Largo (It.: ‘large’, ‘broad’)
- David Fallows
(It.: ‘large’, ‘broad’)
A tempo mark, considered by many theorists of the 18th century, particularly in France, to be the slowest of all: Rousseau (1768) listed it as the slowest of his five main degrees of movement in music, and many other writers agreed with him; but there is no overall consistency of opinion among earlier writers about its relation to such designations as adagio, lento and grave. Early Italian writers and 19th-century usage seem to have been more consistent in placing it somewhere between adagio and andante: it was surely in this sense that Bach had used it for the opening fugue of his B minor Mass and the final fugue in book 1 of the ‘48’; and Vivaldi had used the direction largo ma più tosto andante (p211/rv227).
Largo appeared relatively often in music from the beginning of the 17th century, though normally to indicate a contrast in tempo within a faster movement. Caccini (...