Vivaldi, concerto in C major for flute, strings, and basso continuo (RV 443)

 

 

 

 

This is by far my favorite Vivaldi concerto. He wrote over five hundred of them. In Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (1959), Robert Craft asked Stravinsky his opinion on a recent revival of eighteenth century Italian composers and transcribed his response: “Vivaldi is greatly overrated–a dull fellow who could compose the same form so many times over.”

I don’t, for the most part, buy into Stravinsky’s assessment of Vivaldi. Vivaldi’s vocal and sacred music is, in a word, splendid. But, I feel that there is legitimacy to the comment when Vivaldi’s concertos are considered. An often repeated joke is that Vivaldi didn’t actually compose 500 concertos, he just wrote the same concerto 500 times.

 

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Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major, RV 443 was originally composed for the flautino, an instrument similar to the recorder. It is most often performed today with a soloist playing the recorder or piccolo.

The concerto is in three movements:

1. Allegro

2. Largo

3. Allegro molto

Details regarding the composition and first performance of this concerto are unknown.

 

 

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More than two thirds of Vivaldi’s five hundred-plus concertos are for solo instrument: violin (in more than 230 concertos), bassoon, cello, oboe, and mandolin. Only three of Vivaldi’s concertos were written for the “flautino” — “little flute” or high-pitched recorder — which is the equivalent of today’s piccolo.

The solo role is more virtuosic and demanding than Vivaldi’s normal woodwind writing (the solo enters with an unbroken string of eighty-four eighth notes, and that’s just the beginning). Vivaldi must have had a superlative player in mind. The pattern is classic Vivaldi: the two outer movements are dazzling display pieces (the last seemingly endless run of triplets in the finale is particularly breathtaking—especially for the performer); the central Largo is an eloquent, highly expressive monologue [italics added].

 

 

— Phillip Huscher, program note, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

 

 

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The performance which I have posted here (from an old, now unavailable LP of mine) — on FLUTE — features as soloist French flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000).

A beautiful performance on piccolo featuring as soloist Lucille Bénédicte Zeitoun is on YouTube at

 

 

On the YouTube link, Ms. Zeitoun also performs as a spellbinding encore one of Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances .

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   November 2018

 

 

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