Concerto

Antonio Vivaldi

Concerto in C major

RV114

About this work

This short two-movement piece is one of Vivaldi's so-called "Paris Concertos," so called because their original manuscripts reside in the library of the Paris Conservatory. It is one of about 60 concertos Vivaldi wrote for string orchestra alone, with no solo part; these were sometimes called ripieno concertos, but they were very close to the emerging genre of the orchestral sinfonia and may have influenced it. In the dotted rhythms that populate its opening movement, the concerto does show the influence of French Baroque music, but in other ways it looks forward to the Classical style. The first movement is built around the contrast between the dotted-rhythm figure and a group of running sixteenth notes in the violins, and this contrast is neatly harnessed to shifts in the rate of harmonic motion; the dotted figure is stolid and harmonically almost immobile, while the sixteenth notes veer around the circle of fifths. The effect is almost one of a historical dialogue of styles. The sixteenth note figure includes a number of quasi-fugal passages, a hallmark of Vivaldi's ripieno concertos. The first movement ends with a two-bar violin solo leading to a dominant chord, and thence into the second movement -- which against all expectations is a set of variations. These are based on a brief and distinctive syncopated arpeggio theme, and they offer all kinds of variety; several variations right before the end are in C minor, and the final reprise of the opening theme has the character of a recapitulation after all that minor. The opening syncopation is treated with extraordinary invention in the variations, and the structure of the group of variations as a whole is subtle. In all, for a piece of music that lasts no more than six minutes in performance, this little concerto holds extraordinary interest.

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