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[rit-er-nel-oh; Italian ree-tawr-nel-law] /ˌrɪt ərˈnɛl oʊ; Italian ˌri tɔrˈnɛl lɔ/
noun, plural ritornellos, ritornelli
[rit-er-nel-ee; Italian ree-tawr-nel-lee] /ˌrɪt ərˈnɛl i; Italian ˌri tɔrˈnɛl li/ (Show IPA).
an orchestral interlude between arias, scenes, or acts in 17th-century opera.
a tutti section in a concerto grosso, aria, etc.
1665-75; < Italian, diminutive of ritorno return Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for ritornello
  • When the suite is scored with soloists, the fast section is generally in ritornello form.
British Dictionary definitions for ritornello


noun (music) (pl) -los, -li (-liː)
an orchestral passage between verses of an aria or song
a ripieno passage in a concerto grosso
Word Origin
C17: from Italian, literally: a little return, from ritorno a return
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Encyclopedia Article for ritornello


a 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.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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