Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata No. 12 in D Minor, RV 63: Variations on “La Follia”

Antonio Vivaldi’s Twelve Trio Sonatas, Op. 1, published in 1705, conclude with a dazzling display of musical fireworks.

The Sonata No. 12 in D minor, RV 63 unfolds in a single movement made up of twenty variations on La Follia. This theme, first recorded in Francisco de Salinas’ 1577 treatise, De musica libri septem, originated in Portuguese dance music. It was used by numerous composers throughout the Baroque period, including Jean-Baptiste Lully, Domenico Scarlatti, Purcell, J.S. Bach, and Handel. Later composers, from Beethoven to Rachmaninov, paid homage to this distinctive melody. Vivaldi’s use of the theme was probably inspired by the famous La Follia variations which conclude Arcangelo Corelli’s Op. 5 Sonatas.

Perhaps the most captivating element of La Follia is its harmony. In just eight measures, the harmonic progression leaves D minor to flirt with the relative major of F, only to return home again. It’s a dramatic journey which never gets tiring.

Vivaldi’s Sonata No. 12 begins with the theme, set in the slow triple meter of the sarabande. The variations which follow are filled with sparkling virtuosity, moments of quiet melancholy, and wild, fun-loving ferocity.

This 2005 recording features Jordi Savall and the early music ensemble, Hespèrion XXI:


  • Vivaldi: Sonata “La Follia” Op. 1 n. 12 RV 63, Jordi Savall, Hespèrion XXI

Featured Image: a Venetian facade

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

2 thoughts on “Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata No. 12 in D Minor, RV 63: Variations on “La Follia””

  1. This is the same theme as Handel’s Sarabande in D minor of the movie “Barry Lyndon”. Incredible excitement, variety in Vivaldi’s variations. I wish it could be appreciated by as wide an audience.


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