Antonio Vivaldi Composer
Concerto con molti stromenti in C, RV558
Musicology:Concerto in C major, RV 558, counts among Antonio Vivaldi's last works and, even within his enormous output, one of his most unique. It perhaps owes its rather festive nature to its inclusion on a concert for Prince Frederick Christian of Poland at the Ospedale della Pietà (the famous orphanage-cum- conservatory) during his visit to Venice in 1740. The most immediately striking aspect of this piece is its elaborate instrumentation. RV 558 calls for two recorders, two mandolins, two chalumeaux (offspring of the bagpipe chanter and forerunner of the clarinet), theorbos (a kind of bass lute with two sets of strings running parallel, but with a separate sets of tuning pegs for the lower strings), a single violoncello, and two violins "in tromba marina." This last instrumentational detail is the most curious, perhaps interpreted as instructing the violinists to perform in the manner of a tromba marina—a large, archaic instrument with a single string stretched across a special rattling bridge, the buzz of which gives each note a horn-like sound. Still, even if imitation of the tromba marina's sound is the goal of the violin part, there appears to be no consensus among scholars and performers as to how this is to be done or the quality of the sound that is to be achieved. At any rate, even subtracting the cryptic violin instructions from the equation, the piece is still unusually rich with timbral variety. The strings do dominate the first half of the first movement, but their figures are garnished with lush, fluttering parallel third figures in the recorders. The expanded instrumental palette really comes into play near the movement's midpoint, where the warm, dark tone of the chalumeaux come to the fore, followed by the recorders. The spotlight then moves from the winds to the mandolins, then the theorbos, the plucked instruments exchanging brilliant imitative figures and sequences; even the cello gets a solo passage just before the movement's final ritornello. The instrumental nuances of the slow second movement are much more subtle, emphasizing contour of line rather than quality of sound. The final allegro once again exploits the novel resources of this ensemble, distributing the diverse episodic materials in the movement's middle section to the various instrumental pairs. All this diversity, however, turns into unity, as the ritornello's closing gesture—a distinctive descending sequence on a repeated-note figure—is rendered in full unison.
Concerto con molti stromenti in C, RV558Key: C
Pr. Instruments: Tromba Marina & Violin
- 1.Allegro molto
- 2.Andante molto
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