Chapter 18. The Early Eighteenth Century

Chapter Outline



Composers around 1700 were not inventing new techniques, styles, and genres at the pace of their predecessors a century earlier. Rather, they continued and extended wellestablished traditions, and took for granted the approaches and materials developed during the seventeenth century: the doctrine of the affections, basso continuo, the concertato medium, tonality, and the genres of opera, cantata, concerto, sonata, and suite. 

Interest in music of the early eighteenth century has long centered on Vivaldi, Couperin, Rameau, J. S. Bach, and Handel, each of whom established an individual style by combining elements from the mature Baroque tradition in new ways. It is fitting that we focus on them and on the patrons, institutions, tastes, and values that shaped their music, treating each composer뭩 story as a case study of musical life at the time. This chapter will discuss Vivaldi, Couperin, and Rameau, representatives of Italy and France, still the leading musical nations at the dawn of the eighteenth century. In the following chapter, we will turn to Bach and Handel, typical of Germanspeaking musicians in their synthesis of elements from several national traditions. As we will see in chapter 20, even while these composers were at the peak of their careers, currents were beginning that would lead in new directions, making this the last generation of Baroque composers. 

Chapter Outline: 

  1. Europe in a Century of Change
    1. Music of the early eighteenth century
      1. The general stylistic features and principal musical genres of the seventeenth century continued.
      2. Historical interest has justifiably centered on the works of Vivaldi, Couperin, Rameau, J. S. Bach, and Handel.
      3. The works of these masters represent the last generation of the Baroque era, which overlaps with the beginning of a new musical age.
    2. Europe’s balance of power
      1. France had the largest army, but spent money lavishly.
      2. Britain, with the most powerful navy, expanded its colonial holdings.
      3. Vienna, the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, became the leading music center of Europe.
      4. Prussia emerged as a major military power.
      5. Poland was divided between Prussia, Russia, and Austria.
      6. The American Revolution and French Revolution would bring about dramatic political changes at the end of the century.
    3. The population of Europe expanded rapidly.
      1. Improved agricultural methods produced a greater food supply.
      2. As trade increased, the middle class grew in size and power.
      3. With the growing industrialization and urbanization of Europe, nature was increasingly idealized (see HWM Figure 18.1).
    4. Education played a larger role in society.
      1. Many new schools were founded.
      2. With the increase in literacy, daily newspapers appeared in London in 1702.
      3. More books were published and read, including novels.
      4. Intellectuals, such as Voltaire, gathered to discuss a variety of issues, which lead to a movement known as the Enlightenment.
    5. The rise of the middle class created an increasing demand for public music.
  2. Music in Italy
    1. Naples
      1. Naples became an independent kingdom in 1734.
      2. The city had four conservatories.
        1. Originally, these were orphanages that specialized in teaching music.
        2. Later, the conservatories took on paying students as well.
        3. Students from the conservatories traveled all over Europe.
        4. Most of the conservatory students were singers, including castrati.
          • Castrati were the leading male roles in opera.
          • Some became international superstars, such as Carlo Broschi Farinelli (see HWM Music in Context, page 420, and Figure 18.2).
      3. Naples was a strong center of opera, the dominant type of music in Italy.
        1. Alessandro Scarlatti was the leading composer.
        2. New types of comic opera gained popularity.
        3. More significantly, a new serious type of opera emerged in the 1720s.
        4. Recitatives and da capo arias alternated in serious and comic opera.
    2. Rome
      1. Opera was less central in Rome’s music scene.
      2. Patrons supported academies in which cantatas, serenatas, sonatas, and concertos were performed.
      3. The city attracted instrumentalists, including Geminiani and Locatelli, who later spread the Italian style of Corelli to other regions.
    3. Venice
      1. Although declining in political power, Venice remained the most glamorous city in Europe.
      2. A wide variety of music could be heard in Venice.
        1. Music was performed on the streets and sung by gondoliers.
        2. Amateurs made music in the homes.
        3. Public festivals were characterized by musical splendor.
        4. Church music flourished.
        5. The city never had fewer than six opera companies.
  3. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
    1. Vivaldi was Italy’s best-known composer of the early eighteenth century (see HWM biography, page 422, and Figure 18.3).
      1. He was a virtuoso violinist.
      2. He was considered to be a master teacher.
      3. He composed opera, cantatas, and sacred music.
      4. He is primarily remembered for his violin concertos.
    2. Biography
      1. He was born in Venice and spent most of his life in this city.
      2. He was known as il prete rosso (the red-headed priest).
      3. Vivaldi’s principal position was at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà (1703-1740).
        1. This was one of the four “hospitals” in Venice that, like the conservatories of Naples, taught music to orphans.
        2. The Pietà was restricted to girls, who were not allowed to become professionals.
        3. The musical training made them more desirable for marriage or prepared them for convent life.
        4. Performances of the girls also helped earn donations (see HWM Figure 18.4).
        5. Travelers wrote about these performances with enthusiasm (see HWM Source Reading, page 424).
      4. Vivaldi served as a teacher, composer, conductor, and superintendent of musical instruments.
        1. Vivaldi composed sacred music, including the Gloria in D Major.
        2. Most of the works were instrumental.
    3. Concertos
      1. Vivaldi composed about five hundred concertos.
      2. The orchestra
        1. Vivaldi’s orchestra probably had twenty to twenty-five strings.
        2. The strings were usually divided into four parts: violins I, violins II, violas, and cellos/string basses.
        3. The continuo was either a harpsichord or organ.
        4. Vivaldi sometimes used flutes, oboes, bassoons, and horns.
        5. Vivaldi used color effects, such as pizzicato and muted strings.
      3. The soloists
        1. About 350 concertos are for one solo instrument, usually violin.
        2. Solo concertos are also written for bassoon, cello, oboe, flute, viola d’amore, recorder, and mandolin.
        3. The concertos with several soloists are written in the style of a solo concerto, not in the style of Corelli’s concerti grossi, as the soloists are given equal prominence.
        4. Vivaldi composed about sixty orchestral concertos, which do not have soloists.
      4. Vivaldi’s three-movement structures established a standard for future concerto composers.
        1. The first movement is in a fast tempo.
        2. The middle movement is slow and in the same or closely related key.
        3. The final movement, also fast and in the original key, is often shorter and livelier than the first movement.
      5. Fast movements are usually set in a ritornello form.
        1. Ritornellos, played by the orchestra, alternate with episodes for the soloist.
        2. The ritornello melody contains small melodic units that can be manipulated by the soloists or in other ritornellos.
        3. Later statements of the orchestral ritornello may present only part of the original theme.
        4. The first and last ritornellos are in the tonic, the second ritornello is usually in the dominant, and the others are in closely related keys.
        5. The solo sections often contain virtuosic display.
        6. The solo sections may modulate to a new key.
        7. The soloist may interrupt or play part of the closing ritornello.
      6. Slow movements
        1. Vivaldi is the first composer to treat this movement as equal to the fast movements.
        2. The melodies tend to be long, cantabile, and expressive, like an opera aria.
        3. Some are through-composed; others use a simplified ritornello form or a two-part from.
      7. Despite relying on formulas, Vivaldi’s concertos reflect a wide variety of expression, forms, and ideas.
      8. Vivaldi published nine collections of concertos, often with fanciful titles.
        1. Opus 3 was titled L’estro armonico (Harmonic Inspiration, 1711).
        2. Opus 8 was titled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Test of Harmony and Invention, 1725).
      9. Opus 8 contains his four most famous concertos, known as The Four Seasons.
        1. A sonnet describing a season accompanies each of the concertos.
        2. The music depicts images of each season.
    4. Concerto for Violin in A Minor, Opus 3 No. 6 (see NAWM 85, HWM Figure 18.5 and Examples 18.1-2)
      1. Opus 3 established Vivaldi’s reputation and was the most influential collection of music in the early eighteenth century.
      2. The twelve works of the set alternate concertos featuring one, two, and four violin soloists.
      3. Opus 3 No. 6 has three movements, with the outer fast movements set in ritornello forms.
      4. First movement
        1. The opening ritornello presents three melodic ideas.
        2. The second ritornello is in the minor dominant, and the remaining ritornellos are in the tonic.
        3. These ritornello sections contain varied statements of the three principal melodic ideas.
        4. The episodes (solo sections) either develop the melodic ideas or present new figuration.
      5. Second movement
        1. The movement is in D minor, the subdominant of A minor.
        2. The accompaniment is by violins and violas only.
        3. The rhapsodic solo violin melody includes flowing sequences over a chromatic accompaniment.
      6. Third movement
        1. The opening ritornello contains more thematic ideas than the first movement.
        2. The subsequent ritornellos are more varied in key areas and content.
        3. One ritornello contains modulation, which is normally reserved for the episodic sections.
        4. The freedom of form in this movement suggests the variety of Vivaldi’s treatments of ritornello structures.
        5. The repetitive rhythmic drive of the fast movements, typical of late Baroque music, differs from the rhythmic flexibility of the early Baroque.
  4. Music in France
    1. Paris was the only major center of music in France.
      1. Paris was the home of the prestigious Concert spirituel, a public concert series founded in 1725.
      2. Louis XV supported music, but not to the extent of Louis XIV.
    2. The relative merits of Italian and French music were frequently discussed.
      1. The latest Italian music was performed in Paris.
      2. Some French composers sought to blend Italian and French styles.
        1. Louis Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749) published cantatas that alternated French and Italian recitatives.
        2. Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) combined Italian and French qualities in his violin sonatas.
    3. François Couperin (1668-1733) (see HWM Figure 18.6)
      1. Couperin’s career reflects the growing diffusion of patronage in France.
        1. He was the organist to the king.
        2. He taught harpsichord to members of the aristocracy.
        3. He published his own music.
      2. Couperin’s ordres
        1. The ordres or suites were published between 1713 and 1730.
        2. Each ordre contains a number of miniature works, generally based on dance rhythms and set in a binary form.
        3. Most of the pieces have evocative titles.
      3. Vingt-cinquieme ordre (Twenty-fifth Order, 1730)
        1. La visionaire (The Dreamer) takes on the conventions of the French overture (NAWM 86a).
        2. La misterieuse (The Mysterious One) is an allemande.
        3. La Montflambert is a tender gigue, probably named after the wife of the king’s wine merchant.
        4. La muse victorieuse (The Victorious Muse) is a passepied.
        5. Les ombres errants (The Roving Shadows) contains a syncopated middle voice that shadows the top melody, creating chains of suspensions.
      4. La muse victorieuse (NAWM 86b)
        1. The passepied, in triple meter, is a faster relative of the minuet.
        2. The tempo is marked Audacieusement (“audaciously” or “boldly”).
        3. The last eleven measures of the first half reappear at the end of the second half in the tonic.
      5. Couperin’s treatise L’art de toucher le clavecin (The Art of Playing the Harpsichord, 1716) contains useful information about French Baroque performance practice.
      6. The chamber music of Couperin synthesizes French and Italian styles.
        1. He claimed that the perfect music would be a union of the two national styles (see HWM Source Reading, page 431).
        2. He dedicated suites to both Corelli and Lully.
        3. Couperin was the first and foremost French composer of trio sonatas.
        4. Les nations (The Nations, 1726) and other works contain characteristics of both French and Italian music
  5. Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
    1. Biography (see HWM biography, page 434, and Figure 18.7)
      1. Rameau began as an organist in the provinces of France.
      2. By age forty, he was recognized as a theorist.
      3. He achieved fame as a composer in his fifties.
      4. For an extended period, he served the wealthy patron Jean-Joseph de la Pouplini?e, whose gatherings attracted many significant figures.
      5. His music was initially criticized for being radical, but later it was thought to be reactionary.
    2. The theories of Rameau
      1. His principal work, Traité de l’harmonie (Treatise on Harmony, 1722), is one of the most influential of all theoretical works.
      2. Rameau based his theory practice on the laws of acoustics.
      3. The triad and the seventh chord were the primal elements of music.
      4. He defined the root of each chord and recognized chord inversions.
      5. The roots in a succession of chords created the fundamental bass (see HWM Example 18.3).
      6. Music was propelled by dissonance and rested with consonance.
      7. Using the terms tonic, dominant, and subdominant, Rameau established these three chords as the pillars of harmony.
      8. Although a piece could change keys through modulation, each work had a central tonic key.
      9. The strongest chord progression is the dominant-seventh to tonic.
      10. Rameau was the first to bring all of these theoretical ideas together.
    3. The operas of Rameau
      1. As a composer, Rameau was best known for his operas, although he also wrote keyboard music, a set of trio sonatas, and some vocal music.
      2. Because of a monopoly by the Académie Royale de Musique, operas could only be produced in Paris.
      3. After eleven years in Paris, Rameau produced his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), which is based on a drama by Racine.
      4. A number of outstanding works followed.
        1. Les Indes galantes (The Gallant Indies, 1735) is an opera-ballet.
        2. Castor et Pollux (1737) is considered to be his masterpiece.
        3. Zoroastre (1749), a tragic opera, is the most important of his later works.
      5. Rameau’s early operas created controversy.
        1. Two camps developed, one favoring Rameau and the other attacking him for subverting the opera traditions of Lully.
        2. During the French and Italian opera controversy of the 1750s, the Lully supporters hailed Rameau as the champion of the French style.
      6. Rameau’s operas resemble Lully’s in numerous ways.
        1. The recitatives have realistic declamation with precise rhythmic notation.
        2. Recitatives mix with more tuneful airs, choruses, and instrumental works.
        3. The differences between recitative and air are minimized.
      7. Rameau also introduced a number of significant changes.
        1. The melodies are derived from the harmony.
        2. Rameau uses a richer harmonic palette, including more chromaticism.
        3. Rameau’s orchestral writing is exceptional, as seen in his overtures, dances, and descriptive orchestral passages.
    4. Hippolyte et Aricie, close of Act IV (NAWM 87)
      1. The passage begins with a divertissement of hunters.
      2. The orchestra suggests the sudden storm and presence of a monster.
      3. Hippolyte and Aricie sing a dramatic accompanied recitative.
      4. Hippolyte is engulfed by flames, which are depicted in the orchestra.
      5. The chorus sings a dissonant lament highlighted by appoggiaturas and silence.
      6. Hippolyte’s stepmother Phèdre laments her role in this tragedy.
        1. She sings a récitatif simple with basso continuo.
        2. An accompanied récitatif mesuré follows with sounds of thunder, lightening, and earthquake.
        3. An accompanied récitatif simple returns at the end.
      7. A final comment is heard from the chorus.

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