Posts Tagged ‘MQVC’

A New Edition of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor, RV 495

I’m very excit­ed today to release some­thing to the world on which I’ve spent a great deal of time: a new per­form­ing edi­tion of Anto­nio Vivaldi’s Con­cer­to in G minor for bas­soon, strings, and bas­so con­tin­uo (RV 495), pre­pared using a copy of Vivaldi’s own man­u­script. You can down­load the whole thing (for free!) at the end of this post. But first I’d like to talk a bit about my path to the piece and my meth­ods in cre­at­ing this edi­tion. I hope that this will all prove use­ful to some­one out there, par­tic­u­lar­ly since this is one of the required pieces for the 2014 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion.

Vivaldi Autograph

I’ve played a cou­ple of Vivaldi’s oth­er con­cer­ti in the past. But my rela­tion­ship with this piece began last year, after Nad­i­na Mack­ie Jack­son did me the hon­or of ask­ing me to write the lin­er notes for the first disc in what will even­tu­al­ly be a set of all the Vivaldi bas­soon con­cer­ti. I dove into the project with my cus­tom­ary gus­to — books lit­tered my desk and floor, and PDFs of mis­cel­la­neous Vival­diana deliv­ered to me by the wiz­ards of Inter­li­brary Loan sim­i­lar­ly clut­tered my lap­top screen. As far as I’m con­cerned, research is the fun part. If I could just keep find­ing and absorbing more sources with­out ever hav­ing to actu­al­ly write any­thing, I’d be that much hap­pier. But aside from the var­i­ous print mate­ri­als, I had a more-or-less con­stant Vivaldi bas­soon con­cer­to sound­track — most­ly pre-release mix­es of Nadina’s record­ing, but also ver­sions by Michael McCraw, Ser­gio Azzolini, Mau­rice Allard, and oth­ers.

By the time I had fin­ished the notes for Nad­i­na, I was thor­ough­ly fired-up about Vivaldi and his 37 bas­soon con­cer­ti (plus two incom­plete works). So much so, in fact, that I asked Lor­na Peters, Sacra­men­to State’s won­der­ful harp­si­chord (and piano) teacher, if she’d con­sid­er pro­gram­ming one of them with Cam­er­ata Capis­tra­no, the school’s Baro­que ensem­ble. Hap­pi­ly for me, she agreed, and I set about pick­ing a piece. It’s prob­a­bly not sur­pris­ing that I chose one of the con­cer­ti from Nadina’s disc (RV 495), with which I’d been singing along for weeks. There are many things I love about this con­cer­to. The first move­ment is fiery and flashy. The sec­ond move­ment foregos the upper strings entire­ly, cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful and pas­sion­ate dialog between soloist and con­tin­uo. The third move­ment is just all-out inten­si­ty — it starts with the whole ensem­ble in dri­ving unison (almost the Baro­que equiv­a­lent of pow­er chords), and con­tains what I think is one of the best licks ever writ­ten for bas­soon (mm. 53–56).

I first per­formed the piece with Cam­er­ata Capis­tra­no in Feb­ru­ary of this year, and luck­i­ly we’ve had many chances to present it again since then. Our ten­th per­for­mance will come this Sun­day, as part of the Bravo Bach Fes­ti­val in Sacra­men­to. This is the first time I’ve per­formed a sin­gle solo work so often, and I’ve found it to be an incred­i­bly instruc­tive and free­ing expe­ri­ence. The abil­i­ty to actu­al­ly take chances and try new things over the course of mul­ti­ple per­for­mances can shape your per­cep­tion of and rela­tion­ship to a piece in ways that are dif­fi­cult — if not impos­si­ble — to recre­ate in the prac­tice room or in a stand-alone per­for­mance. Even though I fin­ished school a num­ber of years ago, the one-and-done degree recital men­tal­i­ty is some­thing I’m still try­ing to shake. But that’s a top­ic for anoth­er post.

As soon as I’d set­tled on this con­cer­to, I knew that I want­ed to cre­ate my own per­form­ing edi­tion. At the time, I couldn’t locate an edi­tion with string parts (I’ve since found one, avail­able only from Ger­many). Plus, what bet­ter way to learn a piece back­wards and for­wards than to study the man­u­script and make up a new score and set of parts? I could eas­i­ly have used as my source the score pub­lished in 1957 as part of Ricordi’s Com­plete Works edi­tion. But the edi­tor, Gian Francesco Malip­iero, pro­vid­ed no crit­i­cal com­men­tary and appears to have made some edi­to­ri­al deci­sions with­out explic­it­ly indi­cat­ing that he’d done so. So instead, I went right to Vivaldi’s own man­u­script.

Vivaldi's shorthand for whole-ensemble unison writing

Vivaldi’s short­hand for whole-ensemble unison writ­ing

Vivaldi’s bas­soon con­cer­ti (and indeed most of his works) were not pub­lished in his own life­time, and are only known to us through a mas­sive col­lec­tion of man­u­script scores that now resides at the Bib­liote­ca Nazionale in Tur­in, Italy. Most of the­se are in the composer’s own hand, and the col­lec­tion con­tains many incom­plete sketch­es and drafts. The­se are strong indi­ca­tions that the col­lec­tion was Vivaldi’s own com­pendi­um of his works, and as such, the scores are far from performance-ready. The com­poser made exten­sive use of short­hand tech­niques, includ­ing dal seg­ni that would be awk­ward in per­for­mance and sim­ply indi­cat­ing unison parts instead of writ­ing out the same music on mul­ti­ple lines (see the exam­ple at right).

Beyond expand­ing this short­hand, I endeav­ored to keep my edi­to­ri­al hand as light as pos­si­ble. But inevitably, there were a few instances in which I made changes or inter­pre­tive deci­sions. I have detailed the­se in a crit­i­cal report with­in the score. I have not added any artic­u­la­tions, dynam­ics, orna­ments, or any oth­er per­for­mance sug­ges­tions; the­se are total­ly “clean” parts. There are, how­ev­er, a few impor­tant ways in which this edi­tion dif­fers from the Ricordi edi­tion (and oth­er edi­tions that have used Ricordi as their source):

  • Through­out the con­cer­to, Vivaldi indi­cates that the soloist should join the con­tin­uo line dur­ing tut­ti sec­tions. Except for the few pas­sages in which Vivaldi did not make such an indi­ca­tion, I have pro­vid­ed the soloist with the bass line in small nota­tion. The Ricordi score leaves rests for the bas­soon in all of the­se pas­sages.
  • Mea­sures 211–214 of the Presto are in D minor in Vivaldi’s man­u­script. In mea­sure 211 it appears that he has writ­ten and then wiped away or scratched out a sharp sym­bol on an F in the Vio­la part, but there are no oth­er F-sharps marked in those mea­sures. There is then a sud­den change to D major in mea­sure 215. The Ricordi score places the whole pas­sage in D major.
  • Mea­sure 260 of the Presto does not exist in the Ricordi edi­tion. This comes at the end of the last solo sec­tion, and the final ritor­nel­lo is a repeat of mea­sures 23–55. In Vivaldi’s man­u­script, he wrote out a full mea­sure of res­o­lu­tion (my bar 260), and then indi­cat­ed a dal seg­no to mea­sure 23. Ricordi omit­ted this mea­sure, and instead elid­ed the last solo cadence with the begin­ning of the final ritor­nel­lo.
  • Vivaldi wrote artic­u­la­tion marks over the eighth notes in the solo part in mea­sures 249–252 and 258–259. The Ricordi edi­tion ren­ders all of the­se marks as stac­cati. But in Vivaldi’s hand, the marks in mea­sures 258–259 are clear­ly longer than those in 249–252 (see below). Thus, I have marked the eighth notes in 249–252 as stac­ca­to and those in 258–259 with wedges.
Two types of Vivaldi's articulation marks

Two types of Vivaldi’s artic­u­la­tion marks

For the actu­al engrav­ing of the score and parts, I used Lily­Pond, which I also used for my fin­ger­ing charts. It can be kind of a has­sle but pro­duces very ele­gant results. Also like my fin­ger­ing charts, I’m releas­ing this under a Cre­ative Com­mons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basi­cal­ly, it means you can use, alter, copy, or dis­trib­ute this how­ev­er you’d like, so long as you give me cred­it and don’t sell it.

It is impor­tant to note that this edi­tion does not include a key­board reduc­tion. It is suit­able only for study or for per­for­mance with string play­ers and a com­pe­tent harp­si­chordist. If you need a ful­ly written-out key­board part, I would rec­om­mend the new bassoon/piano edi­tion pub­lished by TrevCo Music Pub­lish­ing (they list it under its Fan­na num­ber: F8#23).

And now, with­out fur­ther ado, here it is:

Complete Score and Parts (ZIP)

Vivaldi RV 495 — Com­plete Set

Individual Files (PDFs)

Vivaldi RV 495 — Bas­soon
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­lin 1
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­lin 2
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­la
Vivaldi RV 495 — Bas­so Con­tin­uo
Vivaldi RV 495 — Bas­so Con­tin­uo (alter­nate ver­sion with the sec­ond move­ment in score)
Vivaldi RV 495 — Score

Although I’ve gone over all of this with a num­ber of fine-tooth combs, I’d wel­come any cor­rec­tions, com­ments, or oth­er feed­back.

Harvesting Cane

cane-expedition-01

The day before the Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion and Bas­soon Sym­po­sium start­ed (see pre­vi­ous post), Stock­ton Sym­pho­ny con­tra­bas­soon­ist Lar­ry Rhodes (shown at right with San Fran­cis­co Sym­pho­ny con­tra­bas­soon­ist Steve Braun­stein) led a small group of us on a cane har­vest­ing expe­di­tion. Giant cane (Arun­do don­ax), which we bas­soon­ists use to make our reeds, is clas­si­fied as an inva­sive pest in Cal­i­for­nia. It tends to grow in streams or marshy areas, and is pri­mar­i­ly prop­a­gat­ed by pieces float­ing along water­ways and tak­ing root in new loca­tions. The area sur­round­ing Stock­ton, most of which is part of the San Joaquin River Delta, is host to many stands of cane.

Lar­ry found a par­tic­u­lar­ly promis­ing look­ing cane stand via Google Earth, then went in per­son to scope it out and obtain per­mis­sion from the farmer on whose land it sits. Two car­fuls of us drove out to the spot, about 25 min­utes west of Stock­ton, where we met Lar­ry and Steve. Lar­ry showed us some of the cane he’d already cut, using it to demon­strate what we should be look­ing for in terms of diam­e­ter, growth pat­terns, and col­or. In short: for bas­soon reeds you want green cane, about an inch in diam­e­ter, that has branch­es grow­ing fair­ly low to the ground. He then set us loose in the cane patch. Armed with the small saws we’d brought, we spread out and start­ed clam­ber­ing in amongst the cane.

It became obvi­ous very quick­ly that very dif­fer­ent ages of cane grow all togeth­er. It took care­ful search­ing to find stalks of the prop­er size and age amongst lots of too-small, too-young, and dead stalks. We all start­ed out slow­ly, cut­ting one stalk at a time and tak­ing it to Lar­ry for inspec­tion. But, pret­ty soon we got the hang of just what it was we were look­ing for. The one thing we hadn’t thought about was how we’d trans­port the cane back to Stock­ton (or back home, for those who’d flown in just for MQVC). Lar­ry tied 80-something stalks to the roof of his sta­tion wag­on, but our hauls were much small­er.

I end­ed up with about eight stalks, although I had to cut them in half to fit them in my car. After strip­ping the branch­es and dis­card­ing bro­ken or too-small pieces, I now have just over a dozen five-to-six-foot sec­tions of cane. They’re now stuck up in the rafters of our garage, where they’ll sit dry­ing for the next six months or so. After that, I’ll prop them upright in the sun for about two weeks months to com­plete the cur­ing process. Then, I can cut ‘em up, split the tubes, and get going on turn­ing my har­vest into reeds!

More pho­tos from the expe­di­tion:

The Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition

Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition and Symposium

Much of my win­ter break (and count­less hours in the pre­ced­ing year) were devot­ed to the 2012 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion and Sym­po­sium, which I co-hosted with my friend and col­league Nico­lasa Kuster, of the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Paci­fic Con­ser­va­to­ry of Music. The Com­pe­ti­tion is for young wom­en bas­soon­ists from the Amer­i­c­as (North, Cen­tral, and South), and was found­ed in 2004 by Nico­lasa Kuster (then of Wichi­ta State Uni­ver­si­ty) and Kristin Wolfe Jensen of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tex­as at Austin. The Com­pe­ti­tion takes place every two years, and has pre­vi­ous­ly been held at UT-Austin (2005), Itha­ca Col­lege (2007), and the Ober­lin Con­ser­va­to­ry (2010).

This year, we host­ed the com­pe­ti­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Paci­fic. From the ini­tial pool of record­ed entries, our Pre­lim­i­nary Round judges nar­rowed the field to ten Semi-Finalists. The­se ten young wom­en trav­eled to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia for live Semi-Final and Final Rounds of com­pe­ti­tion. All ten are very tal­ent­ed play­ers, and the com­pe­ti­tion was fierce. I’m glad that judg­ing was not among my respon­si­bil­i­ties! For the Semi-Final Round, each com­peti­tor per­formed the third move­ment of Anto­nio Vivaldi’s Con­cer­to in d minor, RV 481, and Margi Griebling-Haigh’s Sor­tilège, a piece that Bar­rick Stees com­mis­sioned specif­i­cal­ly for MQVC 2012. Five Final­ists emerged from that round. In the last round of com­pe­ti­tion, each of the five per­formed a work of their choice with piano and the entire Vivaldi con­cer­to from mem­o­ry, backed by a string orches­tra con­duct­ed by Stephen Paulson, Prin­ci­pal Bas­soon­ist of the San Fran­cis­co Sym­pho­ny, and Music Direc­tor of Sym­pho­ny Par­nas­sus.

In brief, the results were as fol­lows:

First Place: Anan­ta Kar­ilun Díaz (Venezue­la)
Sec­ond Place: Sarah Ruiz (Costa Rica)
Third Place: Alex Zdanis (Unit­ed States)
Final­ists: Rachel Koeth and Kel­ly Swensson (both Unit­ed States)
Semi-Finalists: Julia Bair, Car­ly Gomez, Kara LaM­oure, Danielle Osbun (all Unit­ed States), and Atao Liu (Chi­na)

Con­grat­u­la­tions to them all for won­der­ful per­for­mances! For biogra­phies of the com­peti­tors and oth­er infor­ma­tion about the com­pe­ti­tion, please vis­it mqvc.org.

Next time: all about the three-day Bas­soon Sym­po­sium sur­round­ing the Com­pe­ti­tion.