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What Does "Ripieno" Mean?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2014
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In music, ripieno has several meanings. It can be used to tell musicians how to play a passage, or it can describe a musical instrument. When it appears on music notation, it generally indicates that all of a group play the indicated passage. When the word ripieno is used to describe an organ, it indicates a pipe organ that has its stop arranged in a particular way. It can also be used to describe a pyramid-shaped group of organ pipes.

On an organ, the word stop can be used to refer to two things. It can indicate the mechanism that stops air from moving through the pipes on an organ, or it can be used to indicate the whole of the group of pipes that make up the sounding mechanism of a pipe organ. When describing a ripieno organ, the stop arrangement refers to the group of flue pipes on the organ. A ripieno organ's pipes are arranged differently than the pipes in other types of organs.

Ripieno organs were originally made in Italy starting in the 16th century. Unusual features on this type of organ include a lowest note of F, while other types of organs more typically begin on C. It generally contains flue stops, also known as reed stops, rather than compound stops.

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When it appears on music, the word ripieno tells the musicians in a group that they must all play the part at once. This is a fairly old musical term, and it is more commonly replaced by the word tutti. When a ripieno is indicated in a piece with soloists, it means that everyone but the soloists should play. In this type of group, the performing soloists are seated in a separate group from the general orchestra, and they do not play on the ripieno, or tutti, parts. This term is also used in choir music.

When all of the musicians are supposed to play at once, the conductor generally performs hand signals that tell the group that they are all to play. Though the technique differs depending on the style and flair of the conductor, a ripieno part is generally indicated by arms outstretched wide, as if to encompass the group, as his hands outline the tempo of the music. When the music focuses on a certain group or soloist rather than the entire ensemble, the conductor would narrow his arms and conduct in the direction of the active sections of the group to indicate that they were to play in that passage.

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