Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Trumpets in C Major
Antonio Vivaldi’s Double Trumpet Concerto in C Major has stood the test of time and is still one of his most popular compositions. It has become somewhat of an enigma as we’re unsure when it was written, who it was written for or even when it might have been performed during Vivaldi’s lifetime.
In the Baroque era, the Italian style of concerto was typically structured in three movements for one or more soloists. The soloist was accompanied by a chamber string orchestra, a keyboard-type instruments, and a bass continuo. The bass player would keep the foundation moving and would often play a single line called the figure bass.
The Italian concerto structure was grouped into three movements: fast-slow-fast, unlike the French concerto style which was often slow-fast-slow. This structure was taken and developed through the eras until the 18th classical symphony added a dance-based fourth movement to it.
Opening with an exciting fanfare-like movement with the trumpets playing vigorous ascending scalic runs above driving strings. The trumpets would have been really limited in what notes they could play, so the fluctuation between major and minor is to be expected from a work such as this. The trumpets work as a pair rather than against each other, which creates some colourful textures.
A very short slow movement separates the two fast movements. The reason it’s only about one and a half minutes long is because it acts as an interlude as the soloists can adjust their instruments. The trumpets are not heard at all in this movement.
The driving triple meter of the finale movement is what keeps the accompaniment going. The soloists play exciting sets of fanfares which results in flourishes of virtuosity from the soloists. The brilliance in the virtuosic writing for both the soloists and the accompaniment can be seen all the way through this movement. The atmosphere is exhilarating and is only enhanced by the loud dynamics, decorations and driving meter.
Vivaldi’s dynamic writing in this short concerto for two trumpets has made this a staple in early brass repertoire. The fast moving parts encasing the slow and solo-less middle movement makes this a truly exciting celebration of brass.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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