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The Concerto Grosso reached its apogee with Handel, Corelli and Bach during the middle baroque era, but modern scholarship has attributed the foundation of the genre to the Italian composers’ Alessandro Stradella and Giuseppe Torelli: however the title of the form was not used until Arcangelo Corelli published his Op.6 set of 12 Concerti Grossi, but Stradella clearly uses the format earlier in one of his Sonate de viole; the direct influence comes as no surprise however, as the two composers knew each other and were au fait with each others work.
The format utilized by the baroque masters involved juxtaposition in which a group of several solo instruments, with the preclusion of a single solo voice, were employed against a full or string orchestra. This solo ensemble was named the “concertino obligato” or “ concertino” for short: and the accompanying musicians were the “ripieno” or filling-in group or the “Concerto Grosso” from which the form takes its name. The solo instruments do not have bravura passages; such as occur in concertos of a later date. Corelli’s concertino consisted of two violins and a cello, with a string orchestra serving as ripieno, both accompanied by a basso continuo: Handel on the other hand dispensed with the basso continuo but expanded the ripieno to include wind instruments. The works encompassed any number of movements that bore an analogy to the Eighteenth Century Overture and Suite and included Largos, Allegros, Andantes, Minuets, Gavottes and Gigues. Arcangelo Corelli and Giuseppe Torelli in about 1700 being committed to the “solo” concerto adopted a three-movement pattern of fast slow fast.
With the development of Sonata form the Solo Concerto and the Sinfonia Concertante of Mozart’s time superseded the concerto grosso idiom and new examples of the form did not appear for more than a century: after 200 years it emerged again and was used with success as one of the neo-classic forms of the 20th Century. Ernest Bloch has written a Concerto Grosso, as has also Arnold Schönberg. More recently Albert Stoessel has contributed a contemporary interpretation of the Eighteenth Century form.
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Reviews of MANNING, G -Concerto Grosso No.1 Op. 38 in g minor for String Orchestra
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