“Sonata sopra la Monica”

One of our favorite pieces in Dragonas and String Theory is called “Sonata sopra la Monica” arranged by Sarah Wallin Huff. It was originally written by Biagio Marini (c. 1597 – 1665), a Baroque violinist and composer who lived and worked in northern Italy. Born in Brescia in c. 1597, Marini served as violinist under Monteverdi at St Mark’s in Venice from 1615 – 18. He also worked as a court musician in Parma from 1621 – 3 and as a Choirmaster for S. Maria della Scala in Milan in 1649[1].

We owe much to the violin music of the Italian Baroque, for it was this style which first helped bring the violin to the forefront as a serious instrument. It was compositions such as “Sonata sopra” which were disseminated throughout Europe, giving the violin a permanent place in European and later world music.  Northern Italy is the birthplace of the violin, and Marini really knew how to write for the instrument! “Sonata sopra la Monica” is a flashy piece typical of the Italian Baroque. Written for two violins and basso continuo, this marvelous piece alternates between homophonic textures and sections which are more like a “competition” between the violins who answer each other with “one-ups”.  The piece welcomes the addition of improvised ornamentation in the forms of trills, runs, mezza di voce, and an over-the-top final cadence. Its opening statement returns frequently in between sections of contrasting texture. You can find the original score at the IMSPL Petrucci Music Library website:


“Sonata sopra la Monica” has been brought into our 21st century music ensembles by composer and violinist Sarah Wallin Huff. In the long tradition of the true composition process, Sarah has taken pre-existing material and transformed it into something new. “Sonata sopra” was the pop-music of the Baroque, full of life and vitality. It was the “in thing”. But to modern ears it sounds as if it were from a distant century, and it is! Now, with Sarah’s new composition, the “Sonata sopra” has a new life and still maintains it’s brilliant Italian flare. The new instrumentation includes electric bass and electric guitar, drum set, flugelhorn, and two violins. As Sarah and I are both trained as Baroque violinists, we are able to play the piece in a true Baroque style against the backdrop of a modern rock band creating a collision of time and space.
“Sonata sopra la Monica” is a permanent part of our Dragonas set, so anytime you come out and hear us, we’ll most likely play this awesome piece. We’re also in the process of creating an album, so be on the watch for recordings. This Friday, String Theory will be out on the Promenade in Santa Monica from 8 – 10 pm, so if you’re out that way, be sure to stop by and hear the quartet version. We like to call it “Sonata Santa Monica” when we’re out there 🙂 Cheers!

[1] “The Oxford Dictionary of Music”, revised edition, ed. Michael Kennedy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 549.


4 thoughts on ““Sonata sopra la Monica”

  1. Pingback: “Sonata Sopra” Feature | Sarah Wallin Huff

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoy the post. I have a contact page listed on the site. It’s the last page.

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