Vivaldi, Antonio: ‘La Pastorella’ & ‘Cessate, omai Cessate’

There is a kind of bland ubiquity about the idea of Vivaldi now. It is easy to forget, or never to have known, that his music was largely forgotten until the early 20th century. Somewhere between the powerful lyricism of Fritz Kreisler (who wrote his own ‘Concerto in the style of Vivaldi’), and the high modern historicism of Ezra Pound (who drew heavily on lurid and esoteric Italian history), the cogs of the Vivaldi machine began once again to catch. By the end of the 20th century, Vivaldi was playing on the Weather Channel every ten minutes. And since he wrote a concerto for each season, his work can be (and is) programmed in a timely fashion for absolutely any festive orchestral occasion.

Vivaldi wrote a lot of other music, though. Aside from the famous Seasons, he wrote some five hundred other concertos. He also wrote operas, cantatas, sacred music, and chamber music. It was not unusual for his music to have a pastoral cast. Clearly La Pastorella has come to be known in this context, though the extent to which it is explicitly pastoral beyond its nickname is somewhat limited.

As an early work, La Pastorella precedes Vivaldi’s direct association with the ‘Arcadian’ principles. There is no doubt, however, about the Arcadian origins of Cessate, omai cessate, a later work which follows the pains of a broken-hearted shepherd. Cessate is a baroque work in the broad artistic sense: extreme, decorative, ecstatic, and unrestrainedly expressive. By the time of his later works, Vivaldi was creating works in collaboration with Metastasio and Goldoni, two major librettists in the ‘Arcadian’ movement. Cessate has the strong quality of combining the pastoral setting with bloody revenge. It is a mythic classical setting of the most fiery (not to mention ubiquitous) human qualities.

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