Home page
Composer | Editor | Group | Instrumentation | Series |

Andrea Zani

Concerto for violin in E minor

ed. Jehoash Hirshberg/Simon McVeigh

The violinist and composer Andrea Zani was born in Casalmaggiore,
near Cremona, on 11 November 1696. Invited by Antonio Caldara to
Vienna, he became a well-known virtuoso and teacher there,
although he never held an official position in the imperial
establishment. In 1738 he returned to Casalmaggiore, where
he remained for the rest of his life apart from
occasional performances in neighbouring cities. He died on 28
September 1757.1

Zani was a prolific concerto composer, and his works were widely
disseminated. A set of twelve violin concertos was published in
Vienna by 1735 (later reissued in Amsterdam), and three
concertos were included in the magnificent collection of Italian
instrumental music made for Pierre Philibert de Blancheton.2
Other concertos are to be found in manuscript collections
assembled in Dresden, Wiesentheid and elsewhere: altogether 23
concertos for violin, 12 for cello and 2 for flute are known to
have survived.

The Concerto in E minor exists in a single manuscript source
(Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und niversitätsbibliothek
Dresden (SLUB), Mus. 2831-0-7)3 under the title 'Concerto | co
Violino concert: VV.ni | Viola e Basso | 13 St. | Del Sig.r
Zani'. The concerto was clearly copied for the large Dresden
court orchestra under Johann Georg Pisendel, to judge from the 14
(rather than 13) extant parts: Violino concertato, Violino
primo (2 parts), Violino primo rip[ieno], Violino secondo (3
parts), Violetta (2 parts), Cembalo (figured), Bassono [solo],
Bassono [ripieno], Basso [solo], Basso [ripieno]. The parts were
meticulously copied, with only a few evident errors; Paola Pozzi
has attributed the dynamic markings to Pisendel himself.4

The ripieno first violin part is in fact identical to the other
first violin parts, but the continuo instruments are clearly
differentiated. The ripieno bassoon and basso parts include only
the tutti sections, so that the solo sections are accompanied by
a smaller group, presumably cello, bassoon and harpsichord. The
Cembalo part includes corresponding Tutti and Soli markings,
reproduced in the present edition. While such full orchestration
undoubtedly enhances the grandeur and intensity of the concerto,
the published set of concertos contains the customary five parts
(soloist plus four-part strings and continuo), and the
present work could certainly be played by a small string
ensemble or even single players with harpsichord.

This fine concerto shares its motto with Tomaso Albinoni's oboe
concerto in G minor Op. 9 No. 8, published in 1722, and with
Antonio Vivaldi's violin concerto in G minor, RV 317, published
in 1729 as Op. 12 No. 1. It is very likely that Zani
deliberately borrowed the beautiful motto as a homage to the
famous masters; and the same motive recurs in the third movement
in a subtle variant. The serious mood of the concerto is
emphasized by the predominance of the minor mode and by the rich
counterpoint and chromatic harmony of the ritornelli. At these
broad unhurried tempi the solo sections are expressively
plangent, and even the passage work is more reflective than
brilliant. Sequences moving flatwards round the circle of fifths
lend a plagal or phrygian inflexion to the concerto, with
frequent touches of Neapolitan F major: one sequence in the last
movement delves as far as E flat major.

While generally following the Vivaldian model of ritornello
form, Zani develops strategies of his own around this fluid
harmonic palette. The first movement articulates a clear tonal
and thematic hierarchy. The second ritornello in the dominant
(bars 36-46) presents an abbreviated transposition of the
opening ritornello; but the short third ritornello in the
subdominant (bars 60-62) recalls only the final cadence, to be
followed immediately by intensive digressions through D minor
and C major. The status of the tonic is reaYrmed by the early
prediction of the motto in the ensuing solo (bars 75-78), well
before the Da Capo of the first ritornello at bar 93.

The slow movement unfolds out of solemnly impressive chords into
an elaborate florid cantilena for the soloist, based on the
second theme of the ritornello, but in a more flowing Andante
tempo. The plagal tendency of this opening is eventually
realized by the E minor central ritornello, returning to the
home key of the concerto and reinforcing the consistent mood.

The final Allegro ma non tanto, with its measured ternary metre,
recasts several ideas from the first movement. The similarity of
the motto is emphasized by its distillation into three notes (G-F#-E)
at the end of the ritornello (bars 44-46), immediately
taken up by the soloist in obsessive figuration. Contrapuntal
implications are fully realized in the equal role accorded to
the two violin parts, while the chromatic descent is now
transferred to the top line (bars 29-32) and later hidden within
a striking unaccompanied solo (bars 73-76). The keys of the
first movement return, but with even less stability, as A minor,
E minor, B minor and C major follow in rapid succession within
the second ritornello (bars 83-117). G major finally arrives at
bar 139, the first time the relative major has been firmly
established in the entire concerto. But the assertive power of
this ritornello is quickly undermined as E minor wistfully
displaces the expected G major chord at bar 151.

Jehoash Hirshberg/Simon December 2001

1 Raffaello Monterosso, `Andrea Zani', in: Musicisti cremonesi (Cremona, 1951), p. 79; Monterosso, 'Medaglioni di musicisti lombardi', in: Musicisti lombardi ed emiliani, ed. Adelmo Damerini and Gino Roncaglia (Siena, 1958), pp. 51-2. We are most grateful to Prof. Monterosso for his generous assistance.
2 One of these is included in Ten Italian Violin Concertos from Fonds Blancheton, ed. Jehoash Hirshberg, Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, XIX-XX (A-R Editions, Madison, 1984).
3 We are grateful to the S,chsische Landesbibliothek for permission to use this source for the present edition.
4 Paola Pozzi, `Il concerto strumentale italiano alla corte di Dresda durante la prima met. del Settecento', in: Intorno a Locatelli, ed. Albert Dunning (Lucca, 1995), ii.1034.