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Giuseppe Torelli

Giuseppe Torelli was a Seventeenth Century violinist who is credited with publishing the first solo concertos in Western music. He is also known for the development of the concerto grosso (a concerto employing groups of soloists, as opposed to one soloist) and for composing a large number of works for trumpet and strings. Torelli's development of the form is clearly discernible in his published concertos. His first four sets of works, entitled variously sinfonias, sonatas and concertos, are chamber pieces (meaning one player to a part) and fairly consistent with other contemporary Italian composers. In his Opus 5, a set of six sinfonia and six concerti, Torelli published his first works clearly intended as orchestral. These pieces show some move toward a more concertate style, meaning the pitting of a small group against the full orchestra in alternating passages. In his Opus 6, there are two concerti out of the twelve that contain a number of virtuosic passages in the top violin part, and although not so marked, may have been intended for a soloist. If this were the case, these would have been the first solo concertos recorded in history. Whether or not that is the case, with his Opus 8 concerti (Opus 7 is lost), Torelli clearly indicated six of the works as solo concertos, the first officially published as such in the Western canon. This set of twelve concerti is generally considered one of the great masterpieces of Baroque music. As such, Torelli's influence on the development of the concerto form was quite important, and many of his fine works are still frequently performed.

Torelli spent most of his working life in Bologna, teaching, playing and conducting. For a brief period he lived in Germany, where he was director of the Brandenburg Court Orchestra in Ansbach, from 1698-99, and then in Vienna until 1700. Little detail is known of his life after this, other than he returned by 1702 to Bologna and was in great demand as a violinist, appearing frequently on the pay lists of numerous ensembles and academies. ~ Steven Coburn
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