obbligato

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obbligato

(ŏbləgä`tō) [Ital.,=obligatory], in music, originally a term by which a composer indicated that a certain part was indispensable to the music. Obbligato was thus the direct opposite to ad libitum [Lat.,=at will], which indicated that the part so marked was unessential and might be omitted. Misunderstanding of the term obbligato, however, resulted in a reversal of its meaning; when a violin part, for example, is added to a song it is called a violin obbligato, whereas it may be a superfluous ornament for which ad libitum would be a more precise direction.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Obbligato

 

an instrumental part in a musical work that must not be omitted; it is obligatory that it be performed. Obbligato parts can be of varying importance—ranging from those that are significant but still form part of the accompaniment to parts that share equal significance with the featured solo part. In 17th- and 18th-century operas, oratorios, and cantatas (for example, in Bach’s Mass in B Minor) one often encounters arias, and sometimes even duets, with the participation of an obbligato instrument (or several instruments) and the orchestra. The opposite of obbligato is ad libitum (“at will”).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

obbligato

, obligato Music
1. not to be omitted in performance
2. an essential part in a score
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Daca am fi complet rationali, am fi obligati sa consideram predarea o povara, un timp pierdut pentru cercetarea si ...
Molmenti cites the considerations with which the decree began: "Conviene nel proprio sostenimento de la publica grandezza prefiggere anco quegli ordini, che niente offuscando il lustro e il decoro ne le cerimonie de le Dogaresse sian per togliere l'obbligatione d'eccessivi dispendii, aggravanti in particolare l'Arti, e i popoli ad altri pesi obligati." The decision states: "in ogni tempo a venire sia prohibito il farsi l'incoronatione de le Dogaresse come attione non necessaria et poco aggiustata a la moderation del Governo" (319-20).
CONCERTI GROSSI / CON / Due Violini, Violoncello, e Viola di Concertino / obligati e due altri Violini, e Basso di / Concerto grosso ad arbitrio / il IV.
Certainly the individual instrumental obligati (as Britten misspells the word) are difficult, but I was disappointed not to hear well-loved players tackling the challenge.