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Italian Concertos with Violoncello Piccolo

Elinor Frey, violoncello piccolo solo

Rosa Barocca conducted by Claude Lapalme

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at 7:30 pm
Location: Christ Church, 3602 8 St SW  map

Our collective understanding of the cello has come to see the instrument as a family of instruments without one standard tuning or playing style. In fact, each generation can influence and change the instrument’s roles and repertoires. This program, a collaboration between cellist Elinor Frey and Rosa Barocca, reflects upon and contributes to current research on the Baroque cello among both performers and musicologists and is dedicated to concertos for the violoncello piccolo. As the name implies, this is a smaller version of the cello, usually with five strings (the extra string is higher) tuned C-G-D-A-E, or an even-smaller four-string version, tuned G-D-A-E. The smaller sizes of these cello and their varied tuning allows the cellist to play virtuosic music that generally sits at a higher range. 


By bringing four Italian cello concertos together, those by Vivaldi, Leo, Sammartini, and Tartini, we explore the unique and captivating sound world of the violoncello piccolo during a time when composers wrote both “galant” melodies while still enjoying rich harmonies and expressive counterpoint. For the concertos by Antonio Vivaldi (G Major, RV 414) and  Leonardo Leo (D Major), Frey uses a five-string instrument commissioned in 2012 from Canadian luthier, Francis Beaulieu. The second type of violoncello piccolo in the program is an original made in Germany in 1770. As it has the same tuning as the violin, but an octave lower, it is the instrument intended for G.B. Sammartini’s C Major concerto, the manuscript of which states that the solo part is to be played by “violin OR violoncello piccolo.” This four-string instrument also perfectly suits the Tartini concerto in A minor.

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