Notes by Steve V. Sinclair
In the early 1700s, when most Italian composers were known for their operas, Vivaldi held a unique position, achieving fame as a creator of orchestral works. Despite his severe asthma, he went on several taxing journeys starting in 1718 which helped to cement his reputation as one of the preeminent musicians of baroque Europe. He was a prolific writer, having composed around 500 concertos in addition to a number of pieces for the church and the theater. His most famous concerto, The Four Seasons, forms part of the collection The Contest of Harmony and Invention, which is one of seven such collections published during his lifetime. He also composed concertos for cello, viola d’amore, flute, oboe, bassoon, and groups of solo instruments.
The fiery Concerto for Strings in G minor, RV 156, is a full concerto with no featured soloists. The outer Allegro movements are tumultuous and fiery, with a strutting syncopation and rushing melodies. The double bass plays a walking line in the central Adagio movement, with the upper strings sustaining tones. It makes for a fitting opening to this evening’s concert.