The MCO understands the importance of music education, which is why we’ve developed a unique instructional resource for teachers and parents. Written by music educator Beryl Peters, Ph.D, MCO’s Listening Guides provide a clear and thorough analysis of the repertoire featured in our concerts. They offer a perfect primer to the great works of Bach, Beethoven, Britten and beyond for K-8 and 9-12 students — with engaging historical anecdotes and simple theory for younger students, and more complex information for older students. Indeed, just about anyone can learn a thing or two from our MTS Future First Listening Guides … so dig in!


Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) was both a brilliant violin virtuoso and a composer of the Baroque period (roughly 1600-1750). Soon after Geminiani moved from his home in Italy to London in 1714, he established himself as a leading violin player, composer and theorist in England. In 1731 Geminiani wrote the famous and still authoritative The Art of Violin Playing.

The Concerto Grosso Op. 5, No. 12 is an arrangement of a Violin Sonata written by Geminiani’s teacher, Arcangelo Corelli. Corelli published his highly popular twelve Sonatas for Violin and Continuo Op. 5 in 1700. Geminiani arranged all twelve sonatas as concerti grossi between 1726 and 1727. The last sonata is unique in that it is not a traditional sonata, but rather a set of variations on a widely known modal harmonic progression known as ‘La Follia di Spagna’ or ‘The Folly of Spain.’ This traditional harmonic progression can be traced to its use in 15th century dances of Spain and Portugal and has served as the source of inspiration for numerous composers.

Geminani’s arrangement of ‘La Follia’ produced a virtuosic and brilliant set of contrasting variations for concerto grosso.


Manitoba Music Curricular Connections

9-12 Making: The learner develops competencies for listening by listening critically with discrimination and purpose to:

  • situate and contextualize music (e.g., cultural/ ideological/historical/social contexts, music style, genre, tradition, or praxis, etc.)
  • support enjoyment and understanding of music
  • make and interpret music expressively and creatively
  • inform analysis, interpretation, judgement, appreciation, and evaluation

K-8 Understanding Music in Context: Demonstrate awareness of the intended meanings and/or purposes of music encountered in own performance and listening experiences

9-12 Connecting: The learner develops understandings about the significance of music by connecting music to diverse contexts.

The following questions can help you listen to this work:

1 Form in music refers to the musical architecture or the way the music is structured. The Concerto Grosso is a form of baroque music that contrasts a large ensemble called the ripieno with a smaller group of soloists known as the concertino. The word grosso is Italian for “big concert” and refers to the larger ripieno (or tutti or concerto grosso). Arcangelo Corelli, Geminiani’s teacher, was the first composer to use the term Concerto Grosso. Typically, he used the string section as the ripieno group, and featured two violins and a cello in the concertino group. Can you hear that the form of this Concerto Grosso is actually a set of variations on a theme? The original work features 23 variations on the La Follia theme and harmonic progression. The theme is presented at the outset of the work and is played adagio (slowly). You can hear the first variation as it is clearly contrasted to the theme by its faster, quick and lively Allegro tempo. The remaining variations are also easily distinguished by contrasting tempos. The highly contrasting and quick changing variations themselves feature different forms — can you hear a jig, a march, or an arpeggiated variation? Can you hear musical themes and motives traded between the small and large groups?

2 What Instruments can you hear in this Concerto Grosso by Geminiani? Can you hear the two contrasting groups of instruments in the concertino and ripieno? Can you hear the interplay between the solo violin and second violin as they play their virtuosic, technically difficult parts? Can you hear the conversations between the solo and tutti groups? Do you also hear a harpsichord that accompanies the groups? A harmony instrument such as a harpsichord, lute, or organ along with a bass melody instrument such as cello was known in Geminiani’s time as a continuo.

3 How does Geminiani use expressive elements (musical elements that express certain feelings or dispositions), varying tempos (the speed of the music), and Dynamics (the volume of the music) to create interest and excitement? What tempos (the speed of the music) can you identify in this work? Can you hear a slow tempo at the beginning of the concerto gross followed by a more energetic Allegro (fast and lively)? Can you hear other contrasting tempos throughout the variations?

Does the overture begin with loud or quiet dynamics? Is the music played at all the same volume (dynamics)? When do you hear music played loudly? Quietly? When do the dynamics change and what effect does that create? When does the music get louder (crescendo) or get quieter (decrescendo)? Can you hear an exciting crescendo in the last variation that leads to the finale of the work?

What is the overall mood of this concerto grosso and how does Geminiani achieve this mood? Do you hear the contrasts between the serious, stately mood at the beginning and the light-hearted, playful qualities of the following Allegro? How does Geminiani achieve the contrasts of mood heard throughout the Concerto Grosso?

Do you hear musical sounds that are short sounding (staccato) or very smooth sounding (legato)? Do you hear ornamented sounds such as trills that are typical of this period of music writing?

How does Geminiani use expressive elements to create character changes in this virtuosic and brilliant set of variations? Can you hear changes from solemn to animated to serene?

4 How is rhythm used in this concerto grosso? Do you hear sections that have a steady rhythm or beat that you could tap to? Did any particular rhythmic pattern stand out for you that you could listen for in the work? Can you identify the rhythmic pattern of the opening theme heard and varied throughout the concerto grosso? Can you hear that the opening theme makes use of a dotted note pattern (long then short sound)?

The opening theme is in ¾ time with three beats to a measure. Can you hear that the pulse or beat of the opening theme can be counted in threes? The opening bar is a quarter note followed by a dotted quarter note and eighth note. The second bar is made up of a half note followed by a quarter note. These patterns are featured in the opening theme and varied throughout the work.

5 How is melody or pitch used in this Concerto Grosso? Can you hear how the melody of the opening solemn theme is repeated, combined, and varied in different ways throughout the Concerto Grosso? The “La Follia” melody is known as a very catchy tune — can you hum this melody?

Do you hear the opening two repeated notes in the theme? Do you hear that the opening two repeated notes are followed by one note higher and then a skip down to a note that is also repeated? Do you hear that the opening two repeated notes are heard again but with a trill ornamentation?

Where do you melody notes repeated or moving up or down in scale like patterns throughout the concerto grosso? Can you hear when melody notes skip higher or lower in pitch?

6 Can you hear different kinds of texture in this work produced by the two different groups of instruments, concertino and ripieno? Where do you hear all the instruments playing together so that the sound is thick?

Where do you hear a thinner texture where just a few instruments playing or taking turns? Can you tell which instruments are playing?

7 What kinds of instrumental timbre do you hear? Timbre is the different qualities of sound that can be heard, for example the kinds of sounds that the string instruments make when they play together. When does the timbre of the music change because certain instruments are added or taken away? How is the timbre of the ripieno contrasted to the timbre of the instruments in the concertino?


Reflections and Responses (K-8 Valuing; 9-12 Responding)

Grades 9-12 Responding

The learner develops and uses critical reflection and thinking for music learning:

  • the learner generates initial reactions to music experiences
  • the learner critically listens to, observes, and describes music experiences
  • the learner analyzes and interprets music experiences
  • the learner constructs meanings about music experiences

Grades K-8 Valuing

Students analyze, reflect on, and construct meaning in response to their own and others’ music:

  • students analyze their own and others
  • musical excerpts, works, and performances
  • students form personal responses to and construct meaning from their own and others’ music

1 What is your immediate response to this music? Does this music sound like any other music you have heard before? What does this music make you think of?

2 What feelings or moods did it seem that Geminiani was trying to communicate to his audience in this work? What music elements seemed to be important to him?

3 What adjectives might describe the mood that you felt when listening to this work? Can you identify what musical elements may have created that mood for you? When did the mood change and why?

4What musical elements did you enjoy or find interesting? What feelings were you left with at the end of the concerto grosso?

5 Were there parts of the work that you did not enjoy? Why or why not? Can you identify which music elements made you enjoy or not enjoy the music?

6Different people often have different responses to the same music. Ask others who heard the same music about their response to Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso in D Minor.

7 Is there other music by Geminiani that you could listen to and compare to the sounds and experience of this Concerto Grosso? How does this work compare to the sounds and experience of listening to the original Violin Sonata in D minor by Corelli? Could you listen to other Baroque concerto grossi or Baroque composers?