Flute Concerto

Antonio Vivaldi

Flute Concerto in G minor

Op. 10/2, RV439 • “La notte (I)”

About this work

Vivaldi's "Night" concerto tosses, turns, and eventually sleepwalks into his Op. 10 collection of concertos, the instrumentation there stripped down to a mere flute and strings in perhaps the musical equivalent of dreaming that you're naked in public. The original version, though designed for a chamber ensemble, is more richly scored: Calling for either flute or violin as soloist, the chamber concerto yanks the bassoon out of its continuo role to become nearly a full co-soloist in the last movement; all of this is backed by strings and continuo. Vivaldi appended descriptive titles not only to the concerto as a whole, but also to two of its movements; with nothing more than this to go on, though, the nocturnal program remains vague. Unusually for Vivaldi, this concerto falls into four movements rather than three, yet it's not quite the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern Vivaldi favored in his sonatas. The first movement progresses from a Largo introduction to a Presto called "Fantasmi" ("Phantasms"). The Largo creeps along in short, dotted phrases separated by substantial rests. After several hesitant utterances, the flute falls into long, vertiginous trills and then leaps into the Presto section, which is replete with creepy, abrupt arpeggios jumping out of nowhere. The music returns to the mood and tempo of the beginning and is interrupted by the brief second movement, another Presto. This frenzied, shivering interlude gives way to the third movement, another Largo, this one marked "Il sonno" ("The Dream"). Neither pleasant nor nightmarish, this dream is at least slightly disturbing, the strings providing one long moan while the flute wanders through uncertain harmonies, employing a melody also found in Vivaldi's "Autumn" concerto. The concluding Allegro is every bit as jittery as the second Presto, with the bassoon assuming new prominence by sometimes providing limited counterpoint to the flute's frantic part or sometimes doubling it.