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In addition to the 500-plus-concertos statistic that usually serves to introduce Vivaldi, his output includes more than three dozen solo cantatas. Little about these works is known, including basic information such as composition dates, but it is thought that "Cessate, omai cessate" may come from the later part of Vivaldi's life, an assumption made mainly on stylistic grounds.
"Cessate, omai cessate" exemplifies the kind of cantata prevalent during the late 17th and early 18th century in terms of both text and music. The texts of these works were usually Arcadian in nature, with shepherds and shepherdesses lamenting lost loves (in this case, the "inhuman" and "ungrateful" Dorilla), and the music consisted of a brief sequence of recitatives and arias. "Cessate, omai cessate" falls roughly into five sections. A brief instrumental ritornello at the opening functions as a sinfonia. This is followed by an accompanied recitative that traces the shifts in the text from violent, abrupt outbursts to the more reflective qualities of the last few lines, before the final condemnation of the lover. The first aria, a magnificent larghetto, finds the shepherd weeping over Dorilla, the unique combination of pizzicato and bowed notes in the accompaniment possibly depicting his tears or his lyre. Stark chords begin the second accompanied recitative, as the heartbroken shepherd retreats into solitude and darkness. An agitated allegro aria ends the cantata in the manner of an operatic rage aria, with its rushing strings and resolute bass line matching the angry and decisive tone of the text.
- John Mangum holds a Ph.D. in history from UCLA. He is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Program Designer/ Annotator.