Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Jasmin Cameron (University of Aberdeen, UK)

Vivaldi’s Crucifixus in its descriptive and rhetorical context

This paper will examine the Crucifixus movement from Vivaldi’s Credo RV 591. Its aim is to relate Vivaldi’s musical portrayal of text to the broad panorama of Crucifixus conventions current in his day.

The Crucifixus is a section of text that describes succinctly the events of the Crucifixion and its inexorable outcome: the death of Christ. It came to hold so much significance for composers that it was commonly turned into the emotional climax of the Credo, admitting a degree of musical intensity that sometimes bordered on the extreme. Some Crucifixus traditions are already evident in Mass settings from the late Renaissance (as in Palestrina) and early Baroque (as in Monteverdi). Vivaldi’s contemporaries, including such composers as Antonio Caldara and Antonio Lotti, and, outside Italy, Johann Sebastian Bach and Jan Dismas Zelenka, continued to set the Crucifixus in a recognisably similar way, drawing on a range of established traditions. These conventions ranged from symbolic depiction to narrative illustration and also included musical devices that provided an appropriate overall background for these settings.

Close examination will show how the words of this brief text, and the musical traditions that grew up in association with them, inform Vivaldi’s setting very closely, even if the end product is uniquely his.

Last updated on 10 May 2004