A New Edition of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor, RV 495

I’m very excited today to release some­thing to the world on which I’ve spent a great deal of time: a new per­form­ing edi­tion of Anto­nio Vivaldi’s Con­certo in G minor for bas­soon, strings, and basso con­tinuo (RV 495), pre­pared using a copy of Vivaldi’s own man­u­script. You can down­load the whole thing (for free!) at the end of this post. But first I’d like to talk a bit about my path to the piece and my meth­ods in cre­at­ing this edi­tion. I hope that this will all prove use­ful to some­one out there, par­tic­u­larly since this is one of the required pieces for the 2014 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion.

Vivaldi Autograph

I’ve played a cou­ple of Vivaldi’s other con­certi in the past. But my rela­tion­ship with this piece began last year, after Nad­ina Mackie Jack­son did me the honor of ask­ing me to write the liner notes for the first disc in what will even­tu­ally be a set of all the Vivaldi bas­soon con­certi. I dove into the project with my cus­tom­ary gusto — books lit­tered my desk and floor, and PDFs of mis­cel­la­neous Vival­diana deliv­ered to me by the wiz­ards of Inter­li­brary Loan sim­i­larly clut­tered my lap­top screen. As far as I’m con­cerned, research is the fun part. If I could just keep find­ing and absorbing more sources with­out ever hav­ing to actu­ally write any­thing, I’d be that much hap­pier. But aside from the var­i­ous print mate­ri­als, I had a more-or-less con­stant Vivaldi bas­soon con­certo sound­track — mostly pre-release mixes of Nadina’s record­ing, but also ver­sions by Michael McCraw, Ser­gio Azzolini, Mau­rice Allard, and oth­ers.

By the time I had fin­ished the notes for Nad­ina, I was thor­oughly fired-up about Vivaldi and his 37 bas­soon con­certi (plus two incom­plete works). So much so, in fact, that I asked Lorna Peters, Sacra­mento State’s won­der­ful harp­si­chord (and piano) teacher, if she’d con­sider pro­gram­ming one of them with Cam­er­ata Capis­trano, the school’s Baro­que ensem­ble. Hap­pily for me, she agreed, and I set about pick­ing a piece. It’s prob­a­bly not sur­pris­ing that I chose one of the con­certi from Nadina’s disc (RV 495), with which I’d been singing along for weeks. There are many things I love about this con­certo. The first move­ment is fiery and flashy. The sec­ond move­ment foregos the upper strings entirely, cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful and pas­sion­ate dialog between soloist and con­tinuo. The third move­ment is just all-out inten­sity — it starts with the whole ensem­ble in dri­ving unison (almost the Baro­que equiv­a­lent of power chords), and con­tains what I think is one of the best licks ever writ­ten for bas­soon (mm. 53–56).

I first per­formed the piece with Cam­er­ata Capis­trano in Feb­ru­ary of this year, and luck­ily we’ve had many chances to present it again since then. Our tenth per­for­mance will come this Sun­day, as part of the Bravo Bach Fes­ti­val in Sacra­mento. This is the first time I’ve per­formed a sin­gle solo work so often, and I’ve found it to be an incred­i­bly instruc­tive and free­ing expe­ri­ence. The abil­ity to actu­ally take chances and try new things over the course of mul­ti­ple per­for­mances can shape your per­cep­tion of and rela­tion­ship to a piece in ways that are dif­fi­cult — if not impos­si­ble — to recre­ate in the prac­tice room or in a stand-alone per­for­mance. Even though I fin­ished school a num­ber of years ago, the one-and-done degree recital men­tal­ity is some­thing I’m still try­ing to shake. But that’s a topic for another post.

As soon as I’d set­tled on this con­certo, I knew that I wanted to cre­ate my own per­form­ing edi­tion. At the time, I couldn’t locate an edi­tion with string parts (I’ve since found one, avail­able only from Ger­many). Plus, what bet­ter way to learn a piece back­wards and for­wards than to study the man­u­script and make up a new score and set of parts? I could eas­ily have used as my source the score pub­lished in 1957 as part of Ricordi’s Com­plete Works edi­tion. But the edi­tor, Gian Francesco Malip­iero, pro­vided no crit­i­cal com­men­tary and appears to have made some edi­to­rial deci­sions with­out explic­itly indi­cat­ing that he’d done so. So instead, I went right to Vivaldi’s own man­u­script.

Vivaldi's shorthand for whole-ensemble unison writing

Vivaldi’s short­hand for whole-ensemble unison writ­ing

Vivaldi’s bas­soon con­certi (and indeed most of his works) were not pub­lished in his own life­time, and are only known to us through a mas­sive col­lec­tion of man­u­script scores that now resides at the Bib­lioteca Nazionale in Turin, Italy. Most of these are in the composer’s own hand, and the col­lec­tion con­tains many incom­plete sketches and drafts. These are strong indi­ca­tions that the col­lec­tion was Vivaldi’s own com­pendium of his works, and as such, the scores are far from performance-ready. The com­poser made exten­sive use of short­hand tech­niques, includ­ing dal segni that would be awk­ward in per­for­mance and sim­ply indi­cat­ing unison parts instead of writ­ing out the same music on mul­ti­ple lines (see the exam­ple at right).

Beyond expand­ing this short­hand, I endeav­ored to keep my edi­to­rial hand as light as pos­si­ble. But inevitably, there were a few instances in which I made changes or inter­pre­tive deci­sions. I have detailed these in a crit­i­cal report within the score. I have not added any artic­u­la­tions, dynam­ics, orna­ments, or any other per­for­mance sug­ges­tions; these are totally “clean” parts. There are, how­ever, a few impor­tant ways in which this edi­tion dif­fers from the Ricordi edi­tion (and other edi­tions that have used Ricordi as their source):

  • Through­out the con­certo, Vivaldi indi­cates that the soloist should join the con­tinuo line dur­ing tutti sec­tions. Except for the few pas­sages in which Vivaldi did not make such an indi­ca­tion, I have pro­vided the soloist with the bass line in small nota­tion. The Ricordi score leaves rests for the bas­soon in all of these pas­sages.
  • Mea­sures 211–214 of the Presto are in D minor in Vivaldi’s man­u­script. In mea­sure 211 it appears that he has writ­ten and then wiped away or scratched out a sharp sym­bol on an F in the Viola part, but there are no other F-sharps marked in those mea­sures. There is then a sud­den change to D major in mea­sure 215. The Ricordi score places the whole pas­sage in D major.
  • Mea­sure 260 of the Presto does not exist in the Ricordi edi­tion. This comes at the end of the last solo sec­tion, and the final ritor­nello is a repeat of mea­sures 23–55. In Vivaldi’s man­u­script, he wrote out a full mea­sure of res­o­lu­tion (my bar 260), and then indi­cated a dal segno to mea­sure 23. Ricordi omit­ted this mea­sure, and instead elided the last solo cadence with the begin­ning of the final ritor­nello.
  • Vivaldi wrote artic­u­la­tion marks over the eighth notes in the solo part in mea­sures 249–252 and 258–259. The Ricordi edi­tion ren­ders all of these marks as stac­cati. But in Vivaldi’s hand, the marks in mea­sures 258–259 are clearly longer than those in 249–252 (see below). Thus, I have marked the eighth notes in 249–252 as stac­cato and those in 258–259 with wedges.
Two types of Vivaldi's articulation marks

Two types of Vivaldi’s artic­u­la­tion marks

For the actual engrav­ing of the score and parts, I used Lily­Pond, which I also used for my fin­ger­ing charts. It can be kind of a has­sle but pro­duces very ele­gant results. Also like my fin­ger­ing charts, I’m releas­ing this under a Cre­ative Com­mons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basi­cally, it means you can use, alter, copy, or dis­trib­ute this how­ever you’d like, so long as you give me credit and don’t sell it.

It is impor­tant to note that this edi­tion does not include a key­board reduc­tion. It is suit­able only for study or for per­for­mance with string play­ers and a com­pe­tent harp­si­chordist. If you need a fully written-out key­board part, I would rec­om­mend the new bassoon/piano edi­tion pub­lished by TrevCo Music Pub­lish­ing (they list it under its Fanna num­ber: F8#23).

And now, with­out fur­ther ado, here it is:

Complete Score and Parts (ZIP)

Vivaldi RV 495 — Com­plete Set

Individual Files (PDFs)

Vivaldi RV 495 — Bas­soon
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­lin 1
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­lin 2
Vivaldi RV 495 — Viola
Vivaldi RV 495 — Basso Con­tinuo
Vivaldi RV 495 — Basso Con­tinuo (alter­nate ver­sion with the sec­ond move­ment in score)
Vivaldi RV 495 — Score

Although I’ve gone over all of this with a num­ber of fine-tooth combs, I’d wel­come any cor­rec­tions, com­ments, or other feed­back.

  • Andre

    January 18th, 2014


    As you’ve marked your type­set RV495 as cre­ative com­mons, please do con­sider upload­ing it to http://imslp.org for oth­ers to enjoy!


    • David A. Wells

      January 27th, 2014


      Ah, I’d been mean­ing to do that any­way. Thanks for the reminder!


    November 20th, 2014


    Dear Sir,

    May I ask you how you’ve been able to find orig­i­nal man­u­script sources ? It seems that most of the man­u­script of these bas­soon con­certi are kept in Turin and I can’t get any answer from them when I order a copy to work on.

    Thanks for your help,
    Best wishes,

    • David A. Wells

      December 10th, 2014


      Hi, sorry to take so long to reply — my web site didn’t notify me of your com­ment for some rea­son. Any­way, I was able to bor­row a copy of the man­u­script from some­one who’d got­ten copies from the library in Turin. The Turin library seems to be in the process of dig­i­tiz­ing their Vivaldi col­lec­tion and mak­ing the man­u­scripts avail­able online, but they haven’t got­ten very far yet. You can see what they have put online here: http://www.internetculturale.it/opencms/opencms/it/collezioni/collezione_0042.html.


    December 11th, 2014


    Thank yuo for your reo­ply : I’ll have to get such a friend now !
    So I’ll try again to get some news from Turin’s library.
    Best regards.

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