Vivaldi wrote two
pieces entitled ‘al Santo Sepolcro,’ (at
the Holy Sepulchre); this sinfonia for four-part strings, and a sonata. Despite
being predominantly based in Venice, Vivaldi also travelled extensively around
Italy to oversee performances of his operas and it is likely that the impetus
for this work came from one of the many churches also bearing this name.
The mood of the Sinfonia is extraordinarily different
from the exuberant and vivacious concerti the composer is so famous for. As
suggested by the title, it is a sacred work for Holy Week, most likely written
to be performed during a mass at the Pietà.
The solemnity of the event is evoked by the tempo of the music, the anguish
by the intense, chromatic harmonies of the first movement whilst the descending
chromatic steps in the theme of the second movement portrays the pathos of the
occasion, asking us to reflect upon the suffering and death of Christ.