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The violin in the 17th century

Florence

THE 17TH CENTURY was a time of brilliant development for the violin. It was a period when it finally replaced its rival, the viol, as the foremost stringed instrument, and in which the music written for it began to really establish its identity.

At the beginning of the century solo violin music was being written which was clearly experimenting with what the violin could do.

In Capriccio stravagante by the Italian composer Carlo Farina (c1600-1640) one of the many things the violin is made to play is an imitation of the sound of cats and dogs fighting. Here the violin is imitating the flute.

By the end of the century Italian composers were leading the world in showing both the expressive and the virtuosic music the violin could play.

Here's an example of the virtuoso violin music of the day, written by the Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713). Corelli was one of the most famous violini-players of his time, and all of his works use the violin.

This example shows the expressive writing for the violin of the time. It's by the Bolognese composer Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692), who was one the leading violin-players in Italy before Corelli.

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