The Italian Christmas Concerto: Music of Corelli, Vivaldi, and Locatelli

In one of Italy’s most enduring Christmas traditions, shepherds from the mountains enter towns to perform carols on the piffero (a reed instrument similar to the oboe) and the zampogna (a kind of bagpipe). The impromptu concerts recall legends in which shepherds in Bethlehem celebrated the birth of Jesus through the music of their pipes.

These rustic sounds enter the Baroque Christmas concerto, a form of concerto grosso popularized by numerous composers including Corelli, Vivaldi, Locatelli, Giuseppe Torelli, and Francesco Manfredini. In these works, gentle pastorale movements, set in the lilting rhythm of the siciliano, evoke the shepherd’s bagpipe, and the larger mystery and drama of the nativity. The concerto grosso, developed by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), features a musical dialogue between a small group of instruments (the concertino) and the full ensemble (the ripieno).

Corelli: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8

Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8, Fatto per la note di natale (“written for Christmas Eve”) was probably first performed in 1690. Its six brief movements alternate between fast and slow, concluding with a Largo pastorale. This performance features the Netherlands-based ensemble, Musica Amphion, led by Pieter-Jan Belder:

Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings, “Il Riposo,” RV 270a

Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto, RV 270a bears the subtitle, Il riposo – Per il Santissimo Natale (“Restfor the Most Holy Christmas”). Here is a recording by violinist Bojan Čičić and the Illyria Consort:

Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op. 1, No. 8 (Pastorale ad libitum)

A student of Corelli, the violinist-composer Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764) was born in Bergamo and settled in Amsterdam. His Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op. 1, No. 8 concludes with this beautiful Pastorale ad libitum. This recording features Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Concerto Copenhagen:


  • Corelli: 12 Concerto grossi, Op. 6, No. 8, Pieter-Jan Belder, Musica Amphion Amazon
  • Vivaldi: Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings, “Il Riposo,” RV 270a, Bojan Čičić, Illyria Consort Delphianrecords
  • Locatelli: Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op. 1, No. 8, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Concerto Copenhagen Naxos 

Featured Image: Venice’s Basilica of St. Mark

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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