An 18th-century violin concerto, possibly by Antonio Vivaldi,
has been discovered in the archives of the Dresden State
Library. The technically demanding 17-minute work has been
attributed to the Italian composer by Baroque expert Michael
Talbot, and may receive its modern premiere this September.
The work in A major was discovered in mid-June by Icelandic scholar Jóhannes Ágústsson, who noted markings on the orchestral parts such as ‘Allegro non molto’ and ‘Qui si ferma a piacimento’ as being peculiar to Vivaldi. Talbot has suggested that the phrase structure and stylistic flourishes indicate a composition date of between 1729 and 1733.
Adrian Chandler, director of Baroque ensemble La Serenissima, is convinced the concerto is by Vivaldi. ‘There are too many compositional techniques that you only find in Vivaldi,’ he said. ‘Having said that, I’ve never seen Vivaldi this hard – there are several top C sharps and I’m not talking third position, and technically speaking it’s leagues ahead of anything else he’s written.’
According to Chandler, the piece may have been written specifically for Johann Georg Pisendel, then concertmaster of the Dresden court orchestra, who had studied violin and composition with Vivaldi. ‘Vivaldi had a very intimate knowledge of what Pisendel was capable of and I think it may have been written as a kind of perverse concerto, just for him.’
The concerto has not been approved by the Vivaldi Institute in Venice, as the members of its editorial committee remain divided as to its authenticity. 'Because of the rules we operate, where each individual members has in effect a veto, no RV number will be assigned in the immediate future,' explained Talbot. 'I foresee that in time the situation will be resolved more clearly, and my own belief is that the concerto will come to be recognized as one of Vivaldi's, with the slight proviso that some of the solo material could have been reworked or replaced by the Dresden musicians – something that happened a lot in the Dresden repertoire.'