The Virtuoso’s Idiom: Spectacularity and the Seventeenth Century Violin Sonata

In this dissertation, I study the development of the violinist’s idiom through the solo violin sonata in Italy and Austria in the Seventeenth Century. In examining this development, I also study the professional lives of five composer/violinists: Giovanni Battista Fontana, Biagio Marini, Giuseppe Colombi, Heinrich Biber and Arcangelo Corelli. The techniques and strategies I use in this dissertation include biographical, stylistic, and social-historical research, as well as gestural and corporeal analysis of musical scores. I show how these violinists slowly increased their social and professional prestige, by using their virtuosity – and the works they wrote for themselves – to inspire meraviglia (marvel) and diletto (delight) in their audiences, which in turn resulted in a recognition of the virtuoso’s ingegno (ingeniousness). I also examine how the virtuoso violinist disseminated his ingegno through the medium of print, and in the case of Colombi, manuscript. In so doing, I analyze the patron-performer relationships that enabled these collections to come into existence, and the different kinds of display at work in this medium. Each relationship was formed through separate court cultures and aesthetics, and for that, I situate each virtuoso in the social and artistic hierarchies in which these composers predominantly worked: Padua, Neuberg, Modena, Salzburg, and finally to Rome. Through this dissertation we can better understand the first flowering of the virtuosic idiom that would define the violin’s musical repertory into the Eighteenth Century and beyond.