to take part. Filmforum, extant since 1975, is the city’s longest-running organization dedicated to artist-driven, noncommercial experimental film and video art. Such practice isn’t normally included in the art spaces of galleries and museums, but it has been a vital part of the story of art in this city of film. But I also had no idea of what our project might include, as I had sent an email to the board members of Filmforum on 8 April 2008, that included a simple question: “As far as I can tell, it needs to relate to la Art 1945–1980. Do any of you have ideas for a research or archival project that might fit …?”

Within a week, we mustered together a letter of interest that spelled out our grand ideas: a symposium that would “include panel discussions, presentations, and screenings”, “a gallery show”, “a new publication”, screenings, and oral histories. Although a great amount changed in the following years, it seems remarkable to me, looking at that correspondence for the first time in six years, how closely we ended up hewing to our original dreams. We named our project Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945–1980, a multi-faceted exploration of film and video created outside the Hollywood and independent narrative spheres.

I’d like to thank the Getty Foundation and its leadership, particularly Deborah Marrow, Joan Weinstein, and Nancy Micklewright, for giving us the opportunity . . .

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