written in a scribal hand, inscribed in the upper right-hand corner of the first page by Vivaldi and with a number of almost certainly autograph corrections and alterations to the music, notated in brown ink on three systems per page, each of three staves, for contralto voice, strings and bass ("V[iolini] e Viole Unis:")
4 pages, oblong 4to (c.22.5 x 30.5), bound in a volume also containing 12 contemporary manuscripts by Vinci (4 from Didone), Hasse, Porta and others, almost certainly on Venetian paper (watermark of 3 crescents), contemporary marbled boards, spine lettered in gilt ("...arie dive[r]se"), no place or date [probably Manua or Venice, c.1725], binding worn, spine defective,
che avvinto freme,
mai non si teme
Se avvien che spezzi
cancelli, e nodi
i suoi custodi
Quel fiero dente
per monte, e piano
di brano in brano
e sarà vano
Music manuscripts inscribed by Vivaldi are of great rarity on the market: we have no record of any offered for sale for over fifteen years.
The manuscript belongs to the type of "supervised copies" prepared for the composer and authorised by him with the inscription "Del Vivaldi". These are frequently found in manuscripts of Vivaldi's instrumental works, but rare in his vocal works. For other examples of this characteristic procedure see the Ottoboni-Jennens manuscripts of the Chamber Concerto "La pastorella", RV 95, and the Violin Concerto, RV 286, now in the Manchester Public Library MS 580 Ct 51. The copyist could conceivably have been either a relative or pupil of the composer, since his hand shows several similarities with the composer's own: for example the expansive brackets at the left-hand edges of the systems and the time signature "3", the latter being characteristic of the composer himself after about 1721. For further examples of Vivaldi's own hand see TNG, xx, p. 37, MGG, xiii, column 1859, Alan Kendall, Vivaldi, London, 1978, p. 103, and Michael Talbot, Vivaldi, London, 1979, p. 100.
Vivaldi's aria was previously unrecorded in the present form, and the autograph manuscript from which it was copied is unknown. It comprises an earlier and fuller version of an aria that Vivaldi subsequently shortened for his Farnace (Venice, 1727), for which a manuscript can be found in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Turin: for example, we can see here three bars at the beginning (bars 5-7), that were later cut in the only version known to survive up to now. The present marking "All[egr]o" at the start is missing from the Turin manuscript. Vivaldi may have originally composed this aria, in the present form, for use in a pasticcio called Orlando furioso, at Mantua in 1725: the libretto for that production contains this text, and we know that the composer was at Mantua during this period. The autograph inscription on the present manuscript would accord with a commissioned contribution to a pasticcio of this type.
The collection of contemporary manuscripts in which the Vivaldi aria is bound, contains a number of arias in score, some of which were written later, or were not written on Venetian paper:
1) "Ape amorosa fugge", by G. M. Porta (1720s)
2) "Mentre pasce ai nuovi albori", by Porpora (1720s)
3) "Come la fronda è tremola" [anon.]
4) "Benche nel petto io serbi" by Giuseppe De Majo
5) "Mesto si lagna", by Giovanni Antonio Giai (probably Turin, c. 1720s)
6) "Del caro sposo" by G. M. Capello, sung by "Faustina"
7) "Vedi nel mio perdono", by Leonardo Vinci, from Didone, (possibly for a Roman production of c. 1726)
8) "Quando saprai chi sono", from Didone
9) "Son quest' Idoli", from Didone
10) "Cadrà frà poco in cenere", from Didone
11) "Leon feroce che avvinto freme" by Vivaldi
12) "Non creda innamorarmi", "Asse d[ett] º il Sassone" [J.A. Hasse]
13) "Allor che più fiera", by "Sigr Ciocchetti genoese"
Some of the manuscripts also display evidence of Venetian provenance and the arias themselves accord well with an overall dating of the 1720s or 1730s. Many are of great musical interest, particularly the aria by Porta (c. 1675-1755), a skilful and underrated composer who worked, like Vivaldi, at the Pietà in Venice. This aria is marked by expressive sequential suspensions, and some unusual details of instrumentation, including the use of double-stopping in the violins. The aria by Capello is also notable: TNG informs us that al his works are presumed to have been lost.
We are grateful for the kind assistance of Professor Michael Talbot and Dr Paul Everett with the cataloguing of this item.
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