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L'arte del violino: Concerto No. 1 : Work information

Johann Sebastian Bach ( Music, Images,)
Pietro-Antonio Locatelli ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Mela Tenenbaum (Violin), Philharmonia Virtuosi, Richard Kapp (Conductor)

This work

Work name
L'arte del violino: Concerto No. 1
Work number
Op. 3 No. 1
D major
1733-01-01 02:01:00

This recording

Adam Abeshouse
Adam Abeshouse
Recording date
1993-01-01 02:00:00

Track listing


Locatelli's Op. 3 collection of 12 violin concertos, L'arte del violino (the art of the violin), contains some of the most technically demanding violin writing of the Baroque era. Published in 1733, they were dedicated to the Venetian patrician Girolamo Michiel Lini. Stylistically they are therefore closer to the Venetian Vivaldi than the recently deceased Roman master, Arcangelo Corelli.

Each concerto is a virtuosic exploration of the violin's abilities, probably intended for Locatelli himself to perform. Unusually, each of the fast movements contains a written-out cadenza that bears no resemblance to the previous material of the movement. Put together these form a separate set of 24 capriccii!

Each concerto is crammed full of technical wizardry, bel canto melody (particularly in the upper register), and harmonic twists. The middle slow movements are particularly interesting in this last regard. As a showcase for the violin, these works are a remarkable document of Locatelli's undoubted skill as a violinist-composer.

The Composers

Johann Sebastian Bach

One of the greatest composers in history, Johann Sebastian Bach (father of C.P.E, J. C. and W. F. Bach) was by far the most significant member of the Bach dynasty of musicians.

He outshone his forebears and contemporaries, but did not always receive the respect he deserved in his own lifetime. After a brief engagement as a violinist in the court of Weimar, Bach became organist at the Neukirche in Arnstadt. In June 1707 he moved to St. Blasius, Mühlhausen, and married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. In 1708 he was appointed court organist in Weimar where he composed most of his works for organ. In 1717, he was appointed Court Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold at Cöthen, but was refused permission to leave Weimar. The Duke only allowed Bach to go after holding him prisoner for nearly a month.

While at Weimar, Bach wrote his violin concertos and the six Brandenburg Concertos, as well as several suites, sonatas and keyboard works, including several, such as the Inventions and Book I of the 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-tempered Clavier). In 1720 Maria Barbara died, and the next year Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcke. Bach resigned the post in Weimar in 1723 to become cantor at St. Thomas’ School in Leipzig where he was responsible for music in the four main churches of the city. Here he wrote the Magnificat and the St. John and St. Matthew Passions, as well as a large quantity of other church music. In Leipzig he eventually took charge of the University “Collegium Musicum” and occupied himself with the collection and publication of many of his earlier compositions.

Over the years that followed, Bach’s interest in composing church music declined somewhat, and he took to writing more keyboard music and cantatas. As his eyesight began to fail, he underwent operations to try and correct the problem, and these may have weakened him in his old age. He died at age 65, having fathered a total of 20 children with his two wives. Despite widespread neglect for almost a century after his death, Bach is now regarded as one of the greatest of all composers and is still an inexhaustible source of inspiration for musicians. Bach’s compositions are catalogued by means of the prefix BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis) and a numbering system which is generally accepted for convenience of reference.

Related Composers: Pachelbel, Telemann, Handel, Couperin

Also influenced: Mendelssohn, Brahms, Stravinsky, Hindemith 

Pietro-Antonio Locatelli

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (September 3, 1695-March 30, 1764) was an Italian composer and violinist.

Locatelli was born on September 3, 1695 in Bergamo in Italy. A child prodigy on the violin, he was sent to study in Rome under the direction of Arcangelo Corelli. Little is known of his subsequent activities except that he finally settled in Amsterdam in 1729, where he died on March 30, 1764.

Locatelli was a master at the violin, said to have never played a wrong note -- except once, when his little finger slipped and got stuck in the bridge of his instrument.

Locatelli's works are mainly for the violin, an instrument on which he was a virtuoso. His most significant publication is probably the Arte del violino, opus 3, a collection of twelve concertos for the instrument which incorporate twenty four technically demanding capriccios (or caprices) - these could function as extended cadenzas, but are now usually extracted and played in isolation from the concertos.

Locatelli also wrote violin sonatas, a cello sonata, trio sonatas, concerti grossi and a set of flute sonatas (his opus 2). His early works show the influence of Arcangelo Corelli, while later pieces are closer to Antonio Vivaldi in style.

Locatelli may be best known to the modern public for a piece that does not actually exist. Master and Commander, the first novel in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series, begins with the famous line: 'The music-room in the governor's house at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli's C major quartet.' In fact, Locatelli is not known to have written any quartets.

The chamber piece used for this scene in the movie adaptation of Master and Commander was actually a quintet by Luigi Boccherini in C Major.