Work: Concerto for 2 Mandolins in G major, RV 532
About This Work
The exact date of composition for this thoroughly enjoyable concerto is unknown, but it is assumed that Vivaldi wrote it for the students at the Ospedale della Pietà. Given the range of notes used by him for the solo parts, the concerto was
probably intended for the mandolino, a six-string, high-pitched instrument tuned in fourths, popular in Venice during Vivaldi's life. The fact that the solo parts contain no chords suggests that the instruments were to be played finger-style, that is with the fingers plucking the strings rather than a plectrum. Given the quiet sound of the mandolin, the concerto is most effective when performed with a chamber orchestra, and it also sounds well performed on guitars. The opening and closing Allegro movements are built with the same ritornello structure, ABACADA, with Vivaldi's usual construction of themes from repeating rhythmic motives. Both are light, crisp, and in a 2/4 meter, giving them an almost quickstep nature. The strings are played détaché throughout these movements, to more closely match the plucking of the mandolins. The solo parts use both echoing and parallel movement in the episodes, with trills and other ornaments thrown in to give them a little more texture. The middle Andante is perhaps the most famous movement of the concerto. It is in D minor, with the two mandolins performing throughout over just violins and violas played pizzicato and in unison. The graceful melody is built mostly of overlapping, echoing phrases with the two coming together only to intensify the emotion at certain points through the harmony of the parts. The opening section is repeated in an ornamented fashion, followed by a contrasting, more developmental section that moves through several keys before returning to home and the same ending as the opening section. Given the appeal of the two pleasant outer movements and the delicacy of the middle movement, it's easy to see why this is one of Vivaldi's most popular concertos.
-- Patsy Morita
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