Work: Concerto for Mandolin in C major, RV 425
About This Work
This work, the only solo mandolin concerto out of the hundreds of concertos Vivaldi composed, was featured in the film Kramer vs. Kramer. It shows that Vivaldi was as capable of instrumentally idiomatic writing in this special case as he was in his
more common violin concertos, which often call for unusual techniques and effects. The mandolin part in this concerto is not technically difficult, but it rests attractively beneath the player's fingers, and the work has often been recorded. Vivaldi effectively uses melodic profile to draw a contrast between the strings and the serenading mandolin; the orchestral ritornello of the first movement consists of little more than open octaves and fifths, while the mandolin has sprightly melodic material. In one of those clever touches with which Vivaldi's concertos are replete, however, the two textures are linked together: the ritornello ends with a short cadence in broken thirds, and the soloist begins by repeating the same music, as if a relay runner were receiving the baton from a teammate. The minor-key central movement is a fine example of Vivaldi's minimalist melancholy, and the finale is a deceptively simple Allegro that lets the soloist unpack the rudimentary melodic inversion upon which the ritornello is based. One of the solo passages seems to refer back to the concerto's opening movement -- an instance of cyclical technique that, if intentional, would place Vivaldi well ahead of his time in this as in so many other things. There also exists a Vivaldi concerto for two mandolins, and mandolinists also sometimes appropriate the more numerous Vivaldi pieces for guitar or lute.
-- James Manheim
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