Vivaldi – La Venezia di Anna Maria
Midori Seiler, violin
Berlin Classics, 2018
Perhaps the name of Anna Maria dal Violin is already familiar to many listeners of classical music – and to Vivaldi’s fans for sure. As I had the occasion to point out in previous reviews of Vivaldi’s works (as in Oboe & Bassoon Concertos), the Venetian composer wrote several of his compositions for the foundling girls of the Ospedale della Pietà, where he taught music for many years. Anna Maria was one of the girls of the Ospedale and definitely the most celebrated. She was the dedicatee of many of Vivaldi’s works for violin. In this recording, Midori Seiler and the Concerto Köln perform works (four concertos and a Sinfonia) that Vivaldi composed for the talented violinist, together with two other Concertos, Galuppi’s Concerto No. 1 and Albinoni’s Concerto op. 10 No. 1.
La Venezia di Anna Maria: a Sketch of Anna Maria dal Violin
Little is known of Anna Maria’s life. She was born in Venice in 1695 or 1696. “Dal Violin” is an epithet added later and not her real surname, which we do not know as she was a foundling girl brought up at the Ospedale della Pietà. Her musical training began around 1706. Anna Maria was admitted to the coro of the Ospedale, where she studied with Antonio Vivaldi among the others. A violin was purchased for her in 1712 and on 26 August of that year she played at the convent of S Francesco della Vigna with other figlie di coro. However, Anna Maria mastered also other instruments, as the viola d’amore, cello, mandolin, harpsichord, lute and theorbo.
In 1721, she became one of the figlie privilegiate who could act as tutor. She carried out this task for the rest of her life. In the same year, Anna Maria began to play solo parts in concertos.
It was in this period (1723-9) that Vivaldi began to supply the Ospedale with two concertos a month. The result was that he wrote over twenty-five violin concertos for Anna Maria. Moreover, he also composed two viola d’amore concertos for her (for more information, read our review of Rachel Barton Pine’s Vivaldi. The complete viola d’amore concertos).
Fame and Later Years
Anna Maria’s talent was famous also outside the borders of the maritime republic. For example, Johann Gottfried Walther reported in his Musicalisches Lexicon of «an Italian at the Hospital alla Pietà in Venice who plays the violin incredibly well, in a manner that is both consummate and delicate». Also the Saxon jurist J.C. Nemeitz praised Anna Maria for her «dextrous yet delicate hand».
As from 1737, Anna Maria was maestra di coro and entrusted with the direction of the coro. The appointment put an end to her career as a solo violinist. However, Anna Maria was also successful as a violin teacher and she taught to several talented pupils.
She died in Venice in 1782.
La Venezia di Anna Maria: the Performance
La Venezia di Anna Maria is not the usual recording of sparkling Baroque music. There are traits that are quite sombre and melancholic in most of the works. Especially the first of the two discs of the present collection brings together soulful and energetic compositions. The second disc is lighter in its character. Anyway, here too a hint of melancholy is usually present, if not in delightful pieces as the two Allegros of RV 270a, at least in the slow movement of each Concerto.
Anyway, violinist Midori Seiler and the Concerto Köln appear perfectly suited to these works. The performance of the stylish, skilful violinist, specialist of Baroque music (but her repertoire is wider and includes Beethoven and Mendelssohn), is noteworthy for two, equally remarkable features. The first is her flawless technique, which allows her to play Anna Maria’s challenging works with promptness and absolute control. The second is her ability to get to the heart of the Concertos and to enliven them with her intensity. She characterizes them with different traits and moods, being them vibrant as in the Concerto RV 260 (the first Allegro), abandoned and dreamy as in the Largo cantabile of RV 308 or tense and brisk as in RV 248.
Above all, the best qualities of Seiler’s playing are her warmth and grace. If a portrait of Anna Maria can be sketched from this recording, Seiler has made one that makes you imagine an extremely painstaking and talented woman – what she herself is, after all.
The Concerto Köln is as fine as the soloist. Regardless to the fact that it plays alone or accompanies Seiler, the ensemble always adds its personal touch to Vivaldi’s (and Galuppi’s and Albinoni’s) works. Even though its players are extremely incisive when they perform vivacious works as the Sinfonia RV 140 and Albinoni’s Concerto a cinque, their best moments are the slow movements. It is in these pieces, as the Largo from the Concerto RV 120, that they chisel the most thoughtful and delicate atmospheres, in such a way that it is possible for you to discover depth in Vivaldi’s music, despite it is often considered carefree and entertaining. This is without doubt the most precious feature of La Venezia di Anna Maria.