Double Flute Concerto

Antonio Vivaldi

Double Flute Concerto in C major


About this work

Of the nearly 50 concertos that Vivaldi wrote for two soloists, strings, and continuo, the Concerto in C major, RV 533, is the only one for two flutes, specifically transverse flutes, not recorders, which are more frequently found in Baroque music. There is the belief that the transverse flute was a more acceptable instrument for use in a religious institution, such as the orphanage where Vivaldi taught, because in the eyes of the Church, the recorder had been associated with lasciviousness in ancient writings. It was most likely that Vivaldi began writing for the flute in the late 1720s, after the talented flutist Johann Joachim Quantz had toured in 1726 and Ignazio Sieber was reappointed as flute master at the orphanage in 1728. In most aspects, this concerto is typical of Vivaldi's non-descriptive concerto style. It is in the fast-slow-fast, three-movement structure; makes use of the ritornello form; and has a generally lighthearted temperament. The opening Allegro molto begins with an extended exposition of the main figures, and as the concerto progresses, each ritornello statement of those figures is briefer than the last. The four episodes between the ritornellos make extensive use of echoing and parallel movement between the two flutes, even at one point using the two flutes together to echo themselves. The gentle Largo contrasts with the fast movements in that it is scored just for the two flutes and continuo, without the string complement. An Allegro completes the concerto, again in the ritornello form. Its main melodic figures are similar to the first movement's in that they are repeated, then used to modulate downward to a second figure, then restated before the first episode for the soloists. Although echoing and parallel motion are again used between the soloists, the episodes in this movement have much more melodic interplay of the two flutes and more ornamentation.