Arriving on a Slow Boat

September 14, 2017

I really didn’t think anybody had been holding their breath all the while. I’ll admit that I was excited by the news 7 years ago. But I sort of forgot about it.

Back in 2010, a discovery was made in Scotland of a lost Vivaldi concerto. It wasn’t a front page story back then, though it was covered by various arts reporters. I remember mentioning it to listeners. The concerto was supposed to have received its first performance in our time by the ensemble from England known as La Serenissima. The group, directed by violinist Adrian Chandler, takes its name from the nickname for the Republic of Venice (serenissima means most serene). La Serenissima has specialized in the music of Vivaldi, who was born in Venice.

Well, it was performed by the group in 2010 and recorded in 2011. I had guessed that we would be able to hear it at some point. We came to that point last Thursday at the beginning of Classic Mornings. The recording from 2011 recently arrived in the Friends of WILL Library.

It’s funny. Not only did I forget about the concerto – except for the fact that La Serenissima gave the first performance in our time. I wasn’t aware when the recording arrived that the recently discovered concerto was on it. It made me wonder if the concerto has some sort of intrinsic ability to stay hidden. After all, it had managed to do that for centuries.

Andrew Wooley is the musicologist who made the discovery in the Scottish National Archives in Edinburgh back in 2010. He was quoted in a Guardian article by Severin Carrell back in 2010 and added a brief history of the concerto in the notes that accompany the recording.   According to Wooley, a Scottish nobleman who played the flute happened to acquire the manuscript of the flute concerto in his travels across Europe in the 18th century. It was among his private papers, which were purchased by the Scottish National Archives in 1991.

Wooley explains that the part for the 2nd violinist was missing in the manuscript. But the fact that there were parts for the various players suggests it was performed at some point. Another manuscript exists of a simpler, reworked version of the concerto by Vivaldi. That enabled Wooley to reconstruct the missing part. Written in the 1730s, he notes that the Concerto in D minor for flute, strings and continuo (RV 431a)  appears to be one of those belonging to a collection of 4 that are like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos, but characterizing countries rather than seasons. This one is known as “Il Gran Mogul” – the reference to the Mughal Empire of India. The other concertos were titled La Francia (France), La Spagna (Spain) and L’Inghilterro (England). Wooley says that those concertos are not known to have survived  He adds that they may have survived without their titles.

Flutist Katy Bircher, a regular collaborator with La Serenissima had the honors of being the soloist in the first performance of the concerto. It’s included on the recording titled Vivaldi:The French Connection, Volume 2 (Avie 2218)  If you missed the Classic Mornings premiere of the work, be assured that I won’t wait so long before I play it for you again.

Amy Marcy Cheney didn’t wait very long before announcing her musical gifts to the world. According to biographer Adrienne Fried Block: “At age one, she could sing 40 tunes accurately and always in the same key. Before the age of two she improvised alto lines against her mother’s soprano melodies. At three, she taught herself to read and at four, she mentally composed her first piano pieces and later played them and could play by ear whatever music she heard including hymns in four part harmony.”

She was born on September 5, 1867 – 150 years ago. Amy (Cheney) Beach went on to become the first American woman to be successful as a composer of large scale compositions including a symphony and a mass. She was recognized in her time as the most important woman composer of the United States.

In her 40’s and after her husband, a surgeon and amateur singer, had died, she travelled to Europe to establish herself there as a composer and performer – quite successfully. At one point, there were a number of “Beach Clubs” that were formed across this country by fans of her music. Those clubs played a part in encouraging music education for children. Amy Beach died in 1944.

The Mexican conductor Eduardo Mata would have been 75 on September 6th.  Mata, who was born in Mexico City, served as Music Director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from 1977-1993.  He died in a plane crash in 1995 at age 52.

I understand that Mata was a role model in Dallas, inspiring Hispanic musicians, introducing Dallas students to classical music and helping to preserve music education in schools. In his honor, the Dallas Independent School District established the Eduardo Mata Elementary School in 1997.

We at Illinois Public Media do our part to introduce listeners of all ages to classical music on the radio. Sometimes it takes a while before folks discover us. But for thousands who have become fans of WILL-FM, it’s a reliable source of music that they turn to day and night. If you consider yourself one of those, please consider making a gift of support today. Call 217-244-9455 or go to willpledge.org to make a contribution.  Thank you for listening and for helping to make it possible for you and others to have that music on the air. 


Classical 24 Music Playlist

WILL Highlights

Ted Williams

Learn more about “the greatest hitter who ever lived” July 23 on WILL-TV


Meet Tinisha

The new host of Mid-American Gardener on WILL-TV