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8.554770-71 - World of Early Music
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The World of Early Music

Recent years have brought a vast expansion in our understanding and knowledge of music of earlier periods. There has been investigation into the repertoire and techniques of other ages, coupled with a movement that has favoured the use of instruments and ways of playing them that are more or less authentic. Even where surviving historical instruments or modern reproductions of them are not used, the styles of performance have been influenced. Above all the myth of unending progress has been abandoned in favour of an evaluation of each period and type of music on its own terms. Early Music, in fact, has become a flourishing industry, stimulated by the remarkable growth in the production and distribution of records.

For our present purposes we limit the term Early Music to cover a period ranging from plainchant to the end of the seventeenth century. The period that followed, the age of Bach and Handel and the great synthesis of the Late Baroque, is generally more familiar to listeners and is, in any case, another story.

CD I

Medieval and Renaissance Music

The Middle Ages

Historians warn against the fault of periodisation. Human activities can never be packaged so neatly and musical styles inevitably overlap. The Middle Ages, a concept coined by optimists of the sixteenth century to disparage what had gone before, may be assumed to span the period from the rise of Christianity to the so-called Renaissance, a term that will need further definition. Musically such a long period, a millennium in itself, has been subjected to further subdivisions. At least in the earlier years it is possible to regard Western Europe as a cultural entity in itself. Within the long period that followed the decay of the Roman Empire we may distinguish between three elements. The first must be the surviving tradition of plainchant, a single-line melody in free rhythm, setting words from the Latin liturgy. The second is the beginning of polyphony, music for a combination of different melodic lines, denigrated by a later generation as the Ars Antiqua, the old art. The third is the Ars Nova, the new art, as some then called it, music of greater complexity that was developed in the fourteenth century.

Plainchant and Devotional Music

Gregorian chant, a form of plainchant, became the official music of the Catholic Church. The remoter origins of the chant stem from the synagogue and from the Greco-Roman pagan world. An element of standardisation is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, but the tradition of plainchant continued primarily as an oral one, until the development of exact pitch notation some three hundred years later. Experts may distinguish between the standardised Gregorian chant and regional variants, such as the Ambrosian chant of Milan, attributed to St Ambrose. Ambrosian chant, represented on the sampler by a setting of the Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy) drawing on Eastern traditions, is the oldest surviving type of plainchant [1]. For the ordinary listener or participant, plainchant represents a continuing tradition, in its serenity and relative simplicity a reminder of another world. The texts set include Psalms, calling for a simple and repetitive form, Hymns, with a repeated melody for each metrical stanza, and Alleluias, with their demand for more elaborate decoration. The antiphon In paradisum (‘Into Paradise’) is taken from the Office for the Dead [2].

An extension of this early tradition may be seen in additions to plainchant repertoire, settings of new hymns, musical drama derived from the liturgy and in work such as that of the mystic, poet and abbess Hildegard of Bingen in the twelfth century, the latter typically in O pastor animarum (‘O Shepherd of souls’) [3]. The chant had an important part to play in later music, when it was used as the foundation of structures of greater complexity.

Secular and Popular Monody

If polyphony is music with many divergent voices, monody offers a single melody, as plainchant does. There is a fascinating surviving repertoire of songs from the twelfth and thirteenth century troubadours of Provence and the trouvères, their counterpart to the north. Important for their poetry as well as their music, the troubadours, often men of noble or royal birth, like the imprisoned English King Richard Cœur de Lion [4], sang of courtly love, as did their counterparts in Germany, the Minnesinger, poet-composers like Walther von der Vogelweide. Other subjects included the crusades, the subject of the latter's Song of Palestine [5]. Texts set may have a religious subject, as in the remarkable collection of over four hundred songs in the Spanish Cantigas de Santa Maria assembled by King Alfonso the Wise, thirteenth-­century King of Leon and Castile. These draw on varied music, popular melodies and the troubadour tradition, setting narrative texts that tell of miracles and pilgrimages, in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including a punning Ave et Eva, Ave from the angel's greeting to the Blessed Virgin and Eva from Eve, the source of original sin [6]. Secular music from the fourteenth century is illustrated in dance music from the period of Boccaccio's Decameron, itself a valuable source of information about instrumental performance in the middle years of the century [7].

Early Polyphony

For various reasons hardly any secular music survives from earlier periods, except where a tune may have acquired alternative religious words, thus depriving the Devil of his own. Polyphony, the art of setting one part against another, one melodic line against another, had developed by the ninth century, generally in a simple form in which one voice accompanied another at a fixed interval above or below, or embroidered a simple underlying plainchant. This was later disparaged as the Ars Antiqua, the old art. There was an increase in complexity that reached a height with the so-called Ars Nova, the new art of the fourteenth century, the age of Chaucer and Boccaccio, and, in music, of composers like Guillaume de Machaut, distinguished also as a poet. Machaut left a famous setting of the Mass in his Messe de Notre Dame, one of the earliest such examples, and a number of secular songs, using the formal metrical structures of the period [8]. Techniques of notation were now developed that allowed relatively complex rhythms to be recorded.

The Renaissance

If there are difficulties in defining the period of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance is much harder to pin down. On a number of occasions, in the history of Western Europe, there had been a rebirth of classical learning, an attempt to revive something of the culture of the ancient world of Greece and Rome. It has been conventional in music history to limit the period of the Renaissance to that between about 1430 and the year 1600. Once again there are trends in music and thought that inevitably overlap these simple dates. It is possible, nevertheless, to see a general unity of styles, although the centres in which these flourished may vary.

Early Renaissance

[a] Instrumental Music

Instrumental music of the fifteenth century is found in a remarkable collection, the Codex Faenza. Originating in Ferrara, the codex contains the earliest examples of French and Italian instrumental music, to be played, as so often at this time, on whatever instruments might be suitable and available, colourful and varied in their timbres [9].

[b] Vocal Music

Music and the arts flourished in the fifteenth century particularly at the court of Burgundy. Under the dukes Philip the Bold, Philip the Good and Charles the Bold, territories were acquired so that the dukedom included the Netherlands as well as the intervening lands of Luxemburg, Lorraine, Alsace and Franche Comté. It was here that composers such as Binchois and Busnois wrote their songs, at a court where the arts flourished in rich abundance. Perhaps the greatest musician of his time, Guillaume Dufay was associated with the Burgundian city of Cambrai, although he also spent time in Rome and elsewhere in Italy. Like many of his contemporaries he wrote both sacred and, as here, secular music [10]. Another Franco-Netherlands composer, Alexander Agricola, also spent time in Cambrai, at the French court and in Italy. He ended his life in the service of Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy, and is here represented by a secular composition [11]. These composers wrote secular chansons, settings of formal love-poems, which often provided material for more adventurous polyphonic development in sacred music. The polyphonic style of these compositions was frequently based either on plainchant or on another existing melody of secular origin. Of these last the famous L’Homme armé (‘The Armed Man’) was among the most popular. Composers indirectly connected with the court of Burgundy include Johannes Ockeghem, who spent forty years at the French court. The original song is here followed by the opening of a Mass based upon it [12].

The independence of Burgundy came to an end with the death of Charles the Bold at the battle of Nancy in 1477. The same year brought the marriage of his daughter Maria to the Habsburg Maximilian I, who thus added Burgundian territories to his own. Their son Philip the Fair, Agricola's last patron, married Joanna the Mad, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castile, securing vast territories for their son, the future Emperor Charles V. The political changes had their effect on music, not least on the wide diffusion of a style of polyphony that had its roots in Northern France and the Netherlands.

Middle Renaissance

Musically, at least, it is possible to distinguish a middle Renaissance period. This brings a consolidation of polyphonic style. Medieval polyphony had tended to make a sharp differentiation between simultaneous melodic lines. The bottom part might often be in slower notes, with a second, third and fourth part added above, each with increased elaboration. Each line might be entrusted to a different type of instrument or voice, making a contrast both of each melodic line and of timbre. The Renaissance, however, brought a gradual blending of these parts. The bass now sang the same kind of melodic line as the soprano, while families of instruments were developed to provide a similarity of sound between each line of the music.

[a] Vocal Music

The dominant figure in the period that covers the last years of the fifteenth century and the first decades of the sixteenth must be Josquin Desprez, who was born in Northern France and inherited the tradition of Ockeghem. Like Dufay, for a time he served the Sforzas in Milan and was later a member of the papal choir in Rome. His life ended in Northern France. In common with other contemporaries he wrote both sacred and secular music, the former including two Masses using L’Homme armé as a basis, and a number of motets, settings of sacred texts, including a moving composition based on David's lament over the death of his disloyal son Absalom [13]. Of almost similar fame was the Netherlands composer Jacob Obrecht [14], who also served in various Italian courts and was regarded by many as second only to Josquin.

Josquin died in 1521, the year of the Diet of Worms that divided the Habsburg territories from the Empire of Charles V and placed under an imperial ban Martin Luther, whose movement of religious reform now took on apolitical form. Early Lutheran music often draws on plainchant for its melodies, now used for popular German hymns or chorales, the basis of a new tradition.

Other surviving popular music may be heard in the music of a new Jewish diaspora, the music of Spanish Jewry, the Sephardim, expelled from Spain in 1492 as Ferdinand and Isabella consolidated their power. Those thus displaced often found a welcome in the lands of the Ottoman Empire, to which they brought linguistic and cultural traditions that still survive [15].

[b] Instrumental Music

In 1500 Petrucci had established in Venice a means of printing polyphonic music with movable type. This led to the diffusion of compositions by composers like Josquin. By 1507 he was printing lute music, forestalling Marco dall'Aquila, who had been granted a licence for such publication [16]. Others followed, often with lute arrangements of vocal works. With this came books on how to play the lute, how to read the form of notation used, lute tablature, and how to pluck the strings with the right hand. Among the most distinguished lutenists and composers for the lute was Francesco Canova da Milano, who spent much of his life in the papal service [17]. The popularity of the lute was not confined to Italy. In Spain the related vihuela de mano (hand-viol) inspired a continuing repertoire, while there were parallel developments throughout Europe.

It was in Spain that a particular national music was encouraged. In spite of the expulsion of the Jews and the conquest of the Moorish kingdoms where diverse traditions of learning and the arts had flourished, Spanish music retained identifiable elements of what had been rejected. Something of this can be heard in the 460 surviving compositions preserved in the Cancionero de Palacio, a royal collection of music at the Spanish court in the first decades of the sixteenth century [18].

Other instrumental music, which might also offer an alternative to sung polyphony, was found in consort music, music for groups of similar instruments, for sets of viols, recorders or other instruments, or for mixed groups, broken consorts. The tradition continued through the seventeenth century.

Later Renaissance

The later sixteenth century brought a consolidation of earlier religious changes and these had their effect on music. There were now related political changes and the gradual emergence of what might be seen as a sharper division between national styles.

[a] Vocal Music

[1] Sacred Music

Sacred polyphony may now be regarded as at its height in the work of Palestrina in Rome, the Franco-Flemish composer Lassus in Munich, the Spaniard Victoria in Rome and Madrid and the recusant William Byrd in London. These composers provided a polyphonic repertoire of seamless interwoven textures, a style that was to form the foundation of future musical training. Palestrina, in particular, has been taken as a master of the stile antico, the old style, as opposed to the experimental uses of harmony that followed in the next generation. His writing provided a model of polyphonic style for future composers and for generations of music students up to the present day. Under the patronage of Pope Julius III he served at the Cappella Giulia at St Peter's as director of music and subsequently at St John Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore, before returning to St Peter's. Legend credits him with saving polyphony at a time when members of the Council of Trent sought a simplification of church music, in order to give primacy to the text. In a Mass for Pope Marcellus and elsewhere he demonstrated the possibility of ensuring the clarity of the text in a polyphonic setting. He left a large quantity of sacred music, as well as secular madrigals. His Super flumina Babylonis (‘By the waters of Babylon’) is a five-voice setting of an offertory text [19].

Born at Mons in Hainaut, Orlando de Lassus was a composer of the greatest versatility. His early career was at the court of Mantua, followed by service in Naples and in Rome. For much of his life, however, he worked in Munich in the service of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria and his successor. He wrote and published a considerable quantity of sacred music, in addition to secular songs, Italian madrigals and settings of French and German texts. In these he demonstrates a wider variety of styles than Palestrina. The Kyrie eleison (‘Lord have mercy’) from his eight-voice Mass Bell'Amfitrit, altera, its title suggesting its secular source, demonstrates the skill of the composer, as exhibited in some sixty surviving Mass settings [20].

Tomás Luis de Victoria was born at Avila. As a young man he was employed as a singer at the Jesuit German College in Rome, where he later became director of music. Ordained priest in 1575, he joined the Oratorians, the association of secular priests established by St Philip Neri. He was eventually able to return to Spain as chaplain to the Dowager Empress, daughter of Charles V and widow of Maximilian II, to whom Charles had entrusted the administration of the Austrian territories of the Habsburgs. Victoria's compositions include settings of the Mass and other liturgical and sacred texts, in a style that reflects that of Palestrina. A setting of the Gloria is taken from his four-voice Mass O quam gloriosum (‘O how glorious’), published in 1592 but based on a motet he had written twenty years before [21].

The religious changes in England during the sixteenth century are reflected in the sacred music of the period, from the conservative and elaborate compositions of the earlier part of the century to the less inspired music demanded by the reforms under Edward VI, displaced by the return to Catholicism under Queen Mary. With the accession of Queen Elizabeth, a moderate form of Protestantism was developed, while persecution of Catholics, became part of official policy. Those who remained true to the old religion, known as recusants, included one of the greatest musicians of the period, William Byrd. In the circumstances of the day he wrote only three Mass settings, each suitable for use in a private chapel, as were the large number of sacred Latin texts which he set. As a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal he provided music for use in the established Church of England, in addition to secular music, madrigals and instrumental pieces.

The murder of his unfaithful wife and her lover by Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, in 1590 has added to his fame. Gesualdo's fanatical interest in music was furthered by his second marriage, in 1593, into the d'Este family, rulers of Ferrara. His madrigals belong more properly to the following period of musical history, showing, as they do, the characteristic peculiarities of harmony that marked the so-called second practice, the new music of the coming century. His sacred works are very much in the same style as his madrigals, the former exemplified in his five-voice Peccantem me quotidie (Sinning daily and not penitent, fear of death perturbs me), taken from the Office for the Dead and published in Naples in 1603 [22].

Elsewhere Protestant Europe developed its own national traditions. The French psalms of Goudimel, using translations by Clément Marot, include relatively simple musical versions for general use. The setting of Psalm CXXVIII, Bienheureux est quiconque (‘Blessed are all they that fear the Lord’) offers a more complex example, in motet style [23]. In Germany still newer styles were introduced, as in the work of composers like Michael Praetorius.

[2] Secular Music

Secular vocal music finds a place, above all, in the madrigal. Developing from earlier Italian vocal forms, the madrigal provided an element of popular entertainment in part-songs, music apt for viols or voices, in which a vocal line might be replaced by an instrument, according, largely, to the taste and fancy of the performers. The Italian tradition found particular expression in the England of Queen Elizabeth and her immediate successor, with composers that include Byrd. Closely associated with the madrigal is the solo lute-song, a song with lute accompaniment, of which the famous lutenist John Dowland was a noted exponent. One song, in particular, enjoyed the widest popularity. This was the melancholy Flow my tears, an embodiment of a humour that was the height of fashion in England in the last years of the sixteenth century [24]. The lute-song is further exemplified in the work of the composer-poet Thomas Campion and others [25].

In Italy, the first home of the madrigal, there is a tradition stemming from Arcadelt and the Venice-based Flemish composer Willaert to the curious chromatic experiments of Gesualdo. It was here that the madrigal found another later place in dramatic entertainment by composers such as Adriano Banchieri [26] and Orazio Vecchi. Drama derived from the pastoral or from the stock characters of the commedia dell'arte could be expressed in a series of part-songs, comic, satirical or more serious in intention. Those accustomed to spoken drama or to opera may find the form a strange one. It was, in any case, soon to be replaced by the latter.

[b] Instrumental Music

Instrumental music of the later Renaissance is closely allied to vocal music. The lute, in its many forms, retains importance as achordal instrument. Keyboard music holds a place in church organ repertoire and in the repertoire of the English virginalists, Byrd [27], Orlando Gibbons [28], John Bull and others, with their sets of variations and dance movements. Other instruments continue the tradition of consort music.

CD2

The Baroque

Music historians have borrowed much of their terminology from the visual arts, not always appropriately. The Baroque, whatever its visual connotations, has come to be a term that is descriptive of a period in the history of Western music from about 1600 to about 1750. It is convenient to divide this into three parts, Early, Middle and Late, each sub-division spanning a period of fifty years.

Early Baroque

The principal change that took place in Western music towards the end of the sixteenth century lies in the shift of emphasis from counterpoint to harmony. If counterpoint is the art of setting one melody against another, harmony is the art of combining notes in chords and placing these in a coherent sequence. In notation counterpoint is horizontal, harmony is vertical.

Experiments in chordal writing accompanied a late result of Renaissance interest in the world of ancient Greece and Rome. Rhetoric, the art of public speaking, always an essential part of ancient Greek and Roman education, had its effect on drama and on music. This is first seen in so-called dramatic monody, the setting of words to a melody that closely follows their rhythm and natural intonation, accompanied by appropriate chords. It was a relatively short step from this to a more ambitious attempt to re-create ancient classical drama. Opera, the most essential of Western European art-forms, has its origins in late sixteenth century Italy.

[a] Vocal Music

[1] Opera

Italian opera had its earliest experimental forms in Florence. The composer often credited with the first complete setting of a drama in music is the Roman Emilio dei Cavalieri, whose remarkable morality, the Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo (Representation of Soul and Body) was performed in Rome in 1600 before a distinguished audience [1].

The first opera to retain a place in the theatre was the work of Claudio Monteverdi, at the time in the service of the Duke of Mantua and the composer of varied sets of madrigals. L'Orfeo, the story of the legendary Greek musician Orpheus and his attempt to save his beloved Eurydice from the Underworld, a demonstration of the power of music, was staged at the court in Mantua in 1607. Orpheus, as he approaches the dark river that separates the land of the living from the Underworld, tries to induce the ferryman of the dead to carry him across in an ornate aria that is echoed by instruments, the sounds of which re-echo [2]. The King of the Underworld allows Orpheus to reclaim Eurydice, on condition that he does not look round to see if she is following him. In his anxiety he turns, on his way to the upper world, and loses her, to be finally re-united by the intervention of Apollo, as stars in the sky above. L'Orfeo was followed in 1608 by Arianna, the story of the abandonment of the Cretan princess Ariadne on the island of Naxos by her lover Theseus, whom she had helped to escape. The opera is lost, except for Ariadne's famous lament, the object of much later imitation [3].

Monteverdi's later career, from 1612 until his death in 1643, was in Venice, where he was able to provide dramatic entertainment for private performance and for the public theatres that were later established.

[2] Sacred Music

It was presumably with an eye to his chances there that he had written, in 1610, his magnificent setting of the service of Vespers, a work well-suited to the special effects possible in the great Basilica of St Mark [4]. In Venice Monteverdi became director of music at the Basilica in 1612, a position he held until his death.

Religious changes brought further musical changes in Europe, in particular where Protestantism in its various forms took on national colours. The Church of England had its own characteristic form, the verse-anthem, for solo voices, choir and instruments. In Germany, soon divided by the Thirty Years War, Italian influence is seen in the work of Schütz, a pupil of Monteverdi, employed for much of his life at the court in Dresden [5].

[b] Instrumental Music

Before Monteverdi's appointment in Venice, the position of organist at St Mark's had been held, from 1585 until his death in 1612, by Giovanni Gabrieli [6], who followed his uncle Andrea Gabrieli in the service of the Basilica. He represents, rather, the height of the older tradition of St Mark's, making full use in his music for brass ensemble and for other instruments, as in his vocal compositions, of the resources of the place, in particular in exploiting, as Monteverdi did in his Vespers, the possibilities of divided groups of performers, one group echoing or answering another.

The Early Baroque brings the start of an ensemble recognisable in modern terms as an orchestra. Monteverdi himself provided a list of specified instruments to be used in L'Orfeo, no longer leaving the choice to performers. The period coincides with the growing importance of the violin, seen from famous makers in Northern Italy and in music written for the instrument.

Dance music was, as always, an element of polite entertainment, reflected in the French dances collected by the German composer Michael Praetorius, the author of a valuable work on the instruments of the day, a source of much present knowledge [7].

Keyboard music, whether for the harpsichord, clavichord or organ, again underwent changes. In particular the tradition of the English virginalists, Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and their contemporaries, was handed on to the Netherlands, notably to Sweelinck [8] in Amsterdam, whose pupils had a fundamental effect on North German organ music and ultimately on the music of J.S. Bach. Parallel to the work of Sweelinck are the achievements of the Italian keyboard composer Frescobaldi, who similarly bridges the artificial division of Renaissance and Baroque.

While the lute continued to enjoy a popularity only rivalled by the modern craze for the guitar, there were some who preferred the viola da gamba, specifically the bass viol or a form of it. Viols, like other instruments developed in the sixteenth century, came in families, ranging from a small treble instrument to an ancestor of the modern double bass. Bowed instruments, with six or more strings and with the notes marked out on the fingerboard, as with the modern guitar or the contemporary lute, the viols were well suited to the demands of domestic music-making, although there were professional players who boasted very considerable virtuosity on the instrument. They were generally played seated, held downwards either on the knees or between the legs. Among those in England who proposed the viola da gamba or leg-viol as a rival to the lute was the retired soldier Tobias Hume, who published in 1605 and 1607 two volumes of music in defence of his views. In these he included pieces designed for, or dedicated to, distinguished patrons of the day [9].

Middle Baroque

The Middle Baroque, an artificial period that we may date roughly between 1650 and 1700, brings more marked national differences. In France there is specifically French opera, drawing also on earlier preoccupations with ballet. In Italy operatic traditions continue, now for a wider public, while orchestral forms develop, particularly with the concerto grosso. In Germany there is the beginning of that great synthesis of Italian melody, French dance and German technique that brings the whole period to its culmination in the following century.

[a] Vocal Music

[1] Opera

Essentially Italian in its origin and early diffusion, opera continues as a spectacular entertainment, both private and public. The opening of public theatres had led to a mixture of comedy and tragedy. Elements of comic relief had already found a place even in the later work of Monteverdi. Composers like Cesti and Rossi are masters of the form, which brings its own by-product in dramatic cantatas, and, not least, in the remarkable series of Baroque laments that extend the form used by Monteverdi in Arianna, abandoned on the island of Naxos, to a series of situations, imagined or based on history, tragic or comic. The opera composer Cesti offers a particularly poignant lament in his Lamento della Madre Ebrea (‘Lament of the Hebrew Woman’), imagined in the days of suffering when the Temple was destroyed by Titus [10]. Laments of this kind, generally following a repeated harmonic formula, allowed the most varied historical and geographical settings.

In France opera owes everything to the Italian-born Lully, who created a form suited to the French language and the French taste for dance, a genre continued by his successors. Lully dominated French music until his death in 1687, collaborating with Molière in comedy-ballets, and with Quinault in a new form of tragic opera. His Ballet d'Alcidiane of 1658 is one of the first of his attempts at the form of the French court ballet [11].

In German-speaking countries Italian opera predominated, but there were attempts at a national form of opera, notably in Hamburg, and a growing repertoire of popular German musical entertainments that have their parallel in other countries. England, with its strong theatrical tradition of spoken drama, added to the repertoire of the court masque. It is possible that Henry Purcell's only opera, Dido and Aeneas, had its origin in such an entertainment. Based on events recounted in Virgil's Aeneid, the short opera tells the story of the fatal love between the Trojan Prince Aeneas and Dido, Queen of Carthage, ending in her moving lament and death [12]. Purcell went on, however, to contribute to a combination of music and drama that is a characteristically English compromise, now generally known as semi-opera and heard in King Arthur, The Fairy Queen and other such works that often allow music a supernatural rôle.

[2] Sacred Music

As opera diverged with the growing feelings of national cultural identity, so sacred music took differing forms. In Italy the more elaborate forms of church music found expression in the polychoral works of composers like Orazio Benevolo. His Missa Azzolina written for the Roman counsellor of Queen Christina of Sweden, Cardinal Azzolini, makes use of two choirs [13].

Something of the Italian style found a place in France with composers like Paolo Lorenzani, bringing personal and artistic conflict between competing champions of French and Italian taste. While Lully wrote a series of grand motets, he found a rival in Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a composer who had studied in Italy and rivalled him in stature. In the service of the Duchess de Guise, the King's cousin, and of the principal Jesuit church in Paris, he made a major contribution to sacred music in Paris in a style that appealed to Italianate taste [14].

German-speaking countries, divided, broadly, between a Protestant north and a Catholic south, had their own appropriate styles. The latter had generally depended on Italy and, in particular, on Venice. The former, with composers like the Danish-born Buxtehude in Lübeck, was subject to various limitations, as religious practices dictated.

Protestant England was able, after the brief interruption of Puritan government under Cromwell, to resume earlier practice in the more or less elaborate musical forms demanded by the Anglican liturgy, whether in settings of the services of the Book of Common Prayer or in anthems, settings of additional texts, exemplified in the music of Purcell [15].

[b] Instrumental Music

The second half of the seventeenth century brings a continuation of the earlier tradition of consort music, notably in a series of conservative Fantazias for viols by Purcell. These include a remarkable composition based on a continuing sustained note, around which other instruments weave their melodic lines [16].

Keyboard compositions continue in the form of dance suites from composers such as Purcell in England, with their counterpart elsewhere. In France, the land of dance, suites for harpsichord include the work of Louis Couperin [17] and of his even more famous nephew, François Couperin. The sets of harpsichord compositions by the latter include a number of character-pieces. Of these Les abeilles (The Bees) is an example [18].

In southern Germany, often under Italian musical influence, a composer such as the Protestant Johann Pachelbel, who had spent time at St Stephen's Cathedral in Catholic Vienna, created a new synthesis of styles. Particularly famous were his many Magnificat Fugues, written during the years he spent as organist at St Sebald in Nuremberg. These served as preludes to the singing of the Magnificat at Vespers [19]. In northern Germany the tradition of Sweelinck was continued by composers like Buxtehude, the great organist of Lübeck whom Bach and Handel, in their turn, travelled to hear. Composers in the Lutheran tradition were able to draw on the large repertoire of existing chorales for their raw material [20].

The second half of the seventeenth century finds the string orchestra finally established as a basic ensemble, with the five-part French orchestra of Lully giving way to the Italian four-part orchestra of first and second violins, viola, cello and double bass, the last two doubling. In Italy the trio sonata, for two melody instruments, usually violins, a chordal instrument and a bass instrument, the cello or viola da gamba, finds a leading place. This form of sonata might be in serious church form or in lighter chamber form, the latter offering a series of dance movements. A leading figure of the time was the violinist-composer Arcangelo Corelli, who left four dozen such sonatas [21]. From the trio sonata came the concerto grosso, the form in which a smaller group, like that of the trio sonata, is contrasted with the main body of the orchestra. The Roman-born composer Alessandro Stradella, who spent the final years of his relatively short life in Genoa, made use of this type of concerto form in the instrumental preludes to many of his vocal works. In one such, at least, he makes significant use of a solo trumpet [22]. In the concerto grosso, however, Corelli is supreme, to be much imitated in the years after his death and the publication of his concertos in 1713. The best known of his concertos is the so-called Christmas Concerto, which includes a characteristic Pastorale, suggesting the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem at the birth of Christ [23]. The form was much used by other composers of the period.

The Italian concerto grosso is a preliminary to the solo concerto of the early eighteenth century, but something of the solo concerto had already found a place at the great Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, where Corelli had once studied. San Petronio, with the space it offered and what was often a significantly large musical establishment, fostered its own style of music for solo trumpet used melodically and not merely for a symbolic fanfare or military signal.

The closing years of the seventeenth century brought inevitable changes, as opera took on new stylized forms and instrumental music found a new freedom. All is ready for that final summary of the High Baroque that is to follow in the synthesis of Italian, French and German represented in one form by the music of J.S. Bach and in another by that of George Frideric Handel, with his final addition of an English strand to the mixture.


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