Antonio Vivaldi wrote so many concertos that news of yet another lost one pitching up usually raises an eyebrow as much as it raises expectations. There are already more than 500, after all, and this composer, a practical sort of fellow, was no stranger to the idea of musical recycling.
But the manuscript that has been identified in the Marquesses of Lothian's papers looks more significant than most. Firstly, it is one of a series of four concertos that have been known of, yet presumed lost. Secondly, an extract of its slow movement reveals it to be exceptionally beautiful.
The hopes that hang over the Venetian baroque genius always centre on the phenomenal popularity of The Four Seasons: four violin concertos, musical pictures of spring, summer, autumn and winter that are some of the best-loved classical pieces ever.
If only one could find a natural sequel – say, another set of Vivaldi concertos bearing memorable titles – it might liven up the classical CD charts.
Sure enough, this flute concerto, entitled Il Gran Mogol, is apparently part of a cycle that would have replicated some of the elements that helped to make The Four Seasons so successful. This set was based around a geographical concept: the others were La Francia, L'Espagna and L'Inghilterro – France, Spain and England – but they remain lost.
Il Gran Mogol depicts India, an unusual topic for a baroque composer. The gorgeous chromatic inflections of the solo flute line give the slow movement an exotic and sensual atmosphere.
The premiere in January will be keenly awaited. Meanwhile, let's hope musicologists can unearth the three companion concertos: it would be intriguing to know what Vivaldi made of England.