Antonio Vivaldi

Concerto in A major


About this work

The Concerto ripieno for strings and continuo in A major, RV 159, is one of Antonio Vivaldi's approximately 60 concerti ripieni or concerti a quattro, and appears in a set of 12 such works included in a Parisian manuscript from the mid-1720s. These works were devised to be performed by a small string ensemble without solo player(s) usually featured in a standard concerto. In this regard, the Concerto RV 159 (like its predecessor, RV 158, also in A major) exhibits elements of both the concerto principal and the operatic sinfonia or overture, which during this period often enjoyed performances in concert settings as an instrumental work extracted from its stage setting.

In fact, in the Concerto in A major RV 159, Vivaldi's prior experience in operatic writing is manifested even more explicitly. Both the first and the third movements of this concerto borrow melodic materials from important arias in Vivaldi's opera from 1720, La verità in cimento. The brief first movement, cast in a mild-mannered allegro, features short, lucid scalar themes and simple sequences propelled forward by a constant accompanimental emphasis on the middle two beats of its four metric subdivisions. The clarity of melodic material thus relies on dynamic variation to articulate the call and response figures and imitative gestures. The short, staid second movement presents a dark, subdued harmonic progression, unadorned in its presentation save the heartbeat-like double iterations of each chord. The third movement is the longest and most lively, beginning with a flurry of imitative counterpoint that spins into moments of almost minimalist patterning -- engaging, hypnotic passages that are suddenly disrupted by sturdy descending lines played in unison; this juxtaposition affords the movement perhaps its most appealing feature: a series of smooth but dramatic shifts between major and minor mode.