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Chapter 7
The Early Baroque
The Rise of
Instrumental Music
Key Terms
Stylized dances
The Rise of Instrumental Music
Vocal music was Renaissance ideal—
instrumental music lagged behind
Though it didn’t catch up with opera,
instrumental music became much more
important in Baroque era
Many new instrumental genres created
Three sources of inspiration for
instrumental composers
• Dance, virtuosity, & vocal music
Dance had always been popular
Ballet was an integral part of new genres
such as opera, especially in France
Dances from popular operas were
compiled in dance suites for orchestra
Composers also wrote dances (often
stylized) & suites for lute, harpsichord, &
chamber ensembles
The rhythms of favorite dances came to
permeate all genres, even church music
Virtuoso instrumentalists always existed
Due to low status of instrumental music:
• They improvised their music (played by ear)
• Their music was rarely written down
In late Renaissance and early Baroque,
composers began to write it down
Written works did not capture complexity
of virtuoso improvisation
Performers came to use written music as a
guide for (often ornate) improvisation
Vocal Music
Baroque vocal music abandoned vocal
ensemble music in favor of solo singers
Imitative polyphony of older motets &
madrigals moved to instrumental medium
Imitative instrumental genres were written
mostly for keyboard (organ & harpsichord)
Often associated with church music
Fugue is the most famous genre to emerge
from these practices
Vocal Music (2)
Vocal music also provided a large body of
well-known tunes, sacred and secular
Instrumental performers would often
improvise on these tunes
Instrumental composers began to write
sets of variations on these tunes
Girolamo Frescobaldi
Leading organ virtuoso of early Baroque
Worked in Florence & Rome (at St. Peter’s)
Famous performer, composer, & teacher
Known for expressiveness & extravagance
of his improvising & his compositions
His favored genres included:
• Toccatas, canzonas, stylized dances & suites,
and sets of variations on vocal melodies
St Peter’s in Rome
Some Instrumental Works
• Free-form pieces that capture the spirit of
improvised performances
• Rigorously organized works emphasizing
imitative texture–ancestor of the fugue
Stylized dances—
• Short binary form works, often in suites
Sets of variations
• Based on vocal melodies or harmonic patterns
Frescobaldi, Suite (1a)
• An imitative keyboard work modeled after
Renaissance chanson.
• First section uses a single motive imitatively
Frescobaldi, Suite (1b)
Canzona (cont.)—
The second, contrasting section introduces a new
motive for imitation
Sections tend to end with strong cadences
Frescobaldi, Suite (2)
Balletto and Corrente—
• Pairing slower and faster dances was a
common practice (cf. pavane & galliard)
• Both dances use binary form, homophonic
texture, same key, & very similar bass lines
• In other respects the dances differ–good
examples of “inner” vs. “outer” form
• Balletto uses duple meter, slow tempo
• Corrente uses triple meter, faster tempo
Frescobaldi, Suite (3a)
• A set of variations on a brief series of chords
(and their accompanying bass line)
• Originated in Spain as an improvised bridge
between verses of a song
• Frescobaldi may have been the first to turn it
into a variation form
• Similar to ground bass works, but the bass line
is repeated less strictly
Frescobaldi, Suite (3b)
Frescobaldi’s Passacaglia
• Based on a four-measure harmonic pattern that
ends (inconclusively) on the dominant
• At times he inverts or omits the ground bass
• Eighteen variations over this simple pattern
• Frescobaldi creates endless variety through
changing rhythms and chromaticism
• In a surprise move, the last five variations are
more sober, switching to minor mode