Breaking News: Lost Vivaldi Concerto Discovered!

For those classical music and HIPP fans who have been keeping up with their musical news, yesterday was a musicologically important day: A lost Vivaldi flute concerto has been found in Scotland. The concerto — one of four, with the other three having yet to be located — is almost complete, with the exception of the second violin part. The complete story can be found at the following link:

Immediately, my recorder-occupied, Vivaldi-obsessed (He’s my favorite composer, and researching his life has been my pet project since fourth grade, seriously!) mind raced to a validly-supported thought: While the concerto was originally intended for the flute, there is an extremely high chance that it could also be performed on the recorder. Recalling my musicological readings as documented in my first post On Transcription and Adaptation, I recalled the core content of that post: Countless Baroque pieces originally written for another instrument (e.g. the flute or the violin) can also be played on the recorder, and that many composers deliberately designed pieces so that this could be done. In my own experience, I have not only played many such transposed pieces, but also transcribed several Baroque violin pieces I have played (e.g. Handel’s 3rd violin sonata and Fiocco’s “Allegro”) up a minor third or perfect fourth for recorder suitability with great success. Furthermore, Vivaldi’s other flute concerti — especially the famous set of six (originally violin concerti) containing such perennial favorites as Il Gardellino — are perfectly playable on recorder with no transposition necessary. In fact, those concerti have become equally played on both instruments, shared equally between the flute and recorder. Based on this premise, I began to muse about the thought of a fresh new recorder concerto to play and cannot wait to see if my theory regarding the freshly-discovered concerto is correct!

Later yesterday evening, I was conversing with my recorder teacher. While I did not directly mention the newly-discovered Vivaldi concerto since my mind was preoccupied with recorder technique and having him choose a new piece for me, I had a stimulating conversation with him about the issue of playing pieces originally written for something else on the recorder. He cited a wealth of information from Edgar Hunt’s book, The Recorder and Its Music, emphasizing the major point that many Baroque pieces written for another instrument can also be played on the recorder, and that many composers deliberately designed pieces so that this could be done. My teacher continued on that, in addition to the above being the case, such pieces in many cases actually fit the recorder better than the original.

My teacher continued on that,according to Hunt,this process of deliberately writing another instrument’s work with the recorder in mind extended beyond the late 18th century. As an example, he cited Gluck’s “Dance of the Blessed Spirits”, which I have found to work surprisingly well (and seemed so well-suited) to the alto recorder. Using both Hunt and his own personal analysis as evidence, he commented how the piece perfectly fits the alto recorder — range and all — and continued on that perhaps Gluck was keeping the recorder in mind when he wrote it. My teacher wrapped up by commenting on how a recorder was found in Berlioz’s desk after his death, so, while the recorder historically speaking died off at the end of the 18th century, the recorder’s influence itself never completely died off. I’ve actually heard other individuals say that the recorder and recorder-like instruments still existed in folk music, but I have no sources to confirm that. Yet, based on my own readings as well as testimony from other HIPP artists on how the folk music world maintains early music-related practices that have died off ages ago as well as my teacher’s fascinating mini-lecture yesterday, I can well believe it.

Hence, based on all the above and my own personal research, I would assume that this newly-found concerto is fully playable on the alto recorder. After all, most of Vivaldi’s other flute concerti (e.g. Il Gardellino) are fully playable on the alto recorder with no transposition necessary. Just watch the following HIPP performances of Il Gardellino, the first one with traverso and the second with recorder:

Interesting to note, renowned Italian HIPP ensemble Il Giardino Armonico chooses the recorder over the traverso in the first of their four-CD recording of Vivaldi’s complete chamber concerti, which contains the set of the six flute concertos mentioned above. Director Giovanni Antonini, both a traverso player and recorder player, chooses to play them on the alto recorder rather than the specified traverso, despite that he plays both and could easily do the job on the traverso. Hmmmmm …….. I am most eager to hear what my voice teacher — a musicologist and Baroque specialist — has to say about this whole thing tomorrow!

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