Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Not to be left out; indispensable. Used of an accompaniment that is an integral part of a piece.
  • n. An obbligato accompaniment.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In music, indispensable; so important that it cannot be omitted: especially used of accompaniments of independent value.
  • n. An accompaniment, whether for a solo or a concerted instrument, which is of independent importance; especially, an instrumental solo accompanying a vocal piece.
  • n. Also spelled obligato.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a part of the score that must be performed without change or omission
  • n. a persistent but subordinate motif

Etymologies

Italian, past participle of obbligare, to obligate, from Latin obligāre, to oblige; see oblige.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian obbligato. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Recitative comes in two main forms, semplice or secco, which comprises most of the dialogue, and accompagnato or obbligato, which is reserved for passages requiring particular dramatic emphasis, though fully spoken parts (parlante), were not uncommon, particularly in Mozart.

    'An assiduous frequenter of the Italian opera': Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and the opera buffa

  •  The wind itself answered in a kind of obbligato descant: The Witch is dead!

    Son of a Witch

  • Con gli attori ho avuto un ottimo rapporto ... ad eccezione del "giovane" scelto, obbligato e protetto dal figlio di Lombardo (un disastro)!

    Archive 2009-11-01

  • The outstanding soloist in the concerto was 26-year-old Alec Frank-Gemmill, playing a valveless instrument, as were the obbligato horn section, conjuring misty overtones and harmonics, mellow in mood as well as raw.

    LPO/Jurowski; Betrothal in a Monastery; Psappha ensemble; SCO/Ticciati – review

  • If you want to sample his singing, try "Ich habe genug" on his Bach cantatas CD, with its quietly anguished oboe obbligato.

    CBSO, Stephen Hough/Nelsons; Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Nott – review

  • And since it's rare that a celebrity performer takes on any of these challenges, I'd like to applaud violinist Hilary Hahn for her latest recording in which she joins forces with two of the world's most artistic singers in a dozen Bach arias with violin obbligato.

    Hilary Hahn: Violin And Voices Entwined In Bach

  • The national anthem at last week's home opener at Fenway Park — performed by a Boston Pops contingent — included the now de rigueur obbligato of a military jet flyover.

    Flams and drags

  • 'A gentle obbligato to the life and death struggle in Lewis's study?

    Twin Moons

  • Then they heard a gentleman sing with her and play a violin obbligato.

    Thomas Jefferson, Musician

  • His last name gave him some access, but the obbligato of his career, as he describes it: "A famous father means that in order to prove yourself you have to work three times harder than the guy who comes in off the street with a song to sing."

    The Other Frank Sinatra

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