Concerto No. 11

Antonio Vivaldi

Concerto No. 11 in D minor

Op. 3/11, RV565

About this work

Antonio Vivaldi's Op. 3 set of 12 concerti, entitled L'estro armonico ("Harmonious Inspiration"), was enormously influential all over Europe; Johann Sebastian Bach thought enough of it to transcribe six concerti from the set, including the 11th, written in D minor for two violins and cello. Op. 3/11 is one of the more interesting of a fascinating set, offering a unique structure and passionate music to fill it.

The soloists open the first movement by themselves, the two violins playing in unison with a choppy rhythm in the cello; the violins eventually liberate themselves enough from the rhythm to introduce a melody, which is then taken up by the cello over the continuo. Three bars of Adagio form a small interlude before one of the few full-blown fugues in Vivaldi's instrumental output. The subject has a resemblance to the melody introduced by the soloists, and the soloists cooperate with the orchestra in its development. The movement seems to end on a Picardy third, but this proves false, and the coda settles finally on the minor. A solo violin dominates the second-movement Largo, as the simple ritornello form Vivaldi uses gives over most of the movement to its passionate lament. The finale once again begins with the soloists before introducing the orchestra, but instead of a fugue, what awaits here is ritornello form. Exhilarating virtuosity is demanded from all three soloists as they propel this concerto to a decisive conclusion. One can easily hear why Bach was so enamored of this work.