The Book of Musical Knowledge: The History, Technique, and Appreciation of Music, Together with Lives of the Great Composers, for Music-Lovers, Students and Teachers

By Arthur Elson | Go to book overview

LVI
VIOLINISTS AND VIOLIN MUSIC

THE monodic, or harmonic, style made its appearance in opera by about A.D. 1600. If melody had not been formally recognized in opera, it would have forced itself to notice in violin music. Indeed, the violin works began to show themselves before the Florentines strove for melodic opera. Gasparo da Salo and the first Amati had perfected the violin in the last half of the sixteenth century. It was essentially a solo instrument, and composers naturally began to write music for it. Giovanni Gabrieli composed the earliest violin pieces that are now known.

About 1626, Carlo Farina published five sets of chamber works, containing little tone-pictures. Uccellini, Neri, and Legrenzi improved the . repertoire, the latter writing chamber-sonatas. The chamber-sonata was a dance-suite, in which stately sarabands and allemandes alternated with the more rapid gavottes and gigues. Somewhat in contrast was the church sonata, which grew to consist of a prelude (often fugato), an allegro, a slow movement, and a brilliant finale. The violist Giovanni Vitali raised the standard still more, while his son Tommaso became a famous violinist, and composed striking sonatas for various combinations.

The first really great violinist, however, was Arcangelo Corelli. Before 1685 he won immense renown as player, composer, and teacher. His few known works show real feeling, and an accurate comprehension of his instrument. He was an artist of marked expressive power.

It is said that the German violinist Strungk once visited Corelli to hear him play. When the Italian had finished, he politely asked his guest to perform in turn. Strungk hesitated, and then played a short piece in a careless manner, which caused Corelli to give him some friendly advice and say that he might become a good player in time. This was evidently what Strungk had planned for. He then proceeded to astonish his host by putting the strings out of tune,

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