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The Baroque Concerto

In simple terms, the word concerto translates into concert. Motets by Vidana, madrigals by Monteverdi as well as works by Corelli and Torelli are all described by their composers as concertos. The Baroque era was one in which many different styles of music had been formulated. These differing forms of music were influenced mainly by several factors. First and foremost would be the religious thinking and beliefs of this time, along with changing attitudes in politics. These two factors influenced the form of the Baroque concerto greatly. Baroque music mainly covers the times between 1580 to 1750.

The first instance that the word concerto was printed was in 1587 in the city of Venice (Anderson 2). This was used for Andrea Gabrielis piece entitled Concerti per voci, & stromenti Musicali (Anderson 2). Thus, in Italy the word concerto in its earliest form, was not a term only for purely instrumental music, but rather one for mixed groups of voices and instruments together. The concerto then evolved into something rather different than what it was first considered. Its evolution turned into something in which both display and virtuosity soon assumed an ever-increasing dominance (Anderson 13).

Emergence of the Concerto The concerto emerged as a distinct genre in the year 1700 (Hutchings 15). However if it was in the early beginning or towards the end of the year, historians cannot agree on. This was the year that the concerto spread outwards from Italy into the court and church orchestras of German-speaking States. The concerto had been the first orchestral form to be composed precisely for the most popular modern service of serious music, the orchestral concert (Hutchings 15).

Corelli Corellis only set of concertos was his Opus number 6. This set contained twelve concerti grossi for strings. That work of Corellis was published the year after his death in 1714, in the city of Amsterdam (Anderson 4). The formal structure of Corellis concertos is clearly and effectively organized, giving what the French writer Marc Pincherle described as a new harmonious coherence to the various voices of the texture (Anderson 5). The way Corelli organized his concerti incorporated his sense of proportion, strong tonal affirmation, and modest use of the instrumental players virtuosity. Technically though, his writing was very cautious compared to some of his Italian contemporaries and with the greater freedom used by many of his successors.

Corellis twelve concertos possess most of the formal and technical characteristics of his sonatas, but they also offer a much richer tonal contrast in texture caused by the alternation between the smaller and larger groups of instruments. According to Corellis title page, the concertino group should consist only of two violins and a cello. The grosso should contain two further violins, a viola, and bass instruments as well as keyboard continuo (Anderson 5). In his pieces the grosso section also could be expanded if it was desired, while the concertino remained a constant size. In his concerti grossi, Corelli established orchestral texture as well as a perfected style of composition, which became universally admired and inevitably imitated, by the composers during the next half century (Anderson 5). Vincenzo Marinelli wrote;

If we came to enquire whence comes this magical power of Corellis compositions, we shall very quickly find that their whole secret inheres in their marvelously imitating the most dulcet and pleasing characteristics of the human voice, and their contriving to express, each according to its range, and with regard to the most exact rules of art (Anderson 6).

Torelli During the time that Corelli was working on his concerto grossi, another fresh composer named Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709) was a contributing towards the concerto form. Torellis concertos were mostly written according to the Corellian formula, although some aspects of his compositions were significantly different.

Torellis first six concertos from the set of the concertino group consist of only two violins with a continuo bass that supplies the harmonic support (Anderson 6). The final six concertos are stylistically advanced when compared to the first six of the set. This can be mainly accounted to the sequence of concertino and ripieno alternating and becoming one with the solo violin and tutti (Anderson 7). Finally, unlike what Corelli had used, Torelli favored the three-movement pattern, fast slow -fast.

Conclusion The music described as a concerto evolved into something that had the meaning of something different than what it was originally intended for. It contains qualities, which cause it to have a consistent popularity, which is basically caused by the constant integration of contrasting and to some extent combative forces within a coherent artistic framework.

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