9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Ritornello Form in Giuseppe Torelli's Op. 6 Concerti Musicali (1698)

John G. Suess

Claude Palisca points out his book on Baroque Music (3rd, edition,1991), that Torelli's "twelve concertos of Op.8 [of 1709] constitute one of the great achievements of the baroque period. The principal traits that mark the mature concerto are here displayed: the fast-slow-fast sequence of movements, the ritornello form, and the virtuoso flights of the soloists". All of which is true, but these traits may also be found in Torelli's earlier Op. 6 Concerti Musicali, of 1698.

In addition, Palisca gives a useful definition of the ritornello form: " the ritornello form is an application of the vocal refrain structure to instrumental music. The music of the opening tutti recurs as a whole or in part in different keys between solo sections and again at the end....Torelli apparently did not arrive at the ritornello structure until the end of his career, which was spent almost entirely in Bologna as violinist at San Petronio". Besides biographical inaccuracies, which will be clarified in the paper, the issue of ignoring Torelli's Op 6, must be rectified.

The purpose of this paper will be to rectify some of the errors and misconceptions about Giuseppe Torelli and his Opus 6, particularly with regard to his awareness of the ritornello form , his experiments with it, and his application of it. An examination of the Op. 6 Concerti Musicali reveals concerti movements employing various stages of ritornello form, from its incipient stages to its full-fledged employment.

It will be demonstrated that Torelli was quite aware of the functional usage of ritornello form for the construction of concerto movements in Op. 6, the only publication of his that was printed in Germany after an extended stay in Ansbach as Maestro del concerto of the court orchestra of the Margrave of Brandenburg- Ansbach.

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Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo Tomita