The Venetian Concerto
Rituals of state reached their height during Vivaldi’s lifetime, when Venice consciously changed its identity from being a powerful force on the stage of European politics and international trade and commerce, to being a tourist attraction and a place of entertainment – a role that it has upheld to this day.In the musical world of Venice, there is a particular form that may be said to parallel the phenomena of show and spectacle: the concerto – a form that even today is designed to entertain, to move, to amaze, and above all, to impress.
In order to understand were charitable institutions for orphans and abandoned children, especially girls. Originally, these foundations were designed as ‘hotels’ for crusaders, but as the crusades abated, their function was changed into charitable foundations (orphanages), and became famous for their high grade level of tuition, and more important, for their high grade level of music making.
The four Venetian Ospedali attracted a wide range of high grade music teachers, for example after his arrival in Venice in 1670, Giovanni Legrenzi took a position as music teacher at the Ospedale Santa Maria dei Derelitti, remaining there until 1676. While in 1740, composer and harpsichordist Baldessare Galuppi was appointed director of music at the Ospedale dei Mendicanti.
The Ospedale della Pietà was the foundation with which Vivaldi had a lifetime connection (1703 -1739) and it was for them that the bulk of his concertos and religious music was written. The musical standard reached in the Pietà Chapel – and those of the other Ospedali – was so great, that large congregations were attracted to them in order to hear the choirs and instrumentalists perform, especially in Lent, when music in other churches tended to be less elaborate.
Venice and colour
Colour, is something that you can find everywhere in Venice, whether it is used in the decoration that can be seen on the west end of St Mark’s Basilica. or whether it is the famous glass that is produced on the island of Murano, or even the highly decorated posters that advertise the carnival each year.
In the world of art, the Venetian painters were famous for their use of colour; and one of the most celebrated colourists of all time was Paolo Veronese, based in Venice, and his Wedding at Cana shows his skill in this direction to an astonishing degree (see below)
This passion for – and use of – colour may in part reflect the ready availability of high quality pigments such as ultramarine, made from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan. And this, joined with the fact that canvas, the fabric of ship sails, was more popular as a support for paintings in Venice than anywhere else and may have stimulated a preference for the bold, highly visible, expressive brushwork that is such a distinctive feature of Venetian painting. It could be argued then, that the long tradition Venice had for trading over seas, as well as its importance as a seafaring port, may well have had a direct influence on this aspect of the arts. This is cause and effect.
Turning now to music, I can think of no other Baroque composer who could be said to have more ‘colour’ in his music than Vivaldi. And by colour, I don’t just mean the subtleties of harmonic and rhythmic textures that lie in his compositions, but the highly imaginative scoring of his concertos and religious music. In other words, his choice of musical instruments for a particular work in question.
Vivaldi used a greater range of instruments in his music than any other composer that I know of during this period, and the range of instruments in turn reflects the variety of instruments played by the young girls at the Ospedale della Pietà: mandoline, tromba marina, recorders, bassoon, clarinet, trumpet, lute, horn etc
Peter last spoke to us in December 2014, about in the wake of Handel: the impact of Handel on 300 years of British Culture
About Peter Medhurst
Peter Medhurstʼs work as singer, pianist and lecturer-recitalist has taken him all over the world, and in the last few years he has toured New Zealand, Australia (twice) and South Africa (four times), and made frequent tours in Europe, giving performances in Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna, Salzburg, Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Paris and Spain.
Closer to home, he has presented events at the Barbican, St Johnʼs Smith Square, and the Royal Festival Hall on The Beethoven String Quartets, Mozart Operas, Vermeerʼs Music Lesson, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Golden Age of Vienna, and 18th Century Venetian Art and Music. He has also directed presentations at the Wallace Collection, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A, linking the visual arts with the world of 17th & 18th century music making. He is a familiar face to audiences of music societies, regional theatres and British festivals (Henley, Isle of Man, Rye, Amersham, Stevenage, Chichester, Leith Hill, The Three Choirs etc) as well as to those of arts based organisations such as The Art Fund, The National Trust and the Arts Society (formally known as NADFAS). On the radio, his appearances have included Classic FMʼs Susanna Simonsʼ Show, Radio 3ʼs In Tune, Radio 4ʼs Arts Programme, and Midweek with Libby Purves. His recordings number For Two to Play, Schubert Songs, Handel and His Satellites and a CD of 16th and 17th century keyboard music entitled Tyme at the Virginalls. A new recording with pianist Jeremy Limb has been released entitled On Christmas Night on which he sings a range of Christmas carols and seasonal songs.
In addition to his appearances on the concert platform and in the lecture all, Peter Medhurst sets aside time to devise and lead tours abroad (often with Thomas Abbott, tour guide extraordinaire) for small groups of art and music connoisseurs. His particular interests are centred on the music, art and history of Vienna, Salzburg (with its strong Mozart link), Berlin, Halle (Handelʼs birthplace), Dresden, Venice (Vivaldiʼs birthplace), Rome, Madrid, and Delft (with its Vermeer and 17th century Dutch School connections) and over the years Peter has been associated with a number of travel companies including Cox and Kings, Travel Editions, Success Tours, Heritage Travel, Tailored Travel, and Voyages to Antiquity (see Tours for more information).
Peter Medhurst was born of German and English parents, and did his musical training at the Royal College of Music where he studied singing with Redvers Llewellyn and Edgar Evans, organ with Richard Popplewell, composition with Justin Connolly and music history with Else MayerLismann, Christopher Grier and Joseph Horowitz. In 1978, a scholarship from the Austrian government gave him the opportunity to have coaching with the accompanist Erik Werba at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. On his return to England he took harpsichord lessons with Ruth Dyson, who became his accompanist and fellow keyboard duettist in a professional partnership that lasted until her death nearly 20 years later.
Over the years Peter Medhurst has lectured for the universities of Kent and Surrey, directed a wide range of choirs, vocal ensembles and instrumental groups, and adjudicated and given masterclasses for the British Federation of Music Festivals.
He is director of The Classical Music Company an organisation that promotes special musical events, creates films about the arts, produces recordings and organises specialist music tours to unusual locations both at home and abroad.
The hand has been an underestimated but nevertheless central component of visual art. Leonardo stated that the hand could be as expressive as the face and acknowledged that the structure and function of the hand was the organ through which an artist expresses himself. His remarkably accurate drawings of the six layers of anatomy of the hand are testament to his pursuit of detail. He used this knowledge in the narrative of the Last Supper. In Leonardo’s version of the Vutruvian Man the hand is used as the unit of measurement to demonstrate the concept of divine proportion. This talk reviews the way in which Leonardo investigated the form and function of the hand. His paintings and narrative art are reviewed to demonstrate how he used this knowledge to depict the hand as a form of expression.
About Simon Rees
Studied at Colchester Royal Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge, receiving a BA and an MA in English Literature. Taught in Italy and Japan, exploring the art and architecture of both countries. From 1989 to 2012 was Dramaturg at Welsh National Opera in Cardiff, working with set, costume and props designers and giving lectures on their work in opera production. Now a freelance writer and lecturer, lectures widely on opera, art history and literature, travelling extensively with travel companies. Has published several novels, including the award-winning The Devil's Looking-Glass, poems and opera librettos.
The moving image has been a powerful source for imagination from the first moment a magic lantern flickered into life in the 17th century. In this lecture we will be looking at how the Motion Pictures industry first developed throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how it was inspired by and inspired in turn some of the greatest artists of the early 20th century.
Brian talked to us in March 2017 about Vincent van Gogh and, in a separate lecture, introduced us to some of the glorious paintings of the Nordic Impressionists of the late 19th Century in his Midsummer Magic talk.
The echoes of the past will fill the air, Arabs, gypsies, smugglers. We will hear instruments unique for Málaga like the lute or the banderillo or castanets. Come and join us for a wonderful evening of authentic local Flamenco! Sung, danced and played by the wonderful Dance company of Antonio Guerra who treated us to a stunning performance last season.It will be narrated in English by Helen Sijsling.
Zaha Hadid’s work is exciting because she developed a new form of architecture: she set architecture free by rejecting 90 degree angles. Her early abstract paintings are of particular interest because in them she began to create her visionary world where there is no definition, lines converge, and gravity disappears – all conceived before the advent of advanced computer software. From her early sharp-angled buildings she developed a fluid architecture, where floors, ceilings, walls - and even furniture - all form part of the overall design. Thus many of her later structures are extruded to the most extreme organic shapes in what she called a “seemless fluidity”.
The lecture tells the story of this pre-eminent architect. We move around the world to look at some of her completed works, including her most famous building in the UK, the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics in 2012, as well as unexecuted designs. Members who have a keen interest in cutting-edge design will be mesmerised by the daring yet brilliant structures of Dame Zaha Hadid.