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Tomaso Antonio Vitali Biography

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Tomaso Antonio Vitali (1663-1745): Italian composer and violinist. He is well-known for his Chaconne.

The Vitali Chaconne has been subject to more misunderstandings, misprints and editorial maulings than almost any other piece in the baroque repertoire. For a start, the title is a modern invention. The original manuscript, now in Dresden, is headed Parte, which roughly means ‘variations’. To the composer’s name two extra letters were added later: Tomaso Vitalino. These are usually explained away as being intended to distinguish Tomaso, the ‘little Vitali’, from his more famous father Giovanni Battista, although they could equally imply that the piece is written in the Vitali style rather than actually by one of the family. One striking element of that style is the way this Chaconne changes key wildly, reaching the far-flung territories of B flat and D sharp minors. Despite its uncertain provenance, the piece has been ever popular amongst violinists. For example, Heifetz chose it to open his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1917.
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