/rit'euhr nel"oh/; It. /rddee'tawrdd nel"law/, n., pl. ritornellos, ritornelli /-lee/. Music.1. an orchestral interlude between arias, scenes, or acts in 17th-century opera.2. a tutti section in a concerto grosso, aria, etc.[1665-75; < It, dim. of ritorno RETURN]
* * *▪ musicItalian“return”also spelled ritornelle , or ritornel , plural ritornelli, ritorellos, ritornelles, or ritornelsa recurrent musical section that alternates with different episodes of contrasting material. The repetition can be exact or varied to a greater or lesser extent. In the concerto grosso the full orchestra (tutti) has the ritornello; the solo group (concertino) has the contrasting episodes.In the Middle Ages, the term ritornello referred to the last two lines of a madrigal, as well as to a verse form having three lines, with the first and third rhyming. Its function in 17th-century operas and strophic (stanzaic) songs as an instrumental introduction, interlude, or conclusion derives from the popular practice of round-dances reflected already in the 13th- and 14th-century French rondeau (“little circle”). In the late 18th- and early 19th-century rondo (Italianized form), the ritornello often featured a catchy tune as a sort of refrain alternating with more elaborate instrumental excursions.
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