Dissertation Index

Author: Brover-Lubovsky, Bella

Title: Vivaldi's Harmony: Practice and Theory

Institution: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Begun: November 1994

Completed: October 2000


Vivaldi's research describes his harmonic-tonal language as uniformly forward-looking and advanced, in line with other innovatory characteristics of his style. At the same time, an analysis of Vivaldi's tonal structures suggests that the basic parameters of harmonic tonality are not relevant to understanding his tonal processing. A discussion of his harmonic language requires special terms, capable of expressing the intricate process of the establishment of the tonal system.

In the dissertation Vivaldi's tonal and harmonic thinking is discussed through an examination of the large corpus of opening movements from 442 of his concertos.Concertos by other Italian composers are analysed as a control group. The discussion concentrates on the principal parameters of Vivaldi's harmonic language, primary responsible for the long-range organisation of tonal space in concerto opening movement.

The principal conclusion is that in Vivaldi's harmonic idiolect a persistence of modal thinking is closely interwoven with elements of the modern, still uncertain, concept of major-minor tonality.

The intricacy of Vivaldi's harmonic concept would be properly understood only as part of musical-theoretical tradition out of which it emerged. At the same time, Vivaldi's important contribution to the language of harmony, to the establishment of tonality and to the formation of the tonal-harmonic grounds of instrumental composition spurred the development of musical practice and theory.

The treatment of key and tonality in Vivaldi's concertos offers striking parallels to some specific statements found in important German treatises published during the first half of the eighteenth century: Der General-Bass in der Composition (1728) by Heinichen, Das neu-eroeffnete Orchestre (1713) by Mattheson and Grundregeln zur Tonordnung insgemein (1755) by Riepel. Clearly, then, despite the long period of oblivion into which Vivaldi's music fell, it did have a decisive impact on both theoretical writings and practical activity during his time and on posterity.

Keywords: Modal theory, Church keys, Tonality, Zarlino, Gasparini, Heinichen, Riepel, Mattheson, Italian Baroque concerto, tonal plans


Introduction: Vivaldi and the Harmonic Language of his Time

Part One:
Chapter I: Key and Key Definition
Chapter II: Modal Aspects of Key Definition
Chapter III: Modal Shift
Chapter IV: Intermediate Tonic

Part Two:
Chapter V: Theoretical Premises
Chapter VI: Problems of Methodology
Chapter VII: The Decision Process behind the Tonal Unfolding
Chapter VIII: Functional Relationships of Harmonic Degrees within the Tonal Structure

Conclusions: Vivaldi and Contemporary Music Theory


Dr Bella Brover-Lubovsky
Dept of Musicology
Faculty of Humanities
Hebrew University
Mt Scopus 91905
fax and phone: (972)-02-6761229 (home)

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