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Music in Transition: Abstracts

Michael Talbot (University of Liverpool)

On the Cusps of Stylistic Change: Vivaldi’s Sonata RV 820 for Violin, Cello and Continuo and its Seventeenth-Century Roots

In 2014 the Italian scholar, recorder player and ensemble director Federico Maria Sardelli and Francisco Javier Lupiáñez Ruiz, a Spanish violinist on a Master’s programme at the Royal Conservatory of Music at The Hague, independently identified a trio sonata for violin, obbligato cello and basso continuo, anonymously preserved in the SLUB in Dresden, as a very early composition of Antonio Vivaldi. It was copied at Ansbach by Johann Georg Pisendel (later a pupil and friend of Vivaldi and from 1729 concertmaster at the Saxon-Polish court in Dresden), who at the time (ca. 1701–03) was a choirboy. The paper type and the appearance of the young Pisendel’s hand associate this manuscript with a sizeable corpus of copies of mostly Italian instrumental works in the SLUB, all of which are linked to the period of Giuseppe Torelli’s presence at the Ansbach court.

Being such an early work, RV 820 looks back to the seventeenth-century tradition in Bologna as much as it does forward to the eighteenth-century tradition in Venice. One such ‘retrospective’ feature is the embedding of two miniature solo sonatas (for violin and cello, respectively) within the main trio sonata framework. The paper will examine stylistic traits of this kind in the light of David Burrows’s persuasive theory (published in 1973) of a shift of general ‘cultural style’ (in music, but also in literature and pictorial art) around 1700.

Michael Robertson (University of Leeds)

Changing Concepts and Priorities: The German Consort Suite of the Later Seventeenth Century

The last two decades of the seventeenth century saw radical changes in German consort-suite composition. Earlier, two distinct traditions had dominated, one from the courts and another from the towns. Fluid, ad hoc and stemming from single-line dissemination of dance melodies, court suites were mostly manuscript-based and linked to the music of dramatic stage productions. Town suites had little to do with functional dance and were mostly issued in printed collections, often carefully organised by the use of similar movement types and frequently employing linking techniques.

By the end of the century, all this had changed. The court tradition was now dominated by the Lully-inspired Ouverture suite with its imposing opening movement and subsequent character dances, and the town-music consort suite had all but disappeared. However, from the late 1670s onwards, both court and town composers started to issue printed editions of keyboard suites for the first time, no doubt a result of the new techniques of engraving that gave composers opportunities to put complex notational structures into print in a way hitherto impossible with moveable type. These keyboard collections were rarely in the new Lullian manner; instead they employed the careful ordering and organisation of the old town tradition.

In this paper, I will examine these traditions and their changes in detail; I will assess the influence of Lully’s fashionable music on the German consort suite and I will suggest causes for the demise of the town-music tradition and its transfer to the keyboard repertoire.

Isobel Clarke (Royal College of Music)

Development and cultural transfer: the emergence of the recorder sonata in the second half of the seventeenth century

Seventeenth-century Europe was the scene of a significant period of evolution in compositional style, instrumental development and performance practice. Within the latter half of the century, one of the more dramatic musical evolutions was the development of the relatively new instrumental sonata with basso continuo. As increasingly virtuosic and idiomatic techniques of playing stringed instruments were developed across the continent, the resulting innovations to the sonata were profound. In contrast, the recorder appears to have fallen from favour during the middle of the century and there are very few surviving works written for the instrument during this period. Yet by the end of the seventeenth century, the recorder had regained its status as a chamber music instrument and, judging by assigned compositions, was in common use once more by both amateur and professional musicians. Was this mid-century decline a direct result of the rapid development of new techniques and playing styles on stringed instruments? And crucially, what led to the recorder’s revival and the development of the recorder sonata?

Drawing upon primary source and organological research, this paper explores comparisons between the structural development of the recorder during the second half of the seventeenth century and the profound changes that affected the instrumental sonata form during the same period. Bartolomeo Bismantova’s 1677 treatise Compendio Musicale will act as a particular point of focus, leading into the emerging popularity of the recorder sonata in Italy and its subsequent spread to northern Europe and England.

Samantha Owens (University of Queensland)

Duplex Genius: The French and Italian Musical Styles in the Instrumental Works of Johann Christoph Pez (1664–1716)

In 1732, in a poem published in C. F. Weichmann’s Poesie der Niedersachsen (II/254), Georg Philipp Telemann praised a selection of leading German composers (Kuhnau, Reinhard Keiser, Handel, Pez, Pepusch and Pantaleon Hebenstreit), associating each of them in turn with a specific musical genre before going on to claim that Venice, Rome, Paris and London must all acknowledge the supremacy of Germany in this field. Telemann’s choice to represent the sonata was the Munich-born violinist Johann Christoph Pez (1664–1716), who had studied in Rome during the late 1680s and whose professional career included positions at the courts of Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria (from 1688), Archbishop-Elector Joseph Clemens of Cologne in Bonn (from 1695) and Duke Eberhard Ludwig of Württemberg in Stuttgart (from 1706).

In each of these appointments Pez was required to demonstrate considerable practical expertise as a composer and performer in both the Italian and French musical styles. Drawing upon archival sources to supply details of the day-to-day practicalities of musical life at these three courts, the present paper will explore the extent to which the Italian and French styles were united (or not) in Pez’s instrumental compositions. In addition to around 30 works that survive in manuscript at the Universitätsbibliothek Rostock, these include a published set of sonatas (Augsburg, 1696), whose very title announces the composer’s intention to combine the French and Italian styles: Duplex Genius sive Gallo-Italus Instrumentorum Concentus 12. constans Symphoniis, 2 Violinis cum Archiviola & Basso Continuo, op. 1.

Rebekah Ahrendt (Yale University)

‘Mon cher Camarade’: Performers’ Networks at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century

While the origins (roots) and destinations of travel are a frequent topic of study in histories of music, what is often overlooked are the actual routes. How can considering the roads traveled alter our conceptions of musical labor or stylistic change?And in what ways did the movements of performers inform notions of national style? To date, we have a poor understanding of these agents of (ex)change. Official documents can tell us who was where when, but a more personal view of performer’s lives has rarely been recoverable.

Until now. A previously-unstudied archive of letters reveals the long-distance connections fostered by performers. Still in their original sealskin-covered trunk, the letters are uncensored, unedited, and in some cases unopened—for they were never delivered. Around 100 of the 2300 letters, dated between 1692 and 1706, are to, from, or about French-trained performers. From Paris to The Hague, from Latvia to London, actors and musicians worked together, played together, and looked after one another, trading memories, aspirations, and cheese.

Adopting an approach centered on itinerant performers may indeed challenge our assumptions about stylistic change. The very fact that they played in so many different places—and that they knew one another—implies that there may have been more uniformity of style and taste across Western Europe than has previously been guessed. Through these experiences, we can glimpse the emergence of an ‘international’ style, for the ‘goûts-réunis’ did not happen overnight, nor were they the product of observers’ idealism.

Adrian Powney (Birmingham Conservatoire)

A Time of Transition: The French and Italian roots of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Time Signatures Explored

Recent literature on the seventeenth-century French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier draws attention to the skilful ways in which he combines French and Italian elements in his musical language. Commentators including Hitchcock, Thompson and Sadler have shown that arioso writing, void notation, harmonic language and continuo figuring clearly show this plurality of national styles; a key factor to consider when examining both his compositional style and performing practices. 

One area yet to receive detailed attention is that of metre and tempo indications in Charpentier’s works, particularly his use of time signatures. Such a study generates interesting lines of enquiry when we consider both the era in which he worked and the aforementioned plurality of styles. On the one hand, Charpentier’s composing career (from the late 1660s to 1704) falls at both the centre of the Baroque period and the transition from the mensural to the metrical system of notating rhythm: that is from the use of time signatures and signs of mensuration to the system of using time words to indicate tempo. On the other hand, Charpentier not only uses time signatures and styles of notation considered archaic for the time, but he also employs a range of metres (including 2/4, 4/8 and 12/8) more diverse than any of his French counterparts, and more commonplace in Italy during this time. Given the precedent for his notation to provide clues on his performing practices, this paper seeks to explore the purpose and contexts to his use of these metres and ultimately if there is a wider significance for performance beyond the metrical make-up they indicate.

Hetti Price (University of Birmingham)

The 'da spalla' Position in Italy 1650-1720

This presentation will focus on the most contentious Baroque cello hold, the horizontal hold that was often indicated by the term da spalla. In modern historically informed Baroque orchestras cellists commonly use a vertical calf hold in a seated position, a position that many modern practitioners believe was the position used during the Baroque period. However, the vertical calf hold was not actually used throughout the entire Baroque, and, when it was, it numbered among a wide variety of positions used, including the da spalla position. This position involved the back of the instrument resting against the stomach or chest, often angled slightly more or less than 90 degrees to the ground. In this presentation using Baroque iconography I will demonstrate that the da spalla position was used during the baroque period with instruments the size of modern cellos. I will also be using physical evidence provided by surviving cellos from that period to reconstruct the means through which Baroque performers were able to hold these larger instruments in the da spalla position. This evidence includes metal pins, or holes where these pins had been, inserted between the middle of the two upper corner blocks of the ribs. I will show how at the turn of the eighteenth century the evidence suggests a change in the size of the instruments being used in the da spalla position, and how the term ‘da spalla’ started to be associated not only with the position, but also with the size of the instrument.

Peter Holman (University of Leeds)

The Style Change around 1700: Implications for Performance

In recent years musicologists have recognised that the received periods of musical history are particularly problematic for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: there was a more fundamental style change around 1700 than around 1750, the traditional boundary between ‘Baroque’ and ‘Classical’ music. However, the implications of this have hardly begun to filter through to performers and to concert-giving organisations and record companies. Performing groups often still attempt to cover the whole of the ‘Baroque period’ without coming to terms with the changes to instruments, performing ensembles, pitch, temperament and performing style that occurred between 1600 and 1750, and we still routinely hear seventeenth-century music performed in an eighteenth-century manner – Purcell in the style of Handel, for instance, or Buxtehude in the style of J.S. Bach. In this paper I will survey the issues that performers need to come to terms with if they seek to produce truly historically informed performances of seventeenth-century music.    

Stephen Rose (Royal Holloway)

An Englishman Analyses Corelli: James Sherard’s Commonplace Book

The trio sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli epitomise the transformation in musical language during the 1680s. As is well known, Corelli’s sonatas show a strong sense of tonal direction, with sequences and suspensions pushing each phrase towards its cadence. His sonatas rapidly gained popularity across Europe and beyond; their style was emulated by countless composers, and they soon were regarded as classics of their time. It is rare, however, to find detailed analytical accounts by late seventeenth-century musicians showing how they perceived Corelli’s compositional style.

This paper sheds light on the assimilation of such styles by exploring the musical commonplace book of James Sherard (1666–1738), an English apothecary and amateur musician. Sherard’s commonplace book contains over a hundred (mainly unattributed) extracts, which I have identified as coming from trio sonatas by Corelli, Henry Purcell, Antonio Luigi Baldassini, Ippoliti Boccaletti, Giovanni Maria Ruggieri and Giovanni Battista Tibaldi. Sherard extracted cadences, modulatory passages and sequential passages from these sonatas, then classified his excerpts by key. He presumably used these passages as a stimulus for his own composition of trio sonatas, which were published in Amsterdam in two sets in 1701 and c.1715–16. Sherard’s commonplace book shows that he understood the trio sonatas of Corelli and other Italians as modular compositions consisting of short harmonic formulae that could be combined in different permutations. His manuscript also offers striking evidence of how quickly English amateur musicians obtained and absorbed the latest Italian instrumental music.

Alan Howard (Cambridge University)

‘Trio Sonatas in Orchestral Garb’: Purcell’s Orchestral Canzonas

Henry Purcell’s instrumental music has long been presented as the classic ‘transitional’ repertoire. Mostly composed within the space of five years or less around 1680, his fantasias have been portrayed as decadent echoes of a venerable English consort tradition, while the trio sonatas, for all Purcell’s self-declared imitation of ‘Italian masters’, seem forever tainted by his obstinately esoteric handling of counterpoint and harmony – especially by comparison with the near-contemporary Op. 1 of Arcangelo Corelli which would define the genre in the coming decades. By the 1690s, however, Purcell has traditionally been understood to have embraced a more up-to-date style. Superficially this may indeed be the case, but in this paper I propose that what is perhaps more remarkable about the Italianate sinfonias of his later odes and theatre music is the extent to which they preserve so many of Purcell’s earlier compositional priorities, the very characteristics indeed which seem to ‘hold back’ his stylistic progression in the sonatas. In fact, it can be argued, Purcell could have had very few direct models available for the kind of ‘Italian Overture’ he began to write at this time; consequently, he fell back on the experience he had with his own sonatas, as I show through two specific analytical case studies designed to show his reliance upon his earlier fugal techniques and, in one case, a direct recomposition of an earlier work.

Sandra Tuppen (British Library)

English Theatre Music in Transition: The Influence of Lully on Music and Instrumental Practices

Restoration London was a central of cultural interchange, where foreign composers such as Giovanni Battista Draghi and Louis Grabu wrote music for the English court and theatre, visiting troupes of French musicians entertained Charles II, and music by non-native composers was circulated in manuscript and print. Nowhere was this interchange felt more strongly than in the theatre. The Francophile actor and theatre manager Thomas Betterton brought French theatrical practices to England, and the stage works of Lully and his collaborators were a source of inspiration for English composers and dramatists alike.

In this paper I highlight the ways in which Lully’s stage works provided inspiration and models for English composers during this period of musical transition, and how these English composers, most notably Purcell, attempted to improve on their models.  I demonstrate, as an example of direct appropriation, how the ‘Queen’s Ballet’, performed in London in 1671, drew both its overall concept and some of its music from Lully’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. I also show that some of Purcell’s pioneering instrumental effects, for example, his use of muted strings in The Fairy Queen, were borrowed directly from specific Lully works. Finally, I argue that these borrowings, remodellings and transformations can be seen as a continuation of the imitatio tradition.

Andrew Woolley (New University, Lisbon)

‘… the new Airy Tunes of these Times’: ‘French Dances’ in Late Seventeenth-Century England

 This paper considers the largely anonymous repertoire known in England, in the middle Baroque, as ‘French Dances’. Its significance is easily overlooked, but it influenced a range of composers of instrumental music in England in the late seventeenth century – for instance, Matthew Locke and Giovanni Battista Draghi borrowed the openings of some of the tunes. The extent to which ‘French dances’ were of French origin is debateable, although at least some of the repertoire survives in French sources, and it was explicitly understood at the time to be ‘French’ in style. Much of the repertoire was published as single-line music for a treble instrument, by John Playford, in the series Apollo’s Banquet (1669–1693), as well as within predecessor supplements attached to earlier editions of Playford’s The Dancing Master (c.1655–1665). Nevertheless, there are also several significant manuscript sources, including one that may be the work of a French dancing master working in England in the 1680s, which will be considered in this paper. In addition to its significance as identifiable ‘French style’ music in England, the repertoire of ‘French dances’ illustrates how memorisation played a significant part in the dissemination of musical style in this period. The repertoire was almost certainly memorised by dancing master violinists; some of it may also have been memorised by ‘mainstream’ art musicians in England when writing instrumental music for a variety of needs in a similar style.

Robert Rawson (Canterbury Christ Church University)

Borders and Crossings: Musical Style in the Austro-Bohemian Baroque

The study and understanding of musical style in Austria and the Czech lands from 1650–1710 differs fundamentally from most geographically bound studies because of the fundamental shift in confessional boundaries that resulted from the Catholic victory of The Thirty Years War. After the war musical styles found in the Austria and the Czech lands underwent changes in stylistic influences from within (village life) and without (courts, monasteries and other ecclesiastical institutions—dominated by Italian influences). Unsurprisingly, the results are not uniform across the Empire: the Austrian love of the earlier Italian styles (Gabrielli, Grandi and Valentini) contributed to the emergence of a ‘colossal baroque’ style exemplified in the large-scale works for Salzburg Cathedral (Biber, Muffat and Hofer) and St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna (Sances, Bertali, Schmelzer, Dolar and others) and St Vitus in Prague (Jacob, Sehling, Vaňura, Poppe). Meanwhile a much more personal style also emerged after the war, found more frequently in works for solo instrument (or voice) and continuo. In such works, the form and style were subject to frequent and often dramatic changes in mood, tempo, harmony and rhythm (Biber, Schmelzer, Finger, Voijta and others). These two dominating approaches to musical style were reflections of the seemingly paradoxical expressions of religiously ideology driving the counterreformation aesthetic in the Austrian crown lands—the competing ideas of magnificence and edification. Within this context Italian, French and native musical styles are to be found—the export of these styles and performance practices abroad is an overlooked aspect of considering musical style in the region.

Rodolfo Zitellini (RISM Switzerland)

‘Oh my! Parallel fifths! Maurizio Cazzati (1616-1678) as Litmus Test for Evolving Musical Taste in Bologna 1660-1670’

During his turbulent fourteen years (1657-1671) as Maestro di Cappella in S. Petronio of Bologna Maurizio Cazzati begun a series of profound renovations that were adversely received from the local musical community. Cazzati’s contributions to Bolognese music are nowadays well known and studied, but in spite of this, his global impact to the music history of Bologna in generally underrated. His instrumental music is the best known, but his other output, sacred music in particular, seems to echo the bitter criticisms it received centuries ago. “He was justly criticized for his insensibility to perfect intervals,” states a well-known biography, and he is generally considered to be a sloppy composer at best.

Indeed we acknowledge that Cazzati’s output is of somewhat varying quality, but the cure and precision he put to publish and promote his music tell us he was in no way careless. By analyzing his sacred output and confronting it with the one of his contemporaries we are able to clearly see how Cazzati introduced some little-known yet seminal features to Bolognese music. Cazzati’s music shows the quick evolution in musical taste in Bologna, which he somewhat steered, that brought the mature Bolognese style into existence. By studying his sacred music in prints and mostly importantly reprints we are able to have a concrete taste of this evolution, and to have an insiders view on the changing compositional process in those years.

Colin Timms (University of Birmingham)

Euterpe's Revenge, or: The Italian Opera Aria c. 1670-1720

Italian opera changed significantly during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The distinction between recitative and aria grew deeper and wider, while arias increased in size and decreased in number. Why these changes occurred can be explained in a variety of ways, but how they happened is a question deserving of further research. This paper explores how, during a single generation, composers changed gear and started writing arias more extended and more complex than before. Topics to be considered include the size and shape of aria texts, approaches to musical setting, tonality as a structural agent and the role of instruments in addition to basso continuo. Early eighteenth-century Italian opera emerges as a triumph of music over poetry, an inversion of the situation of a hundred years before.

Graham Sadler (Birmingham Conservatoire/University of Oxford)

Agostino Steffani and the French Style: New Perspectives

At the age of 24, Steffani was sent by the Elector of Bavaria to study in Paris, where he stayed for up to ten months between the summer of 1678 and the spring of 1679. Although little is known of his activities there, Steffani would have had ample opportunity to hear music by Lully (Psyché and Bellérophon were staged during those months), Charpentier and others. After his return to Munich, Steffani evidently continued to take an interest in musical developments in France. The extent to which he absorbed elements of French style and technique is abundantly apparent in his operas, particularly those written for the Francophile courts at Munich and Hanover. As is well known, these works include French overtures, Lullian ballet movements and arias in dance metre. French influence is also apparent in aspects of Steffani’s orchestration.

The present paper identifies specific French pieces that may have influenced the Italian composer, examining these alongside equivalent movements from his operas. It reveals the many respects in which Steffani creatively adapted his models and assimilated Gallic features into his own distinctive idiom, often in ways that prefigure Handel. Special emphasis is given to aspects of French influence that have escaped attention, including matters of performance: variations in orchestral configurations, style of ornamentation, notation of notes inégales and use ofmuted violins. 

Rosalind Halton (University of Newcastle, Australia)

A Microcosm of Italian Cantata Composition in the 1690s: The Seven Settings of  ‘A voi che l’accendeste’ by F. M. Paglia

In or around 1692, five major figures of Italian vocal composition were commissioned or otherwise persuaded to set a cantata text of four recitatives and arias by the Roman poet Francesco Maria Paglia whose patrons included the Duke of Medinaceli (later Viceroy of Naples) and Cardinal Ottoboni – the documented recipient of at least one of the settings.  The composers represented in a compilation volume were Perti, Bononcini (presumably Giovanni), Lulier (Giovannino del Violone), Mangiarotti (barely known today), and Alessandro Scarlatti. The setting by Scarlatti is a remarkable work preserved in six complete copies, while two copies of Perti’s setting survive along with another by Carlo Pollaroli and in a separate source, the Roman Filippo Colineli.  These seven settings form a rare time capsule of Italian solo cantata composition post-Stradella. The dedication in the opening lines (‘A voi che l’accendeste’) and the Petrarchan imagery equating the eyes to flashing stars, prompted an exuberant treatment of recitative from each composer: chromatic progressions, arioso passages alternately virtuosic and sostenuto, motivic imitation, even a fugue in Scarlatti’s evocation of sleep.

Trends of the 1690s emerge in the concise Da Capo aria forms, the idiomatic cello writing of Lulier and Bononcini, the representation of various national styles in Scarlatti’s aria alla francese, Colinelli’s Cachera spagnola and the reference to Lully’s Armide with which Scarlatti dramatically opens his cantata. Above all, these settings reflect the expanding tonal horizons which would give new perspective to cantata structure.