Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) Concerto in A minor RV 445
edited by David Lasocki [Snino-rec(A-rec,fl,picc),str,bc]
RV 444 and 445 for recorder and piano
28 pages | 23 x 30,5 cm | 133 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-48852-2 | Saddle Stitch
In the preface, the editor discusses his choice of the solo instrument at length, revealing why he unequivocally decided in favor of the sopranino recorder. Nevertheless, the highly virtuoso solo part can also be played by other recorders and flutes.
In the Giordano collection of Vivaldi manuscripts in Turin there are three concerti for the flautino; two in C major (RV 443 and RV 444) and the present one in A minor (RV 445). The identity of this instrument has been the subject of much discussion, and no very definite conclusion has yet been reached. However, the editor is convinced that the instrument is a sopranino recorder and will now present his reasons for such a decision.
Antonio Vivaldi wrote many works for wind instruments including the treble or alto recorder which he labelled flauto, and the transverse flute which he called flauto traverso, flauto traversier or flaute travers, thus making a clear distinction between the two. The word flautino is diminutive of flauto, and on the grounds of name alone we must look to a small recorder first of all. A small flute would surely have been called flautino traverso, or similar. Another possibility is some size of flageolet, suggested by the entry in J. G. Walther’s Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732): “Flautino, Flauto piccolo (ital.) Petite Flûte (gall.) ist eben was Flageolet.” Walther’s entry on the flageolet gives a compass of d1to e3for the instrument. The writer has been able to discover only two other instances of the word flautino in contemporary books: Daniel Speer’s Grundrichtiger […] Unterricht (Ulm, 1697) which gives “Flautino, eine Quart-Flöt”, earlier identified with a recorder with a compass of two octaves from c1 to c3; and William Tansur’s A New Musical Grammar (London, 1746) which gives “Flautino – A very small Flute [i.e. recorder]”.
We must now look at the range of the solo part for the flautino in the Vivaldi concerti. In RV 444 there are two occurrences of c1 in tutti passages and the range is otherwise f1to e3; in RV 443 there is one e1 in a tutti passage and the range is otherwise f1to f3: in RV 445 there are many occurrences of e1 in tuttis and one in a solo passage (third movement, m. 134), the range being f1 to f3 apart from this. It is probably safe to assume that although the part is so notated, it was intended to sound an octave higher. The compass of the sopranino recorder is f 2to g4, that of the piccolo d2 to e4 (or up to a4 depending on the skill of the player), and that of the flageolet either d1to e3 (perhaps sounding an octave higher) or g1to f3 (also sounding an octave higher) for the small bird-flageolet. It will be seen that none of these instruments can play the necessary range of c2to f4.
We can then surmise that the occurrences of the low notes in the tutti passages were oversights on the part of the composer, perhaps because of the speed with which he had to compose. Concerto RV 445 contains a number of instances where the notes written for the violins are below their compass, and the performer would play them an octave higher, or otherwise adjust to his instrument. We are then left with a compass of f2 to f4, except for one note in RV 445, a compass which would fit the sopranino recorder exactly.
The case for the piccolo has been put forward by Dr Dale S. Higbee in an article Michel Corrette on the Piccolo and Speculations regarding Vivaldi’s ‘Flautino’ (in: Galpin Society Journal XVII, 1964, p. 115). He thinks the occurrence of low E in this solo passage is significant enough to exclude the sopranino recorder from consideration. He notes the mention of the piccolo by Michel Corrette in his flute tutor (Paris, c. 1735) and suggests that Vivaldi heard about this novel instrument and wrote for it about this time. Certainly the composer was always eager to exploit new effects, and wrote for the new clarinet for example. But although the compass e2 to f4 is possible on the onekeyed piccolo of the period, it is very difficult. Most notably the high F is a bad note on flutes of the time, and presumably this is true of the corresponding note on the piccolo. It only sounds well with a fingering using a half-covering for one of the holes, which cannot be done well if the note occurs in fast runs, as it often does in these concerti. The key signatures used for the concerti also point against the piccolo. The keys used for the flute at that time were usually near to the home key of D major, because of the difficulties of intonation on the instrument. The recorder, on the other hand, was written for near to its home key of F major, keys like C major and A minor being very common. One may also cite the question of difficulty of the pieces. The flautino concerti are of great difficulty for either a sopranino recorder or a one-keyed piccolo. Vivaldi’s concerti for recorder are normally rather more difficult than those for the flute, and so if he were to give a work of great difficulty to a small “flute” he would be more likely to give it to a recorder than a flute. In passing it might also be mentioned that Vivaldi used the flautino a number of times in his operas, including La Verità in Cimento of 1720. This is well before the first account of the piccolo by Corrette.
For all these reasons the piccolo can be excluded from consideration. The only remaining problem is the one occurrence of low E in the present work. In the opinion of the editor this was also an oversight on the part of an overworked composer, and the instrument intended was the sopranino recorder. The works may also be played on the modern piccolo at the discretion of the performer, or even on a treble (alto) recorder or flute.
In the present concerto the performer using a sopranino recorder has the problem of what to do about the many occasions when low E comes in tutti passages. One solution is to refrain from playing the tuttis altogether, and to play only in the solo passages. Another is to play these notes an octave higher, or to leave them out.
We are almost totally ignorant of the articulation and ornamentation practices of Italian recorder players of this era. The first Italian tutor for any wind instrument did not appear until c. 1770. For this reason the editor has refrained from marking any suggestions for the interpretation of the work. However, it is probably safe to make the following speculations. The articulations used by woodwind players were likely to have been based on violin practices, although some kind of double tonguing may have been used for very fast passages. Extremely fast runs of demisemiquavers such as those in mm. 86 and 91 of the first movement were almost certainly slurred. The appoggiaturas found in mm. 44–46 and 87–89 of the first movement, and 11, 93, 96 and 154 of the third movement were probably played rather short (less than a semiquaver) and on the beat. The short trills found in mm. 52–55 and 89f. of the first movement, throughout the second movement and in mm. 127–129 of the third movement were probably some kind of half shake. Other trills should have appoggiaturas and terminations as usual.
The flautino part is notated in the treble clef at pitch, presumably sounding an octave higher. All dynamics are original. Dotted slurs and trills or accidentals in brackets are editorial. The modern convention with regard to accidentals and rests has been adhered to, and the text altered accordingly.
Iowa City, Spring 1969