Books by H.C. Robbins Landon

VIVALDI by H.C. Robbins Landon
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Short in length but long on scholarship, a ``life and works'' of the 18th-century Venetian master that belongs on the shelf of every serious music student. Robbins Landon, the distinguished musical archaeologist whose labors led to the rediscovery of much of Haydn's lost or neglected music, has also turned his attention recently to Mozart (1791, etc.). He now skips back a generation to focus on the composer whose name has become synonymous with the Italian baroque—not wholly new territory, since Robbins Landon also coauthored Five Centuries of Music in Venice (1991—not reviewed), but what prompted him to attempt a complete life of Vivaldi was the worldwide fascination with The Four Seasons. Prior to the 1950 Cetra recording of those four violin concerti, Vivaldi had been virtually forgotten for 200 years after having been buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in Vienna; today, he's one of the immortals. Yet Robbins Landon chooses not to speculate about the cause of the amazing ``Vivaldi renaissance.'' He's content to present a detailed, chronological, strictly factual biography, including Vivaldi's years as violin virtuoso and teacher of gifted orphan girls; his growing list of compositions; and his travels around Italy and, ultimately, Vienna—almost all undertaken in connection with his frustrated attempts to become established as an opera composer. Robbins Landon's method is to quote verbatim documents, letters, and dedicatory inscriptions in the original language (most are then translated): This exact but stern presentation may not appeal to the casual reader. The author inserts himself only long enough to recount his unsuccessful attempt to edit some of Vivaldi's many operas for modern presentation; he soon decided that the attempt was doomed. He notes that, unlike Haydn's operas and surely unlike Vivaldi's instrumental and religious music, Vivaldi's operas seem to offer little to contemporary listeners. But the author also has the good grace to hope that he'll be proved wrong. No fluff—just the facts and an invitation to explore the music. (Thirty illustrations) Read full book review >