Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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4. Italy, 1600–50.

Ornamentation in early Baroque Italian music was inseparable from expression in general. Above all, singing and playing had to be accomplished with grace, an aesthetic concept so closely linked to ornamentation that the plural form grazie was applied generically to all the small-scale ornaments that came into vogue around 1600. These new ornaments (also called accenti, affetti or maniere) co-existed with the more elaborate passaggi or diminutions, which were remnants of Renaissance practice. In 1600 Pietro della Valle heard Cavalieri's Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo in Rome. He later observed that this performance marked a watershed in Italian vocal style, introducing dynamic and dramatic effects and affetti, whereas previously singers had used only passaggi and trilli (Dickey, E1997, pp.245–6).

Singers were expected to perform passaggi with disposizione di voce (disposition of the voice). The latter term has aesthetic connotations but refers also to glottal articulation, which allows for precise definition of rapid streams of notes (Greenlee, E1987) and demands both speed and relatively low breath pressure (Sanford, A1997). Rognoni (E1620) related this vocal technique to the reversed tonguing (‘le-re-le-re’) of the cornett.

Most of the diminution manuals that serve as primary sources for passaggi follow a similar plan, presenting various patterns for embellishing simple intervals, cadential figures and stock phrases; some include fully ornamented pieces as well. The ten rules in Virgiliano's Dolcimelo (c1600; translated in Dickey, E1997, pp.248–9) provide a cogent summary of diminution practices. Ornamental patterns for a specific interval typically begin and end with the first note of that interval, before proceeding to the second skeletal note; Virgiliano advised placing this note in the middle of the pattern as well. If the pattern does not end with the initial note of the interval, it should nonetheless approach the second note from the same direction. Melodic motion is predominantly conjunct. By way of illustration, nine variations on the ascending 5th by Rognoni are shown in ex.9. Motion in quavers predominates in earlier manuals, but later books show more variation in rhythmic values and greater reliance on dotted notes. Another innovation in the later manuals is that small-scale ornaments are sometimes incorporated into passaggi. Ex.10 illustrates why so many observers of the time complained that over-elaborate passaggi could make a sad piece sound happy. (Rognoni's ornamental pattern has more beats than the original – a fairly common feature of his diminutions.) Frescobaldi added the rubric ‘come sta’ (as it stands) to some of his canzonas, probably as an admonition to forgo passaggi (but not affetti). Caccini (E1601/2) complained that singers too often used them indiscriminately on short rather than long syllables, thereby obscuring the text, though he occasionally admitted them on short syllables for decoration. He further professed his desire to make passaggi serve the meaning of the text.

In considering small-scale ornaments, one must approach the terminology with a certain scepticism. One author's trillo is another's tremolo, and a given term is sometimes used both generically and specifically in the same treatise. A further consideration is the difficulty of representing ornaments in notation. Trillo was perhaps the most ubiquitous term for a small-scale ornament in early Baroque Italy, and its abbreviation, ‘t’ or ‘tr’, was the only widely used ornament symbol. For Cavalieri (E1600) this ornament was the alternation of a note with its upper auxiliary (ex.11); Diruta (E1593) and Praetorius (PraetoriusSM) called the same effect ‘tremolo’. More often trillo refers to the rapid reiteration of a single note, a hallmark of early Baroque Italian vocal style (ex.12). Caccini said that the trillo was beaten with the throat. Glottal articulation for this ornament is confirmed in Monteverdi's Ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, where the composer has written above a notated trillo, ‘qui cade in riso naturale’ (here one falls into natural laughter; ex.13).

The two commonly recognized models for the early Baroque trillo – alternating notes and repeated notes – oversimplify the problem (Carter, E1990). Caccini's preface contains additional illustrations of the trillo that differ significantly from the design in ex.12 – brief, often non-cadential patterns that include auxiliary notes as well as repeated notes (ex.14). Such designs often comprise only a pair of repeated notes, which probably can be multiplied at the performer's discretion, following the advice of Durante (E1608). Quite possibly this alternative species of trillo also requires a subtler articulation. Notari (E1613) described the trillo as ‘a kinde of sweetness in your voice’, and Herbst (I1642, 3/1658) called it a ‘charming buzz’ (‘liebliches sausen’). Thus articulation of the trillo may have ranged from the sharp repercussions of a belly laugh to a subtle vibrato.

The gruppo (also groppo; ‘cluster’) is similar to a modern trill with a turned ending (ex.15). Rognoni compared it to the trillo: both are cadential ornaments, and both require glottal articulation. The cascata (ex.16) is simply a fall; all Caccini's illustrations of this ornament involve a characteristic rhythmic alteration that enhances the effect of the cascade. As its name suggests, the ribattuta di gola (restriking of the throat), which sometimes introduces a trillo, requires glottal articulation (ex.17). The intonazione (ex.18), though disparaged by Caccini, was recommended by Rognoni as a means of giving grace to the beginning of a note. The accento is an ornament used to connect two longer notes; it is not easily defined but often includes dotted rhythms (Dickey, B1991). Rognoni said it was most properly used in descending (ex.19) rather than ascending. According to Zacconi, accenti were particularly useful where passaggi might be inappropriate: on highly affective words, for example, or at the opening of a piece in imitative style where a voice sings by itself (Dickey, E1997, pp.256–7).

Some small-scale ornaments combine melodic and dynamic effects. Rognoni's portar la voce (‘carriage of the voice’) is made by ‘reinforcing the voice on the first note little by little, and then making a tremolo on the black [note, i.e. crotchet]’ (ex.20). For Doni (E1635) this reinforcing associated with the portar la voce (and the related strascino) also involved a gradual rise in pitch from the lower to the higher. Doni said that these effects were useful for mournful texts and were more suitable for female voices or castratos than for ordinary male voices. Mazzocchi's messa di voce similarly involves both a rise in pitch and an increase in dynamic level. Dynamic effects were also addressed by Caccini, who recommended the crescere e scemare di voce (increase and decrease of the voice, hence related to the messa di voce) for the beginning of a phrase. But he preferred above all the opposite effect, the esclamazione (ex.21), which he called a strengthening of the relaxed voice. Rognoni advised adding a tremolino (short repeated-note ornament) to the short note following the dotted note in this pattern.

Instrumentalists strove mightily to imitate the human voice, employing passaggi as well as small-scale ornaments and ideally adapting their ornaments to the character of the music. Farina (Capriccio stravagante, 1627) mentioned a special type of tremolo for string instruments that was done with a pulsating of the hand holding the bow, imitating the organ Tremulant. It received occasional use throughout the 17th century, often in affective slow movements (ex.22; see Carter, E1991). While the repeated-note trillo was occasionally employed in music for instruments as diverse as keyboard (ex.23) and trumpet (ex.24), a unique type of trillo was applied to the guitar in rasgueado style: the performer makes a rapid series of up- and down-strokes, touching all the strings. According to Foscarini (c1630; cited in Tyler, A1980, pp.83–4) it was done with a downward stroke with the thumb and then an up-stroke (with the thumb) and similarly with the middle finger. A similar rasgueado ornament is the repicco, which is more complex than the trillo and uses a variety of finger patterns. Like the trillo it generally covers all the strings, and often doubles, triples or even quadruples the number of written strokes.

In spite of Italian leadership in the development of Baroque ornamentation, native writers were curiously reticent on the subject after the early 1600s. Rognoni's Selva di varii passaggi (E1620) was the last comprehensive theoretical source on ornamentation to appear in Italy before the end of the century, and apart from a few scattered references one must look to German treatises for advice at mid-century. Following the lead of Praetorius's Syntagma musicum (1614–19), many of these Germans – including Bernhard (Ic1649), Herbst (I1642) and Crüger (E1630, E1660) – were enthusiastic advocates of the Italian style, though their knowledge of its ornamentation practices may have been largely second-hand (see §8 below).

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