Antonio Vivaldi

Violin Concerto, for violin, strings & continuo in A minor, RV 356, Op. 3/6 ("L'estro armonico" No. 6)

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    When this Concerto in A minor was written no one knows. But it was published in 1711 as the sixth in a set of 12 for one or more solo string instruments, with the collective title L'estro armonico, Op. 3. The original scoring was for solo violin, small string orchestra, and continuo.

    During the composer's largely mysterious lifetime -- he left no correspondence, and few descriptions of him survive -- the popularity of L'estro armonico (Harmonic Fire or Inspiration) was rivaled only by The Four Seasons, from his Op. 8 collection, The Wedding of Harmony and Invention, published 14 years later. L'estro armonico had widespread impact on Vivaldi's audiences as well as colleagues, yet it is not thought to represent his solo virtuosity. He well may have been the Paganini of his age, minus the diablerie that nineteenth-century audiences imputed to artists with larger-than-life talent.

    At the Pio Ospedale della Pietà, one of four music-school orphanages in Venice for girls, Vivaldi taught music and conducted a chorus irregularly between 1703 and 1736, but never full time. Composing and performing were his chief occupations. Venice was no longer a mercantile and maritime hub by the seventeenth century; it had become what it is today -- a tourist attraction, celebrated for the arts. Concerts at the Pietà produced significant endowments as well as ticket revenue, and Vivaldi the composer/violinist remained box-office for years. On the side, and not without double-dealing, he did a thriving business in manuscript copies -- cheaper, quicker, and cleaner to produce than printing, until Amsterdam publishers achieved a technical breakthrough ca. 1711. Even then, beginning with L'estro armonico, Vivaldi permitted the publication of only 86 concertos in his lifetime out of hundreds discovered since 1927. And these are not the sum of his output. As with Bach and other Baroque luminaries, we know that music was lost; but how much will never be known.

    This concerto (even if Bach passed on it in favor of others to arrange, and Stravinsky sneered that Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 500 times) is a choice specimen of his gift for sheer invention. The first movement is a vivid example of the ritornello technique he perfected -- repeating a theme between flights of decoration and elaboration, looking forward to the rondo.

    One may note, too, that the solo violin refuses to play the theme as we hear it in tutti passages, and that concertino passages are nudging structure toward the development-group principle. What follows, in Alfred Einstein's view, is "a tender Intermezzo, raised to the regions of a more spiritual passion. Three violins and a viola accompany the lyrical rhetoric of the solo [instrument], and the second violins (long held notes over the solo part) give a soft glow to the whole movement. Thematically, rhythmically and dynamically, the last movement is a pure Capriccio, a form typical for finales [of the period]."

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Largo
    3. Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Sony Classical 88985342182
    2017 Urania WS 121318
    2016 DUX / Dux Records DUX 0993
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music 309294
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95200BR
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794017
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Brilliant Classics 94629BR
    2015 Erato 2564619520
    2015 Channel Classics CCSSA 36515
    2015 BIS BIS 2103
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646129935
    2013 Music & Melody / ZYX MUS 50172
    2013 Newton Classics 8802217
    2012 Naxos 8501061
    2012 Archiv Produktion 4790135
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099967833
    2011 Transart Live TR157
    2011 Newton Classics 8802034
    2011 Decca
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2010 Ondine 254
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099945609
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 Divine Art 25091
    2010 Decca
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Philips
    2010 EMI Music Distribution 965942
    2010 Decca
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099969822
    2009 X5 Music Group 15400
    2009 World of Classic / Zebralution
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Berlin Classics 0184362
    2008 Madacy Entertainment 53755
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 Nimbus 2500
    2007 Philips
    2007 Sanctuary CDRSN3097
    2007 Masterworks / RCA Red Seal 88697131692
    2007 Berlin Classics 0149052
    2007 Decca 4758536
    2007 Selection 8571071
    2007 Philips
    2007 Analekta 29835
    2006 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 3716092
    2006 Decca 0004757693
    2005 Children's Group 84400
    2005 Children's Group 84406
    2005 EMI Classics
    2004 Tactus 672241
    2004 Naxos 84385
    2004 St. Clair 31392
    2004 EMI Classics 557859-2
    2004 Arts Music 45002
    2004 Brilliant 92389
    2003 EMI Classics
    2003 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 7243585544
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74761
    2002 Meridian Records 84455
    2001 St. Clair 7320
    2001 Disky 70682
    2001 Philips 468111
    2000 Stradivari 9017
    2000 Platinum Entertainment 7019
    2000 Stradivari 9012
    2000 Amadis 7019
    2000 Philips / Philips Classics 4681462
    1999 Philips 412128
    1999 Masterpiece 99012
    1998 ABT Records / Advanced Brain Technologies 0105
    1998 Naxos 8 554040
    1998 London 458078
    1997 Naxos 553792
    1997 Point Classics 267036
    1996 Berlin Classics 0031952
    1995 Madacy 5631
    1994 London 443476
    1993 Vox 8757
    1993 Denon Records 7401
    1993 MusicMasters 67085
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48273
    1992 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0777764333
    1991 Sony Classical SK-46556
    1990 Philips 412624
    Philips 420816
    Vanguard 66/67
    Art of Classics 885901
    Philips 000798102
    Daniel Barski
    Gemini Collection 624
    Digital Concerto 713
    W.W. Norton 3099
    Norton 10608
    K-Tel Distribution 1000
    Madacy Entertainment 53756
    Manchester 134
    Excelsior Recordings 3013
    Excelsior Recordings 4264
    Archiv Produktion 471317
    Donau 8019
    Manchester 153
    ZYX Classics 4021
    Erato 88166
    Koch Discover International 920219
    Lydian 18019
    EMI Music Distribution 47076
    Bongiovanni 5597/98
    Chandos 689
    Brilliant 92389/3
    Arts Music 47646
    Powder Classics 5052
    Ondine 939
    Musical Heritage Society 5185777