In the first decade of the eighteenth century, Vivaldi already showed a fine sensibility for the various instrumental timbres and their wealth of combinations. He, more than any of his Italian contemporaries, left a great number of works composed for diverse and highly imaginative combinations of wind and string instruments (consider, for example, his Concerto RV97 for viola d’amore, two oboes, two horns, bassoon and basso continuo).
The source of this florid and multifarious inspiration can be traced back not only to the composer’s own personal tastes, but especially to his good fortune to have worked for an institution such as the Pietà, which had at its disposal a unrivalled wealth of instrumental forces. Moreover, the high technical level of playing among the girls at the ospedale provided him with the opportunity to attempt exceedingly refined and daring works, such as the Sonata RV86 for flute, bassoon and basso continuo, as well as a great part of the concerti for three, four and five soloists.
The earliest known testimony to Vivaldi’s interest in multiple timbres dates back to his Sonata RV779 for violin, oboe, organ and salmoè (a precursor of the clarinet), dating from 1707. This interest is a constant element throughout his entire production, and indeed the last datable works known to us are those Concerti per molti Istromenti (Concertos for many instruments) which the girls of the Pietà performed on 21 March 1740 before the electoral prince of Saxony, Friedrich Christian.
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Vivaldi: Concerto for Multiple Instruments in F RV569
Vivaldi: Concerto for Multiple Instruments, 'per l'orchestra di Dresda' in G minor RV576
Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Horns and Strings RV538
Vivaldi: Concerto for violin, 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns, timpani, strings & continuo in D, RV 562a
Vivaldi: Concerto in D minor, RV566
Vivaldi: Concerto RV 576 for violin, recorders, oboes & bassoon