Friday, 27 February 2015


“The violinist is that peculiarly human phenomenon distilled to a rare potency - half tiger, half poet.” - Yehudi Menuhin

Pietro Antonio Locatelli (born 3 September 1695 in Bergamo; died 30 March 1764 in Amsterdam) was an Italian Baroque composer and violinist. When Locatelli went to Amsterdam in 1729, he discovered the centre of European music publishing. He published his Opp. 2–6, 8 and 9 and a new edition of Op. 1 in Amsterdam, and Op. 7 in the neighbouring city of Leiden. He took great care to achieve flawless editions. Locatelli gave the well-arranged works to different publishers, and he edited and sold the less-arranged works.

Not only Op. 1 was composed in his early years, but also Op. 3 and parts of Op. 2 and 4 to 8. Locatelli obtained a privilege, which protected Opp. 1–8 (which were also issued in Leiden, in Holland and in West Friesland) from unauthorised reprints and prevented the import of reprints. In his application for the privilege he referred to himself as an “Italian music master living in Amsterdam”. As a consequence of the privilege, Locatelli had to give free copies to the Leiden university library; thus, first prints have been preserved up to the present. An exception was Op. 9, which was published after the expiry of the legal protection.

Locatelli's works can be divided into three categories: Works for his own performances as a virtuoso; representative works for larger ensembles; chamber music and small works arranged for small ensembles. Examples of virtuoso works are the Violin Concertos Op. 3 with their associated Capricci, and the Violin Sonata Op. 6 with one Capriccio. Both works, and especially Op. 3, were standards for virtuosos and made him famous throughout Europe. The Capricci were important study and exercise pieces but were not intended for public performance.

It was probably through French violin schools that musicians such as Niccolò Paganini discovered Locatelli’s music. Paganini’s Capriccio Op. 1, Nr. 1 is similar to Locatelli’s Capriccio Nr. 7. Locatelli’s virtuosity is reflected in the Capricci through the use of high registers, double stopping, chords and arpeggios with wide fingering and overextension of the left hand, harmonics, trills in two-part passages (Trillo del Diavolo), double trills, varied bow types and variable bowings.

Locatelli’s Concerti Op. 1, Op. 7 and those from Op. 4 are modelled on Corelli’s Twelve concerti grossi, Op. 6. The Introduttioni teatrali Op. 4 follow the format of the Neapolitan opera sinfonia. The Flute Sonatas, Op. 2, the Trio Sonatas, Op. 5, the Violin Sonatas and the Trio Sonatas, Op. 8 were popular in Amsterdam, favouring the city’s overall galant image matched with contemporary popular music.

Here are the Op. 1 (1721) XII Concerti grossi à Quatro e à Cinque (12 concerti grossi in F, C minor, B flat, E minor, D, C minor, F, F minor, D, C, C minor, G minor). They are played by the Freiburger Barockorchester and Dr Gottfried von der Goltz. They are amazing works full of contrasting emotions, gorgeous harmonies and amazing melodies.


  1. PS: The fresco in the illustration is a detail of Melozzo da Forlì (c 1438-1494) "Angel Playing the Violin".