Chapter 9 Baroque Instrumental Music Concerto and

Chapter 9
Instrumental Music
Concerto and
Concerto Grosso:
Key Terms
Concerto grosso
Ritornello form
Variation form
Basso continuo
Ground bass
Double listening
Baroque Instrumental
Music (1)
For the first time, listeners & musicians
took instrumental music seriously
Rise of instrumental music paralleled
improvements in instrument-building
• Stradivarius, Silbermann, etc.
How long should a piece be?
• With vocal music, when the words are done
• With instrumental music, no equivalent guide
• Instrumental forms & genres had to provide
Baroque Instrumental
Music (2)
How to extend purely instrumental music
in time in a logical manner?
• Repetition, return, sequence, & imitation
• Begin & end in the same key
How to create interest and drama?
• Contrast & variation
• Modulate to other keys in the middle
• String contrasting movements together
Baroque forms and genres combine these
techniques in various ways
Concerto and Concerto Grosso
The most important orchestral genres of
the Baroque era
Latin concertare = to contend
Concerto signifies a contest between—
• Soloist & orchestra (concerto)
• Group of soloists & orchestra (concerto
• Virtuoso brilliance of solos & orchestra’s
power, stability
Movement = self-contained section of a
larger work
Many Baroque works create drama &
length by stringing together several short,
contrasting pieces (movements)
A typical concerto has three movements
• I – bright, extroverted, in a fast tempo
• II – slower, quieter, more emotional
• III – similar to 1st movement, often faster
Ritornello Form (1)
Commonly used in 1st & 3rd movements
of Baroque concerto
Italian ritorno = return (home)
Ritornello form is based on systematic use
of contrast & return
Consistent alternation between two
contrasting sections—
• Ritornellos & solo episodes
Return of theme more satisfying after
contrasting solos (sense of resolution)
Ritornello Form (2)
Standard ritornello form
RIT = complete ritornello statement
[RIT] = partial ritornello statement
Solo 1, 2, 3, etc. = solo episodes
Ritornello vs. Episode
Principal theme
Solid & forceful
Often very tuneful
For full orchestra
Stable–stays in one
key, ends with strong
Familiarity grows
with each return
Solo Episode
Contrasting section
Faster, more brilliant
Free & virtuosic
For soloist(s)
to another key, flows
into next ritornello
Always something
new, surprising
Antonio Vivaldi
Famous as violinist & composer
Most popular Baroque concerto composer
• Four Seasons his most popular work
Wrote over 500 concertos
The “Red Priest” was also music teacher
at a Venetian orphanage
• Renowned for quality of musical training
• Famous for student concerts
Frequent travel to perform his concertos &
operas in musical centers of Europe
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G
Vivaldi concertos often published in sets
of 6 or 12
• Sets often given descriptive titles—
 La stravaganza (Extravagance), Four Seasons, or
L’estro armonico (Harmonic Whims)
Op. 4, No. 12 is the last concerto in his
fourth published set (Latin opus = work)
Concerto for solo violin & orchestra
Uses standard three-movement format
• I & III fast, brilliant, ritornello form
• II slower, gentler, ground bass form
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G, I
Tempo “Spirited, not too fast”
Creative use of ritornello form
Ritornello theme (for orchestra)
• Subdivides into three short sections–a, b, c
• Alternates between 1st & 2nd violin sections
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G, I
Ritornello theme (cont.)
Only Ritornello 1 uses entire theme
Ritornellos 1, 2, & 5 in G major
Ritornello 3 begins in D major; 4 in B minor
Surprisingly free use of theme in Ritornellos 3
and 4
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G, I
Solo episodes
• Feature solo violin, usually with continuo
• Solos become progressively freer & more
Ritornellos & solos swap roles at times!
• Ritornello 4 modulates frequently–unstable
• Solo 3 affirms B minor throughout
• Orchestral strings accompany Solos 2 & 4
Ends with literal return of ritornello (b, c)
Baroque Variation Form
Variation forms rely on repetition &
Grew up spontaneously all over Europe;
first improvised, then written out
Preference for short themes: 4 to 8 bars
Uninterrupted repetition of an ostinato:
short melody or chord progression
Names include passacaglia, chaconne,
The Ground Bass
Features of ground bass form—
• Systematic, uninterrupted repetition of a short,
clearly defined melody (basso ostinato)
• Dynamics, tone color, & some harmonies often
change with each repetition (variation)
• Tempo, key, & mode are sometimes varied
• Even the ground bass can be varied, but its
identity is rarely obscured
“Double listening”–try to hear repeating
theme & changing material at same time
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G,
II (1)
Slow tempo–Largo
Based on 6-bar ground bass
Continuous feel enhanced by—
• Uninterrupted repetition of ground bass
• Steady eighth-note rhythms
• Dominant harmony at end of ground bass pulls
to tonic at beginning of next repetition
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G,
II (2)
Variety created by—
• Gradually faster solo figuration in first four
• Sudden, dramatic changes in Variations 5-6
 Switch to minor mode
 Ostinato moves to violins
 Continuo drops out
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G,
II (3)
To increase coherence, composers often
group variations to make larger sections
Vivaldi creates three sections here
• Theme & Variations 1-4–Entirely in G major,
basso ostinato
• Variations 5-6–Shifts to G minor, ostinato
moves to violins
• Final statement of Theme–As at the beginning
Overall ternary feel (A B A)
Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G, III
Fast tempo, ritornello form
Form even freer than in 1st movement
Begins with solo introduction
1st ritornello statement interrupted by solo
2nd ritornello presents new theme
Solo violin constantly changes from one idea
to another
3rd & 5th ritornellos provide stability