‘be transported away from our worries and spend a fabulous time in the process, just as any good art transports its audience to distant lands and gives them a memorable experience’

Violinist Bojan Čičić talks to us about our all-Vivaldi programme touring Scotland this November.

How did this collaboration with Dunedin Consort come about?

A few years back I was in touch with Jo Buckley, whom I knew from her time when she was working in Delphian Records. She remembered my debut recording of Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli: Sonate da Camera, released when she was still working at Delphian and realised my tendency to gravitate towards the Italian baroque music in my research for new programmes. Around that time, I bought a lot of sheet music from a shop in Madrid specialising in instrumental works by A. Vivaldi, as I wanted to prepare a programme of lesser-known music by Vivaldi  to record one day with my group Illyria Consort. I got in touch with Olivier Fourès, who prepared the aforementioned editions and who suggested the theme of Vivaldi’s music that found its way to Dresden, mostly thanks to one of his pupils Johann Georg Pisendel. In a way, the programme before you was the product of that impulsive purchase made in Madrid a few years back. 

What are you looking forward to the most in these concerts?

It is easy to forget that composers of the past were also phenomenal performers, who either toured the continent, like the famous violinists of the past, or who had the world come to hear them instead. Vivaldi was a huge influence in music, especially in Germany thanks to his published music. What listeners didn’t expect upon visiting him in Venice was to hear just what a virtuoso performer he was, leaving his audiences in amazement, either by his technical ability, or by his music. This kind of reaction from the audience would be something that I’d look forward to most in our concerts, leaving a concert hall in a state of amazement, a bit like the listeners would have had in 18th-century Venice.  

Can you tell us a bit about what to expect from the programme? 

I’ve aimed to present a collection of Vivaldi’s music that may not be well known today, but that was certainly important for the musicians to whom it was intended, i.e., Johann Georg Pisendel. After his studies with Vivaldi in Venice, he traveled back home to Dresden across the Alps and performed Vivaldi’s music, composed his own in the style of Vivaldi, or made versions of his teacher’s violin concertos with his own ornamentation. Most of this music is still preserved in the Dresden State Library, surviving centuries of devastation, so we are very lucky today to have the opportunity to peer through the window of Vivaldi’s music performed in Dresden and see what influence it might have had on the composers of the time.

What do you hope the audience will take away from these performances?

In this day and age when so many of us are increasingly worried about the future of our existence and the lack of will to make profound changes in our modern-day search for greater and greater greed, an artist is somewhat powerless to make profound changes on a global scale. However, it is in our nature to experience social events, such as this concert, be transported away from our worries and spend a fabulous time in the process, in the same way that any good art transports its audience to distant lands and gives them a memorable experience in the process. My hope is that our concerts would be such an event.

Do you have a stand-out favourite moment we should look out for?

I’m not sure if it’s a standout moment, but it is definitely worth talking about the last piece in the programme. In the autograph of the violin concerto RV 340 Vivaldi wrote “per li Coglioni“, or “for those a…holes”. The language might seem a tad over the top, but the story goes that Vivaldi wrote it after a complaint by a German continuo player that there were no figures in his figured bass part, something that the German musicians obviously needed, as their music of the time used much more complex and precise harmonies than the music of their Italian counterparts, who were guided by their instincts following the shape of the melody, using simpler harmonic language. Whether there is another dimension to Vivaldi’s choice of language, perhaps thanks to the open animosity with the said continuo player, we can’t say, but it certainly shows the naughty, a little frustrated and, in the end, a very funny side to the composer.

Hear more from Bojan in our pre-concert talks at each of the venues which commence at 6.30pm, and 2pm in Perth.

Join Dunedin Consort for Čičić Directs Vivaldi this November.

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock — Wednesday 15 November, 7.30pm
The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh — Thursday 16 November, 7.30pm
Glasgow University Chapel, Glasgow — Friday 17 November, 7.30pm
St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen — Saturday 18 November, 7.30pm
Perth Concert Hall, Perth — Sunday 19 November, 3pm