It’s often said about Vivaldi that he wrote the same concerto some five hundred times. Well, I remember from my rock days that something strikingly similar was said about Status Quo, that they essentially rewrote the same song ad nauseam. The thing is, Vivaldi somehow remains enjoyable for most of those concertos. The vivacity and energy and harmonic movement of a Vivaldi concerto is so infectious. Status quo’s music plods along with the same three chords, and always with the same rhythmic pattern, the blues shuffle: dum da dum da, dum da dum da. Status Quo do the bare minimum needed to be interesting. Three chords are the fewest needed to create harmonic tension, and the standard blues pattern is all you need to keep a dance rhythm. Vivaldi expanded the possibilities of the concerto, whether it be his excited and quick-changing harmonic rhythms, his melodic inventions (for example his use of compound intervals), his unexpected modulations, or the inclusion of programmatic elements — not to mention the wonderful dynamism present in much of his work. It’s no wonder Bach, for one, took great interest in his works.
Is it an unfair comparison? Nah. It’s just that so few people seem willing to discuss the qualitative differences between musics. People can be so damned egalitarian about it. (See Alex Ross, perhaps.)
Here’s Status Quo playing Caroline:
And Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto: