In this section I will outline the origins of the soloistic Concerto and the role of Giuseppe Torelli in the process of establishing this musical form.



The meaning of the word concerto has been a debated issue already since the end of the XVI century. Its etymology in fact is unclear, and the different interpretation that one can choose may influence a different orientation when looking at the form.

As Ercole Bottrigari writes in his Dialogue Il Desiderio, overo de' concerti di varii strumenti musicali (Venice, 1594), there are two possible etymologies for the word concerto. According to the first one it would come from the Latin verb concertare (to fight, to compete); the second option – al modo de' fiorentini – refers to the way in which this word was commonly spelled and pronounced in Florence and Tuscany: consèrto. In this way, it could be considered as the past participle of the Latin verb consèrere (to interlace, to tie up) and therefore with an opposite meaning from the previous one. Bottrigari takes the first possibility as his choice, preferring the sense that the concerto results as a struggle between the instrumental group and the vocal parts participating. And the same explanation is given by Michael Praetorius in his Syntagma Musicum (Wolfenbüttel, 1619), as he intends this word as a mutual skirmish (“mit einander scharmützeln”).

This first option, more commonly accepted in the early baroque period, refers to the meaning of the verb concertare as it was used in the Roman-Latin authors. However, many scholars nowadays have brought to consideration the fact that already from the VI century, in Church-Latin and in the vulgar Italian, the term concerto has been used in the sense of unity, of full alliance (e. g. “concertantes in evangelicae fidei” which translated in english is: gathered in evangelical faith).


For the purposes of this research, it is not essential to take side in one party or the other, because, in fact, the activity of the pioneers of the concerto genre in the late XVII century and the whole history of music that followed proved how these two opposite meanings can coexist, bringing to unity divergent elements.

Chapter 2 - The birth of the violin concerto

Etymological notes