Vivaldi Antonio (1678-1741)
Concerti per fagotto, archi e continuo
The group of concertos for bassoon by Antonio Vivaldi is the largest such collection in terms of quantity after those for violin: no less than thirty-nine are in fact extant, and only two are incomplete. Moreover, all of these works, with the exception of the Concerto RV 499 copied by Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, are preserved exclusively in autograph manuscripts found in the composer’s personal archives. This fact leads to the conclusion that Vivaldi intended them for one or more bassoonists belonging to the circle of Venetian musicians with whom he was personally in contact, without foreseeing their diffusion outside the Venetian Republic. Although it is impossible to know now who exactly these players were, we can hypothesize as to their identity. A starting point might be the copy of Concerto RV 502, which bears a dedication (later crossed out) to Gioseppino Biancardi, a bassoonist probably from Venice, born in 1699 or 1700; (a less significant clue in identification is the dedication of another concerto, not included on this recording, to count Wenzel von Morzin). At the moment, however, nothing is known of Biancardi’s activities other than the fact that his name was included in 1727 among the members of the Arte de’ Sonadori of Venice. A second hypothesis, perhaps more realistic, is that Vivaldi wrote most of his bassoon concertos expressly for one of the gifted figlie of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, where he was employed for many years first as violin teacher and later as “maestro de’ concerti”. While it is true that no mention of bassoonists has been found in the registers of the Pietà, their presence there is documented in 1739 by president de Brosses, according to whom the girls of the Ospedale “jouent du violon, de la flûte, de l’orgue, du hautbois, du violoncelle, du basson”. Moreover, it was a common practice at the time for the bassoon to be played by oboists, though this would not have been specified in the documents.