BBC News

World premiere of Vivaldi's earliest known work

Benedetto Cataldi
In Florence

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image captionFederico Maria Sardelli is responsible for updating the Vivaldi catalogue

The newly-discovered earliest known work by Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi is being premiered at a concert on Monday in Florence, at the city's renowned Uffizi art museum.

The new Vivaldi discovery is an instrumental work that has been dated to between 1700 and 1703. It will be performed by the baroque ensemble Modo Antiquo, under the baton of Federico Maria Sardelli, the conductor and musicologist who unearthed this composition.

"This is a very important discovery which is set to thrill the world of music," Maestro Sardelli told the BBC.

In fact, very little is known about Vivaldi's youth, other than the fact that he studied to become a priest - "by calling, not out of self interest" according to Sardelli - and that he almost certainly learnt to play music from his father Giovan Battista, who was a famous violinist.

Sardelli - who is in charge of updating the RV Vivaldi catalogue - believes this work is key to understanding the Venetian composer's early years and musical training.

"This discovery sheds light on a period of Vivaldi's work that is still not much known about and reveals a previously unknown link with Giuseppe Torelli," said Sardelli.

Torelli was an Italian 17th Century violinist and composer who developed the concerto form "who is revealed from this discovery as being one of Vivaldi's teachers," he added.

'Mature traits'

The work - which Sardelli has catalogued as RV 820 - came to light when the Florence-based musicologist stumbled by chance across one of the many anonymous manuscripts that his wife Bettina, also a musician, had gathered across Europe.

"I first noticed this manuscript because I was able to recognise the hand-writing of one of Vivaldi's copyists," Sardelli said.

"Thereafter, I worked in close contact with Professor Michael Talbot of Liverpool University, who is the world's foremost Vivaldi authority, who immediately recognized the work's authenticity and helped date it."

The Vivaldi attribution was then also endorsed by the Italian Antonio Vivaldi Institute in Venice, according to Sardelli.

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image captionVivaldi died in poverty in 1741 at the age of 63

The performance and recording will include the premiere of two more Vivaldi pieces.

As regards the musical aspect, Sardelli told the BBC that "some more mature traits - 'Vivaldian' in the stereotypical sense - emerge in the freshness of invention of some parts, where we encounter the same eloquent clarity and melodic incisiveness that would become the trademark of his future musical language."

'Vivaldi silence'

Despite Vivaldi's contemporary fame, Sardelli believes that much of the Vivaldi catalogue is still unknown and yet to be discovered.

In fact, unlike the works of the other 18th century musical giants such as Bach, Handel, Haydn or Mozart - whose fame has lasted uninterruptedly since their deaths, at the very least in musical circles - Vivaldi was completely forgotten about between his death in 1741 and his rediscovery in 1925.

"There was a complete Vivaldi silence for almost 200 years, which is very frustrating and very exciting at the same time because there is constantly a possibility of making new discoveries."

"So, Vivaldi's body of work is like an erupting volcano," according to Sardelli, who is also the author of L'Affare Vivaldi, a historical novel on the sometimes murky dealings surrounding the Vivaldi catalogue.

The latest discovery is part of a wider project dedicated to Vivaldi's early works. In fact, immediately after its concert premiere, the newly-discovered work will be recorded by Sardelli and Modo Antiquo.

Both the performance and the recording will also include two previously unrecorded and unperformed compositions by the young Vivaldi, which Maestro Sardelli has painstakingly reconstructed from corrupted versions.

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image captionThe manuscript has been catalogued RV 820