Movement 1: Salve regina
Movement 2: Ad te clamamus
Movement 3: Ad te suspiramus
Movement 4: Eia ergo advocata
Movement 5: Et Jesum benedictum
Movement 6: O clemens, o pia
Like RV616, but unlike RV617 (the setting preserved in Brno), RV618 is an extended work for solo contralto and strings divided into two cori. A pair of oboes makes an appearance in the fourth movement but is otherwise silent. RV616 and RV618 belong to the large group of sacred vocal works in due cori that Vivaldi composed from the middle of the 1720s into the early 1730s. Most of these do not seem to have any connection with the Pietà and were probably conceived by the composer as ‘repertory’ pieces: a group of mutually compatible works from which selected items could be supplied on request to a church for its celebration of a major festival.
For the first movement, Vivaldi borrowed a fugal ritornello from one of his violin concertos (RV319). There is no justification in the psalm text for this unexpected feature, but it certainly lends energy and musical interest. In this movement the second orchestra acts merely as a reinforcement for the first. The relationship changes in the second movement, where the two cori are treated antiphonally, bouncing phrases off each other. Sighs (‘suspiramus’) groans (‘gementes’), pleas (‘flentes’) and tears (‘lacrimarum’) are all captured expressively in the slower third movement.
The arrival of the oboes in the fourth movement injects a touch of élan, although the mood remains serious, and a dolefully chromatic bass line accompanies the word ‘misericordes’ (‘merciful’). The first mention of Jesus, in the fifth verse, prompts Vivaldi to give the movement the lilt of a lullaby; the infant is gently tossed from one ensemble, as it were, to the other. It remains for a final movement to give voice to the supplicant’s pleas in music of fervent warmth.
from notes by Michael Talbot © 2003