About this work
Known to the cognoscenti by manuscript, the actual publication of Antonio Vivaldi's first set of concertos called "L'estro armonico" as his Op. 3 by Estienne Roger in 1711 in Amsterdam was not only the most important event in Italian orchestral music of the first half of the eighteenth century, it was the most important work in all European orchestra music. "L'estro armonico," roughly meaning The Genius of Harmony, took the weighty Roman concerto style of Corelli and infused it with a lightness, a muscularity, and a virtuosity that determined the history of the genre.
The tenth work in the set is the Concerto in B minor, RV 580, a three-movement work for four solo violins plus orchestral ripieno of violins, violas, cello, and basso continuo. The opening Allegro, like all the other works in the set, alternates between the continuo and the ripieno, but both groups share the same propulsive repeated-note theme driving the movement to its powerful final cadence. In the central Larghetto e spiccato, big dotted note chords for the ripieno alternate with imitative arpeggios for the soloists, followed by a shivering central episode that predicts the snowy central movement of the "Winter" concerto from the Four Seasons. The closing Allegro follows immediately, a dancing triple time theme for the ripieno alternating with scintillating episodes for the four soloists.