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About this Piece

During his time as organist at the ducal court of Weimar (1708 to 1717), Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) became more and more familiar with the Italianate style and decided to transcribe several concertos by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). Vivaldi, the preeminent master of the violin, was known throughout Europe for his published collection of twelve concertos known as L'estro armonico, described by musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon as "the most influential music published in its time . . . a demonstration of everything the violin could do." Vivaldi, originally hired as a young man to teach violin at one of the Venetian orphanages for girls (the Pietà), was later promoted to the position of maestro de' concerti, a post that enabled him to compose and perform his own music. In concerts at the Pietà young women played, standing in a three-tiered balcony, to audiences of select society. Vivaldi used his base of operations to the fullest, at the same time not neglecting the promotion of his fame north of the Alps. By the 1720s he was in fact a major cult figure, so it is no surprise that Bach took an interest in arranging Vivaldi's music for the organ. As often happens with a "star," Vivaldi lost popularity toward the end of his life; even his publishers lost interest, and it is a testimonial to Bach's transcriptions that the first stage in the "Vivaldi Revival" stems from the rediscovery of Bach in the 19th century. The concerto heard on this program had as its original group of soloists two violins and cello, for which a separate keyboard on the organ is reserved.

- Notes © 2005, Thomas Murray