This three-voice setting of a Psalm (110 in the Vulgate numbering) that belongs to several Vesper liturgies, including those of Sundays and male martyrs, ranks among Vivaldi’s supreme achievements in church music. It is relatively late (c1732) and, once again, appears to be unconnected with the Pietà (whose voices certainly could not have coped with the strenuous tenor and bass parts). Vivaldi coaxes the ten verses of the Psalm into four movements, to which two movements are added for the Lesser Doxology (‘Gloria Patri …’), which is always appended to a Psalm setting. The style exemplifies Vivaldi’s turn to counterpoint in his middle-period (c1720–c1735) works, as described earlier. The fugal expositions and imitative episodes of the fourth movement, ‘Intellectus bonus’, would do credit to any composer. Vivaldi uses the two solo oboes in much the same way as in RV612; they certainly add élan and vitality to the sound.
The final movement, ‘Et in saecula saeculorum’, is a transposed version of the outer (‘A’) section of a terzet in da capo form from Vivaldi’s opera La fida ninfa (Verona, 1732). The text of the operatic terzet expresses the gyrations of the wheel of fortune, whereas the second part of the Doxology expresses the immutability of eternity. By using musical motifs that can be held to represent both circular motion (the opening of the tenor line) and the constancy of the ages (its continuation as a counter-subject in long notes), Vivaldi manages to have things both ways. This borrowing has an appositeness worthy of Handel’s best efforts in the same direction.
from notes by Michael Talbot © 1999