VIIID: The Solo and Trio Sonata in the Italian Settecento

The sonata and suite for one or two instruments and bass retained the attention of composers throughout the baroque period and sometime afterwards. The sonata spread quickly to instruments other than the strings, particularly the flute, oboe, solo organ, and solo harpsichord.

Among the composers of the late Bologna school other than Corelli , thechamber works of dall'Abaco , Albinoni , and Bonporti were highly esteemed by Bach, as his borrowings and manuscript copies show. Four of Bonporti's valuable Invenzioni (1712) for violin and continuo exist in Bach's handwriting--he copied them without adding the author's name--and have been included in the Bach Gesellschaft edition as genuine works. The error is easily understandable since they anticipate the characteristic melodic turns and the profuse harmonies of Bach's style. Bonporti's dignified and solid workmanship strongly contrasts with the purely melodic gift of Ariosti. His Lezioni for the viola d'amore inaugurated the special literature for this instrument which later became a favorite in eighteenth-century chamber music. The lessons were written in a peculiar tablature notation that also enabled the violinist to play the instrument without knowledge of the viola d'amore fingering.

Among the sonatas most directly influenced by Corelli are those of Henry Purcell , who partly modeled his also on those of another Roman, Lelio Colista; Georg Muffat ; and Georg Frideric Handel. Other composers show strongly divergent tendencies, among them particularly Heinrich Biber and Dietrich Buxtehude . Another group adjusted the Corelli model to the currents of late baroque music, among the most important being Tommaso Albinoni , Antonio Vivaldi , and Francesco Maria Veracini . Their works are characterized by an expansion and roundedness of form, an intensification of fugal writing in the allegros balanced by an increasing homophony in other movements, and many written-out embellishments formerly left to the player.

Several Frenchmen, notably François Couperin and Jean-Marie Leclair , combined the Corelli style with a native flair for simple melody, ever nourished by the air de dance and tastefully laced with trills and turns. The supreme eclectic was Johann Sebastian Bach), who in his many sonatas drew together the techniques of an international host of predecessors and contemporaries. In his sonatas and suites for unaccompanied violin and cello, the familiar and aging categories burn with a twilight glow as every difficulty of counterpoint and mechanical limitation of the instruments is pushed aside. Curiously Bach neglected the true trio-sonata, of which the only significant authentic example is that of the Musical Offering for transverse flute, violin, and bass.

The last phase of baroque chamber music was characterized by a conspicuous shift of emphasis from the trio sonata to the solo sonata which was also to remain the leading form in the classic period; The generation after Corelli comprised Geminiani , Locatelli , Meneghetti, Somis (a pupil of Corelli), Tessarini (a pupil of Vivaldi), and Francesco Veracini , the nephew of Antonio. Of these the first was the most conservative, and the last the most important violinist.

The Composers
Supplemental Materials Poetry and Prose

Return to:   The Research Periods