Word of the Month: Concerti

David Zapatka

The Fountain Hills Chamber Players, a chamber music ensemble consisting normally of 10 or fewer musicians, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Having begun as a community ensemble performing for friends in living rooms, they transitioned to a volunteer group of musicians performing a series of concerts for public consumption. They are now a professionally curated chamber music group presenting high-caliber musicians in concerts around the valley. Fellow pickleball player Joey Kluesner is the conductor and resident bassoonist. While reading his program at a recent Fountain Hills performance, I read the word “concerti” and wondered if this was the preferred plural form of concerto instead of concertos. I also wondered if this word was pronounced with a long “i” or a long “e” sound at the end. The words “octopus” and “locus” are pluralized into “octopi” (or alternately octopuses) and “loci,” both ending in long “i” sounds. However, the plural of pianissimo, a passage played softly, and bacillus, a bacterium, are pianissimi and bacilli, both ending in long “e” sounds. This wondering led me to our word of the month.

Concerti (or the anglicized pronunciation – concertos), noun, kən-ˈcher-tē plural of concerto: musical compositions for one or more soloists and orchestra with three contrasting movements; violin concerti. Etymology – appears to have originated form the conjunction of the two Latin words conserere, meaning to tie, to join or to weave and certamen, meaning a competition or fight. The thought is these two parts of a concerto, the soloist and the orchestra, alternate episodes of opposition, cooperation and independence in the creation of the flow of the music. First known use: 1710. Johann Sebastian Bach used the word “concerto” for what many of us today call cantatas. These cantatas consisted of “sacred” works for voices and orchestra. In recent centuries, a concerto is a piece generally composed in three parts or movements featuring one solo instrument such as a violin, cello or bassoon and is accompanied by an orchestra.

Recognizable composers of Baroque concerti include Tommaso Albinoni, Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Pietro Locatelli, Giuseppe Tartini, Francesco Geminiani and Johann Joachim Quantz. These concerti were intended as compositions typical of the Italian style, and these composers were studying how to compose in the Italian fashion. During the Baroque period, before the invention of the piano, keyboard concerti were relatively rare with the exception of the organ and some harpsichord concerti. Cello concerti have been written since the Baroque era. Works from that period by Antonio Vivaldi (his very famous and most recognizable work, Four Seasons) and Giuseppe Tartini are still part of the standard repertoire today.

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