Giovanni Battista Vitali


Born: February 18, 1632 Died: October 12, 1692
Vitali was a singer and player of the predecessor to the violoncello, the violincino. He was a student of Cazzati and served as a performer and master of the choir at St. Petronio, Bologna, (1658) master of the choir at St. Rosario (1673) and at the Este court in Modena as the vice-choir master and full choir master in 1684. Vocal music was not his forte; however, Vitali composed two collections including vesper psalms, solo hymns with instrumental returns, ten cantatas both sacred and secular -- the secular cantatas contended with specific ethical situations -- and oratorios based on Old Testament texts. The best that can be said of these works were that they were characterized by conventionality. In Vitali's instrumental works he experimented with the sonata da camera and the sonata da chiesa. He would relate different movements with dance rhythms which were employed in all movements of the sonata de chiesa, and unify the movements with identical keys. He also employed the use of shortened thematic material and useful harmonies produced by common sequences in the bass. Of his twelve instrumental collections most were arranged in two to six movements. Vitali also employed counterpoint to a greater extent than had previously been done and was the first to use French dances like the bouree and the minuet in the sonatas. Through these various methods of experimentation and innovation, Vitali was instrumental in bringing about the advent of the Baroque ensemble.

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