The mandolin provides a history that extends far beyond the bluegrass mandolin that is heard today. Yet, that history has shaped the sound of the mandolin. Its diversity extend from classical, to jazz, to bluegrass to a new grass or dawg grass style heard being played in modern times. In order to understand how the mandolin established itself into a bluegrass band, we first must go back many centuries to the European continent.
So who were some of the pioneers who shaped this sound?
Some of the earliest mandolin performances date to the 15th through the 18th centuries, where the greatest composers incorporated mandolin into their orchestral arrangements. Vivaldi, utlized the milanese mandolin in his Oratorio Juditha triumphans, while Handel's incorporated the same in his selection "Alexander Balus".1 Mozart, on the other hand, used the neapolitan mandolin in the famous serenade of Don Giovanni, as did Beethoven in his sonatas2
The mandolin has been used by other composers as well, including Paisiello, Handel, Mahler, Schoenberg, Webern, and Hummel, to name just a few. Its use extends well into modern orchestral arrangements.
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1 Oxford Companion to Musical Instrument, Baines, Anthony, Oxford University Press, p 205.
2 Ibid, p205