Saturday, November 10, 2007

1595 – 1620 Le Nuove Musiche

1594 Death of Palestrina and Lasso
1603 Death of Elizabeth I, England
1610-43 Louis XIII, France
1618 Beginning of 30 Year War

In Italy this is the beginning of the Baroque: the first generation of opera, oratorio, basso continuo, aria, recitative, as well as designated instrumentation and dynamics. It is also the last generation of the English Renaissance. It is a marvelous, turbulent period full of traditional counterpoint and radical experimentation side by side.

Baroque Style

The three mainstreams of baroque style:

  • Accompanied melody, begun by Monteverdi and the Florentines, emphasized the outer voices through the use of continuo accompaniment of treble solos, especially in aria and recitative.

  • Concerto style (or concertato style), begun by Giovanni Gabrieli and descended from the Venetian polychoral style, emphasized contrasting effects such as contrasts in tempo, dynamics or instrumentation, especially in works for instrumental ensemble. In the early baroque this resulted in a new discontinuity within traditional forms.

  • Polyphonic style, begun by Sweelinck, maintained the equal-voiced, imitative counterpoint of the Renaissance. What had previously been a universal style became chiefly associated with religious music for organ or choir.

Vocal music

Florentine camerata

A group of Florentines, patron Giovanni de Bardi (1534-1612), spokesman Vincenzo Galilei (treatise: Dialogo della musica antica e moderna, 1581), poet Ottavio Rinuccini (1562-1621) and musicians Jacopo Peri (1561-1633), Giulio Caccini (c.1546-1618) and Emilio de Cavalieri (c.1550-1602), together condemned the Flemish polyphonic style and created a new recitative-like melody imitative of Italian dramatic speech with continuo accompaniment, called monody or stile rapprasentativo. The camerata was charged by the Medici family with the task of recreating ancient Greek drama, known to be sung throughout. The style was senza misura (without a regular rhythm).

Monody|---text-- voice
|---------- continuo with chords ad lib/

Florentine opera

The camerata's attempts to recreate Greek drama produced Daphne (1597) by Peri, now lost, Euridice (1600) by Peri and Euridice (1602) by Caccini. These early operas were mainly recitative with occasional songs or choruses at the ends of scenes.

This example is from Peri's L'Euridice.

Early operas produced in Mantua were Claudio Monteverdi's (1567-1643) Orfeo (1607), considered the outstanding example of monodic opera, his Ariana (1608), now lost, and Daphne (1608) by Marco Gagliano (c.1575-1642).


Also considered a sacred opera as well as an oratorio, La rappresentazione di anima et di corpo (1600) by Cavallieri in monodic style was elaborately produced in Rome.


Le Nuove Musiche (1602) by Caccini with its important introduction on ornamentation was a collection of songs in monodic style. Caccini's "aria" was a strophic song, while longer discontinuous and rhapsodic through-composed monodies were called madrigals. One strophic aria had a varied melody, an early example of a strophic bass aria. Another collection was Peri's Varie Musiche (1609).


Disintegration began as early as 1580 with Luca Marenzio's (1553-99) extravagant word painting. Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1611) used extreme dramatic contrast and tortuous chromatic passages. Monteverdi's madrigal books I (1587), II (1590), III (1592) and IV (1603) were a cappella polyphonic; books V (16-5) and VI (1603) were more soloistic with basso continuo; book VII (1619) was in monodic style.

Madrigal comedy

Quasi-dramatic groups of madrigals were considered forerunners of opera: L'Amfiparnaso (1597) by Orazio Vecchi (c.1550-1605).

Seconda prattica

Seconda prattica, "second practice," was Monteverdi's term for the stile moderno or modern style in church music. Lodovico Viadana (c. 1564-1645) used baso continuo in his Cento concerti ecclesiastici (1602). Monteverdi's Vespers (1610) was an entire service in modern style using recitative, aria, chorus and instruments with continuo.

Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612) further developed the Venetian polychoric style using up to five choruses and various bodies of instruments which emphasized contrasting sonorities. Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) was his student.

Prima prattica

Also called stile antico, prima prattica referred to the polyphonic style of Palestrina continued by the Roman school, including Felice Anerio (c.1564-1614), Francesco Soriano (1549-1621) and G.B. Nanino (c.1550-1623).

English School

Isolated from developments in Italy, English composers of the Elizabethan golden age continued a national Renaissance style.

English madrigal

Italian madrigals in English were introduced in Music transalpine (1588), the same year as Byrd's first collection. The triumphs of Oriana (1601) collected English madrigals by 24 composers, including Thomas Morley (1557-1603) and Thomas Weelkes (c.1575-1623). The English imitated the Italian madrigal, canzonetta and balletto styles. Other composers were John Wilbye (1574-1628), finest of the English madrigalists, and Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625).


Accompanied lute songs by John Dowland (1563-1626), from 1597, were uniformly lyrical and published in alternate three-voiced settings; also Thomas Campian (1567-1620), Robert Jones (fl. 1597 - 1617) and Philip Rosseter (c.1575-1623).

Consort songs

Solo songs or duets with accompaniment by a consort of viols (a consort was a set of matched instruments) were composed by Byrd and Gibbons.


Though both used psalm texts, the English

(1) full anthem was like a syllabic, squared off polyphonic motet while the

(2) verse anthem, invented by Byrd, alternated solo and choral sections with instrumental accompaniment (no continuo) by Thomas Tomkins (c.1571-1656) and Gibbons.

Instrumental Music


Over 600 pieces for harpsichord survive in such collections as My Lady Nevell's Booke (1591) by Byrd, Parthenia (1612 or 13) by John Bull (1563-1628), Byrd and Gibbons, and Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (c. 1621) by all the active composers of the school.

Forms include madrigal transcriptions, dances, descriptive pieces, contrapuntal fantasias, preludes, In nominees and the important figural variations in three types:

(1) variations on popular tunes or dances,

(2) hexachord variations on the six notes of the hexachord, and

(3) ostinato bass variations.


The Dutchman Jan Pieters Sweelinck (1562-1621) composed 12 sets of variations on songs and dances in the English style, 24 chorale variations which treated the chorale as a cantus firmus, thirteen toccatas, six toccata-like echo fantasias and thirteen fantasias, typically monothematic fugue-like works with characteristic rhapsodic passages. Jean Titelouze (1563-1633) was a conservative French composer of liturgical music.


John Dowland.

Ensemble canzona

Sacrae symphoniae (1597) by G. Gabrieli contained canzonas and sonatas in polychoric contrasting sonorities, including the first examples of designated instrumentation and indicated dynamics.


Basso continuo, also called thorough-bass and figured bass, was a bass melody with figures indicating the middle voices and "realized" by a keyboard instrument and a bass melodic instrument such as a cello. Del sonare sopra il basso (1607) by Agostino Agazzari (1578-1608) was an early treatise on playing from a basso continuo.

Other important treatises were: Morley's A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practical Musicke (1597), a general manual; Girolamo Diruta's (b.1550) Il Transilvano (1593, 1609) on ornamentation for the keyboard; Michael Praetorius' (1571-1621) Syntagma musicum (1615, '18, '19) an encyclopedia of music.

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