Double Horn Concerto

Antonio Vivaldi

Double Horn Concerto in F major


About this work

There are two double-horn concertos in Vivaldi's vast catalog, both in the key of F major and carrying consecutive RV numbers, 538 and 539. Both are brief, but the latter here, at about eight or nine minutes, is the shorter of the pair by a minute or two. Each consists of three movements, with lively Allegros framing a central slow movement. The middle panels of the two concertos differ considerably though: RV 538, marked Largo, features a cello solo as the centerpiece, whereas RV 539's Larghetto middle movement keeps the horns in the spotlight.

The opening Allegro of RV 539 features a bouncy main theme, introduced by strings, which are doubled by the horns. Thereafter there are many colorful exchanges between the strings and the horn pair, but with the latter dominating the proceedings. Energy and Vivaldi's characteristic ebullience abound here, and the scoring in general divulges a penchant for triads and sparkling imitation.

The aforementioned Larghetto, at two minutes, is the shortest movement. The strings introduce the lovely, dreamy theme, which is soon taken up by the horns. Most of the writing for the horns is in their upper ranges here, where the strings, by contrast, often play in their middle ranges. The Allegro finale starts off with a brawny, bouncy theme played by the horns. The whole movement has a festive air, with the horns negotiating many challenges along their colorful path and the strings seeming to balance the often rowdy merriment with a comparatively serene but chipper demeanor.