Double Concerto

Antonio Vivaldi

Double Concerto in D minor


About this work

In March 1738 composer Antonio Vivaldi did not survive the annual review given for confirmation of his job as master of music at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. Vivaldi had enjoyed this position on and off since 1713, but the powers that made the decision in 1738 were of a different mind, possibly due to the rumor that Vivaldi had taken a mistress who had been his former student at the Ospedale. Nonetheless, they did not cut Vivaldi off completely, and when Prince Frederick Christian, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, was slated to arrive, Vivaldi was engaged to lead a special concert at the Ospedale in his honor. The concert was held at the Ospedale on March 21, 1740, and it would prove Vivaldi's last hurrah in Venice.

Vivaldi composed three concerti and one Sinfonia for this gala event, presented on a program with a number of other works, now forgotten or lost. One of the Vivaldi pieces, the Double Concerto for viola d'amore & lute, strings & continuo in D minor, RV 540, has become an audience favorite in modern times; it has folk dance-like qualities and the interplay between the viola d'amore and lute vaguely resembles a country hoedown. At the original concert, the viola d'amore part may have been played by 21-year-old virtuoso Chiaretta (1718-1796), then regarded as the top string player at the Ospedale, supplanting the part once played by Vivaldi's alleged paramour, Anna Maria Girò (1696-1782).

The work must have been well received, as the Prince accepted the manuscript of it, along with the other Vivaldi pieces played on that occasion, and took them home to Dresden, depositing the precious scores in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek where they still reside. For Vivaldi himself, his position in Venice vis-à-vis 1740 was at best a hollow victory. As his friend Charles de Brosses wrote, "(Vivaldi) is not as appreciated here (in Venice) as he deserves. Here, everything follows current fashion and music from days gone by does not reap any reward; Vivaldi's music has been heard here for too long." In the fall of 1740, Vivaldi left Venice for the last time, and by the end of June the following year, he was dead, buried in a pauper's grave in Vienna.