Around 1715 Vivaldi composed for the Pietà two introductory motets, presumably designed as alternatives to one another, for a setting of the ‘Miserere’, a psalm sung during Holy Week. One is the affecting Filiae maestae Jerusalem, RV638, for alto. The ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’ are, of course, a metaphor for the figlie di coro themselves. In the opening accompanied recitative the singer is called upon to bewail the crucified Christ. The text of the following aria is saturated with Arcadian imagery—wafting breezes, rippling brooks and so forth. Even though the poetic sense is that these rustic delights have to be foregone in the week of the Passion, Vivaldi cannot resist a few dabs of word-painting that imply the opposite. The introduzione closes with a second recitative, initially accompanied. The last word of the text—‘Miserere’—is a cue for the psalm to follow. It is a great shame that this latter work, very likely by Vivaldi himself, is lost.
from notes by Michael Talbot © 1996