Chapter 17. Italy and Germany in the Late Seventeenth Century

Chapter Outline



Unlike the centralized monarchies of France, England, and Spain, Italy and Germany were each divided into numerous sovereign states. Musical life was not concentrated in one royal court or capital city, as in Paris and London, but was supported by many rulers and cities, each competing for the best musicians. Like bees pursuing pollen, performers and composers often traveled from one center or patron to another seeking better employment, and both regions provided rich environments for exchanging ideas. In Italy, the influences were mostly native. Composers developed genres pioneered in the early seventeenth century, such as opera, cantata, and sonata, and devised the instrumental concerto. Here the story is one of stylistic evolution within an established tradition and of codifying new conventions, including the da capo aria and tonality. In German-speaking lands, by contrast, composers drew deeply on both French and Italian styles, blending elements from each with homegrown traditions. From this melting pot would come the great German and Austrian composers of the eighteenth century, from Bach and Handel to Haydn and Mozart. 

Chapter Outline: 

  1. Italy and Germany in the Late Seventeenth Century
    1. Both regions continued to be ruled by leaders of small states, rather than a strong central government.
      1. Rulers and cities competed for the best musicians.
      2. Musicians traveled among major centers, bringing innovations with them.
    2. Stylistic changes
      1. In Italy, musical style evolved from existing Italian styles.
      2. In Germany, composers added Italian and French elements to German style.
      3. The international style developed in Germany would become the style of Bach, Handel, and later Haydn and Mozart.
  2. Italian Vocal Music
    1. Northern Italy continued to be the center for musical developments.
      1. Venice continued to be an important center for opera because of its public opera houses.
      2. Naples, Florence, and Rome also fostered opera.
    2. Arias became more important as vehicles to display the virtuosity of superstar singers.
      1. The average number of arias per opera increased to around sixty by the 1670s.
      2. Forms included strophic, ground bass, rondo, and ABA (da capo).
      3. The da capo aria became the favorite type because it offered an opportunity for embellishment in the repeat (see below).
      4. The accompaniment often portrayed feelings or moods.
    3. Cantatas became an experimental medium.
      1. They were composed on commission for special occasions and presented to small audiences.
      2. By the 1690s, cantatas lasted about fifteen minutes and consisted of alternating arias and recitatives.
      3. Scoring was usually for one voice with continuo.
      4. The texts were usually love poems.
    4. Alessandro Scarlatti’s cantatas (e.g., NAWM 82, Clori vezzosa, e bella)
      1. Scarlatti composed over six hundred cantatas.
      2. Recitatives use chromaticism and diminished chords (e.g., NAWM 82a and HWM Example 17.1a) for strong emotions and to reinforce cadences.
      3. Da capo aria (e.g., NAWM 82b and HWM Example 17.1b-c)
        1. The most common form of aria in Scarlatti’s operas and cantatas
        2. The words da capo (“from the head”) at the end of the second section instruct the performers to repeat the first section, resulting in an ABA form.
        3. A section: small two-part form with two different settings of the same text
        4. Instrumental ritornellos introduce small divisions in the form.
        5. The B section is in a new key and mode to reflect a change of emotion in the text.
    5. Serenata
      1. Semidramatic piece, midway between cantata and opera
      2. Usually composed for a special occasion
      3. Composed for small orchestra and several singers
      4. Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682) was one of the first composers of serenatas.
    6. Church music and oratorio
      1. Old and new styles continued to coexist in Italian sacred music.
      2. The works of Maurizio Cazzati (1616-1678) are typically diverse.
        1. His works were composed for San Petronio in Bologna.
        2. Messa a cappella (Unaccompanied Mass, 1670) is in a slightly modernized stile antico.
        3. His Magnificat a 4 alternates old and new styles.
      3. Oratorios became substitutes for operas when theaters were closed for Lent or other seasons.
        1. Texts were usually in Italian rather than Latin, and written in verse.
        2. A division in the middle left time for a sermon or intermission.
  3. Italian Instrumental Music
    1. Instrumental music for church
      1. San Petronio was a center for instrumental music.
        1. Cazzati composed some of the first sonatas for trumpet for San Petronio.
        2. Bolognese composers created restrained and serious instrumental music with little technical display or special effects.
      2. Organists in Italy continued to use existing genres (e.g., ricercares and toccatas).
    2. Instrumental chamber music
      1. Italians were the masters and teachers of instrumental chamber music.
        1. Stradivari (see HWM Music in Context:The Violin Workshop of Antonio Stradivarius, page 392, and HWM Figure 17.3) and other violin-makers of the period brought the violin to a pinnacle of perfection.
        2. Sonatas and concertos for strings were the leading genres of instrumental music.
      2. Development of the sonata
        1. The earliest sonatas consisted of small sections of contrasting material (see HWM Chapter 16 and NAWM 76).
        2. The contrasting sections eventually evolved to separate movements with different affects, in keeping with the theory of affections (see HWM Chapter 13).
      3. By ca. 1660, two types of sonata had evolved: sonata da camera (chamber sonata) and sonata da chiesa (church sonata)
      4. Sonata da camera: series of stylized dances, often beginning with a prelude.
      5. Sonata da chiesa: abstract movements, often including one or more dance movement not titled as such.
      6. Both types were played for private concerts, but sonatas da chiesa could also substitute for parts of the liturgy in church.
      7. After ca. 1670, the most common instrumentation was the trio sonata: two treble instruments (usually violins) with basso continuo.
      8. After ca. 1700, solo sonatas became popular.
  4. Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) and the Sonata
    1. Biography (see HWM biography, page 393, and HWM Figure 17.4)
      1. Studied in Bologna and began his career there
      2. Worked as violinist, teacher, ensemble director, and composer for wealthy patrons in Rome.
      3. As a violinist, he established the foundation for violin-playing and exploited the singing qualities of the instrument better than anyone of his generation.
      4. All of his surviving works are instrumental: trio sonatas, violin sonatas, and concerto grossos.
    2. Trio sonatas (e.g., Opus 3 No. 2, NAWM 83 and HWM Example 17.2)
      1. Melodies stress lyricism rather than virtuosity in the violin parts.
      2. The two violins are equal in range and musical material.
      3. Suspensions (see HWM Example 17.2) between the violins drive the harmonic momentum.
      4. Walking bass, a bassline in steadily flowing eighth notes, is typical of Corelli’s style.
    3. Corelli’s church sonatas (e.g., Opus 3 No. 2, NAWM 83 and HWM Example 17.2)
      1. Four movements usually in slow-fast-slow-fast order.
      2. The first slow movement is solemn and contrapuntal.
      3. The following allegro is usually fugal, in canzona tradition, with the bassline a full participant (e.g., HWM Example 17.3).
      4. The second slow movement often resembles an operatic duet in triple meter
      5. The final movement is often in binary form and has a dancelike character (e.g., the gigue of NAWM 83).
    4. Corelli’s chamber sonatas
      1. The opening movement is usually a prelude, sometimes in French overture style.
      2. The bass line is purely accompanimental in fast movements.
      3. Dance movements are in binary form, with the first section ending on the dominant or relative major and the second making its way back to the tonic.
    5. Solo sonatas
      1. Composed in both chamber and church sonata styles
      2. More virtuosic than his trio sonatas, with doublestops, runs, arpeggios, and cadenzas
      3. Slow movements were notated as simple pieces, with the expectation that the performer would embellish them.
      4. A version published by Estienne Roger in Amsterdam shows both the plain and embellished version, which he claimed was how Corelli himself had played it (see HWM Figure 17.5).
    6. Corelli’s style
      1. Each movement has a distinct theme that spins out throughout the movement.
      2. He exploits functional tonality, which by the 1680s had replaced modality.
        1. Chord progressions that use circles of fifths in dominant-tonic relationships (e.g., HWM Example 17.2)
        2. Sequences and chains of suspensions
        3. Departures from the tonic move most often to the dominant or relative major or minor.
  5. The Concerto
    1. By the 1670s, orchestras began to form in Italian cities for performance at special occasions.
      1. Orchestral movements from operas (e.g., Lully’s overtures and dance movements)
      2. Chamber sonatas with several players per part instead of one
      3. Instrumental “concerto”
        1. Closely related to the sonata
        2. Played at public events and special gatherings
        3. Sometimes substituted for elements of the Mass
    2. Types of concertos
      1. Orchestral concerto
        1. Several movements
        2. First violin and bass emphasized
        3. Not as popular or important as the other types
      2. Concerto grosso (pl. concerti grossi), favored in Rome
        1. Contrasts a small solo group (concertino) against a large group (concerto grosso)
        2. Concertino group was usually two violins with basso continuo.
        3. Similar contrasts in Lully’s operas set a precedent.
        4. Corelli’s Concerti grossi Op. 6 (1680s) were essentially trio sonatas with the larger group punctuating structural divisions.
        5. Corelli’s style was imitated by others, including Georg Muffat (1653-1704), who composed works that could be played as either trio sonatas or concerti grossi (see HWM Source Reading, page 399)
      3. Solo concerto, usually for solo violin and string orchestra
        1. Composed by Giuseppe Torelli (1658- 1709) in Bologna
        2. Torelli wrote trumpet concertos for services in San Petronio.
        3. Torelli’s violin concertos of 1692 were the first ever published.
        4. Torelli’s concertos consisted of three movements in fast-slow-fast order derived from the Italian opera overture.
        5. Ritornellos often frame sections of Torelli’s concertos, creating forms similar to da capo aria forms.
      4. Orchestras usually consisted of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and basso continuo, with bass viol sometimes doubling the cellos.
  6. The Italian Style at the End of the Seventeenth Century
    1. All genres shared some features.
      1. Solo forms highlighted individual performance.
      2. Variety of melodic styles used in both vocal and instrumental music
        1. Lyrical melodies
        2. Arpeggiation derived from trumpet calls
        3. Virtuoso passage work
      3. Forms based on a pattern of establishing a key, then departing from it, then returning to it
      4. Return of opening material at the end of a movement
    2. The Italian style was imitated elsewhere and became the foundation for further developments.
  7. Germany and Austria
    1. Small independent city-states supported music.
      1. Courts of the nobility
        1. Rulers imitated Louis XIV’s patronage of music to assert their power and status.
        2. Musicians employed at courts had the highest status.
      2. Cities employed town musicians, stadtpfeifers (German for “town pipers”).
        1. Stadtpfeifers held exclusive rights to provide music for the city (e.g. HWM Figure 17.7, a New Year’s celebration in Nuremberg).
        2. They performed at public ceremonies, weddings, and other festivities.
        3. They supervised the training of apprentices.
      3. Tower sonatas (Turmsonaten) were played in some cities from the tower of a church or town hall.
      4. Amateur music-making
        1. Many towns had a Collegium musicum, an association of middle-class amateurs.
        2. Schools had groups that gave public concerts (see HWM Chapter 19).
    2. Opera and secular vocal music
      1. Courts hired Italian composers to compose operas, and German composers began composing Italian operas as well.
      2. Opera in German
        1. The first public opera house in Germany opened in 1678 in Hamburg.
        2. Local poets translated Italian librettos and wrote new ones in the same style.
        3. Subjects were biblical in the early years in deference to the Lutheran church.
        4. Recitatives were in Italian style.
        5. Arias could be in Italian, French, or German styles.
        6. The most prolific composer was Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739)
      3. Song and cantata
        1. Keiser and other composers composed songs, arias, and cantatas in both Italian and German.
        2. Adam Krieger (1634-1666) of Dresden composed strophic melodies with short five-part orchestral ritornellos.
    3. Catholic Church music
      1. The southern German-speaking area, including Munich, Vienna, and Salzburg, was largely Catholic.
      2. Emperors living in Vienna supported music and were also performers.
      3. Liturgical music combined Palestrina-style counterpoint with the concerted style.
      4. Orchestras accompanied vocal movements and played preludes and ritornellos.
      5. Salzburg’s four choir lofts encouraged polychoral music.
      6. Heinrich Biber (1644-1704) composed his monumental Missa salisburgensis, with one singer and instrumentalist to each part, for Salzburg.
    4. Lutheran vocal music.
      1. After the Thirty Years’ War, there were two conflicting viewpoints in Lutheran church music.
        1. The orthodox view was that all available resources should be used.
        2. The Pietists preferred simpler music for personal devotion.
      2. New chorales and hymns were composed for use at home, e.g., those in the collection, Praxis pietatis melica (Practice of Piety in Song, 1647) by Johann Cr?er.
      3. Sacred concertos
        1. Often included arias in Italian style set to nonbiblical texts
        2. Chorales for concertos could be in concertato medium or in simple harmonies.
        3. These concertos are usually called “cantatas” today.
    5. Dietrich Buxtehude (ca. 1637-1707)
      1. Biography (see HWM biography, page 406, and HWM Figure 17.9)
        1. Played organ at a German church in Den mark and at St. Mary’s church in L?eck, a prestigious post in northern Germany
        2. He held his post in L?eck almost forty years and influenced other organists, such as Johann Sebastian Bach.
        3. Famed for his public concerts (Abendmusiken) of sacred vocal music
        4. His works include sacred vocal music, organ music, harpsichord music, and ensemble sonatas.
      2. Wachet auf concertato chorale setting (HWM Example 17.4)
        1. The melody is paraphrased differently for each stanza.
        2. The result is a series of chorale variations.
  8. Lutheran Organ Music
    1. The period between ca. 1650 and 1750 is a golden age of organ music in the Lutheran areas of Germany.
    2. The Baroque organ
      1. German organ makers, such as Arp Schnitger (1648-1718) and Gottfried Silbermann (1683- 1753), blended technical features of French and Dutch organs.
        1. French features: Colorful stops for solos and contrapuntal lines
        2. Dutch features: Division of pipes into a main or “great” group (Hauptwerk) above the player and other groups, including Brustwerk in front of the player and Oberwerk above the great organ
      2. Even small organs gave performers a range of tone colors.
    3. Toccatas and preludes (e.g., NAWM 84 and HWM Examples 17.4-5 by Buxtehude)
      1. Series of short sections in free style alternating with longer ones in imitative counterpoint
      2. Virtuosic for both keyboard and pedals
      3. Improvisation is suggested by irregular phrase lengths, inconclusive endings, and abrupt changes of texture, harmony, or melodic direction.
      4. Free sections frame the fugal sections.
      5. Fugal sections have related themes (see HWM Example 17.5).
      6. Pieces such as NAWM 84 could be titled “Toccata” or “Prelude” in the seventeenth century.
    4. Fugue
      1. By the end of the seventeenth century, “fugue” supplanted other terms for pieces in imitative counterpoint.
      2. In the eighteenth century, fugues would be separate pieces rather than sections within preludes.
      3. Subjects are livelier and have more sharply drawn melodies than subjects of ricercare.
      4. Exposition: a set of entries of the subject
        1. Answer: second entrance of the subject, contrasting with the first in a tonic-dominant relationship; sometimes adjusted to fit the new key
        2. Other entrances alternate the subject and answer.
        3. Cadence to close the exposition
      5. Additional sets of statements of the subject alternate with episodes, using different order of entrances or other devices for variety.
      6. Episodes: periods of free counterpoint between statements of the subject
    5. Chorale settings
      1. Organ chorales enhance the melody with harmony and counterpoint.
      2. Chorale variations, or partite, were variations on a chorale melody.
      3. Chorale fantasia used the chorale melody as a subject.
    6. Chorale prelude
      1. Short piece presenting the melody just once in recognizable form
      2. Probably derived from organists’ practice of playing the tune through before the congregation or choir sang the first stanza
      3. Techniques used:
        1. Each phrase of the melody is set in a point of imitation.
        2. The melody appears in the top voice in long notes, with each phrase preceded by imitation in diminution in other voices.
        3. The melody appears with Italianate or French-style ornamentation in the top voice, accompanied by freely changing accompaniment (e.g., HWM Example 17.6a, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland by Buxtehude)
    7. Other instrumental music
      1. Froberger adopted the French harpsichord style and helped to establish the standard order (allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue), which would be adopted in Germany.
      2. Orchestral suites inspired by French orchestral music were fashionable from ca. 1690 to 1740.
        1. Dance movements patterned on those of Lully’s ballets, in no standard order
        2. Georg Muffat’s Florilegium (1695 and 1698) is among the earliest collections.
        3. Florilegium includes an essay on French performance practices.
      3. The solo sonata attracted more interest than the trio sonata.
        1. Johann Jakob Walther (ca. 1650-1717) published twelve virtuosic violin sonatas under the title Scherzi.
        2. Biber’s Mystery (or Rosary) Sonatas for violin (ca. 1675) are the most famous German sonatas of the period.
        3. Biber’s sonatas employed scordatura, unusual tunings of the strings.
        4. Walther and Biber’s sonatas included rhapsodic movements or toccata-like sections.
        5. Both composers used theme and variations or passacaglia movements (e.g. Biber’s Passacaglia for unaccompanied violin).
        6. The first keyboard sonatas are by Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722), Frische Clavier Früchte (Fresh Keyboard Fruits, 1696) and “Biblical” sonatas (1700) for amateurs.
  9. Impact of Late-Seventeenth-Century German and Italian Music
    1. As in the past, German composers adopted styles and genres from other countries.
      1. From Italy: opera, da capo aria, trio sonata, solo violin sonata, and concerto
      2. From France: suites for keyboard and orchestra
    2. Works from this period continued to be performed in the early eighteenth century.
      1. Corelli’s sonatas
      2. Buxtehude’s organ works
      3. Bach was influenced by this generation’s style.

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