Printer Friendly

Polyphonic keyboard accompaniment in the early Baroque: an alternative to basso continuo.

BASSO continuo and the style period to which it belongs were conjoined early in this century when Hugo Riemann coined the term General-baBzeitalter, the Thoroughbass Era.(1) Basso continuo has indeed become integral to our conception of Baroque style, and with few exceptions pervades modern-day performances of Baroque music. It would seem, however, that in establishing neat stylistic boundaries for the Baroque as the Thorough-bass Period, scholars have largely neglected, and on occasion suppressed, an alternative and concurrent method of accompaniment--namely, polyphonic accompaniment from intabulation or score.

In judging from most modern accounts of Baroque music, the popularity of the basso continuo was virtually instantaneous, its application universal, its success unequivocal. Once established, basso continuo soon exceeded its original functional designation and became fashionably de rigueur, as prima prattica works of the 16th century were reissued with redundant but stylish continuo parts. In 1619, for example, an edition of four 16th-century Masses (three by Palestrina, one by Giovanni Francesco Anerio) was published with figured basses, and was warmly enough received that it was reprinted several times before the end of the century.(2) In Germany the Promptuarium musicum, a three-volume anthology of ecclesiastical works written in the prima prattica, was compiled by the Speyer school rector Abraham Schadaeus and published at Strasbourg between 1611 and 1613.(3) Caspar Vincentius, who at the time was active as Speyer's civic organist and as Schadaeus's collaborator, prepared a supplementary volume containing a figured bass part for the motets. A fourth volume with figured bass was prepared by Vincentius in 1617, and in 1625 he saw fit to prepare and publish at Wurzburg a figured bass part for Orlande de Lassus's Magnum opus musicum.(4) In his prefacing remarks to the work, Vincentius notes that the practice of adding basso continuo to polyphonic music in this manner had become common throughout Italy and Germany.(5)

While the thought of recasting Palestrina and Lasso in a Baroque mould may cause some consternation, similar feelings of ambivalence towards basso continuo existed in the 17th century. In the second volume of his Il transilvano (Venice, 1609), Girolamo Diruta directs his organ students towards the sedulous study of ricercares, canzonas, Masses, motets and madrigals with the hope that they might thereby attain the highest level of expertise in playing the organ.(6) Diruta recommends that organists copy polyphonic compositions into score and play as many of the vocal parts as possible. His pupils were advised in particular against accompanying from a figured bass, because figures, to his mind, were incapable of reliably indicating in which part of a polyphonic texture the consonances and dissonances occur.(7) In the Conclusioni del suono del Organo (Bologna, 1609), Adriano Banchieri concurs fully with Diruta:

Because it is easy to play it, many Organists nowadays are highly successful in concerted playing; but, in their great vanity on the score of their sureness in playing with others, they give little thought to exerting themselves in improvisation [Fantasia] and playing from score, whereas it is in this very domain that many a good man has made himself immortal. So that, in short, we shall soon have two classes of players: on the one hand Organists, that is to say, such as practice good playing from Score and improvisation, and, on the other hand, Bassists who, overcome by sheer laziness, are content with simply playing the sass [i.e. basso continuo] ...(8)

The distinction made by Banchieri between the two classes of accompaniment is an important one. Generally speaking, basso continuo was vertically conceived and used to supply a full harmonic framework for monodies and concerted works. The other type of accompaniment was linearly conceived and comprised what was essentially a literal transcription--or as close to one as possible--of a polyphonic composition. Italian keyboardists made use of two kinds of such transcriptions. The partitura or spartiti is a system whereby each voice part is notated on a separate staff and which by nature is not always well-suited to idiomatic keyboard works. The other type is the intavolatura or intavolate, which in essence is a modern keyboard score better suited to the textural freedom of idiomatic keyboard writing.

The importance of distinguishing between styles of accompaniment is underscored by another Italian composer, Francesco Bianciardi, who observes in his Breve regola per imparar a sonare sopra il Basso con ogni sorte d'Instrumento (Siena, 1607):

It is therefore necessary to make a distinction between compositions, not all of which can be conveniently played from a Bass; not, for instance, ancient fugal compositions, much less, however, certain modern ones, which we find adorned with new inventions; in such instances, unless the intervals to be used are noted above the sasses, and unless the player has the art of counterpoint, or a most highly trained ear, he will easily ruin the composition instead of assisting.(9)

The concerns of the Italian composers were reflected no less in the writings of their German counterparts. The Nuremberg organist Johann Staden conforms with Bianciardi when he expresses his own views on keyboard accompaniment in the Kurzer und einfaltiger Bericht fur diejenigen, so im Basso ad Organum unerfahren, was bey demselben zum Theil in Acht zu nehmen, a brief pedagogical work appended to the second volume of his Kirchenmusic of 1626:

I have never, it is true, regarded it as a matter of necessity to provide this same Bassus ad Organum, except in Viadana's fashion above mentioned [i.e. few-voiced concertato compositions], when it is not to be dispensed with; I am still of the same opinion, but I leave every one free to add one whenever he pleases.(10)

To encourage organists to respect this stylistic division and to apply the appropriate method of accompaniment, Staden refrains in the first volume of his Kirchenmusic (Nuremberg, 1625) from adding a continuo accompaniment to a number of compositions in the collection, judging that those pieces would be less musical with it.(11)

For German organists, the polyphonic alternative to basso continuo was Deutsche Orgeltabulatur, or German letter tablature. As the latter name suggests, all pitches in this notational system are indicated by letter rather than by notes on a staff. German letter tablature was particularly useful to organists because it was economical (lined manuscript paper was not needed) and allowed more music on a page than did the two Italian formats. We today are most likely to think of letter tablature as an inefficient notational system--and in some ways it certainly was--but German organists in the Baroque, especially in the north, were remarkably slow to abandon the practice. On the contrary, letter tablature actually enjoyed an increase in popularity for part of the 17th century.(12) The best-known examples of letter tablature being used at a relatively late date are in the manuscript of J. S. Bach's Orgelbuchlein (1717-23); here the composer switches from modern staff notation to letter tablature out of convenience, in order to complete the last few measures of a composition.(13) Dietrich Buxtehude, on the other hand, was perfectly comfortable using letter tablature for composing rather involved vocal and instrumental works,(14) and Andreas Werckmeister writing in 1698 preferred letter tablature to staff notation but wanted to make it easier to use.(15) Even Jacob Adlung in 1758 speaks respectfully of this notational anachronism in his Anleitung zu der musicalischen Gelahrtheit.(16) Eighteenth-century developments of musical style--among them textural preference, harmonic vocabulary, instrumental techniques--gradually led to the demise of letter tablature, though it received attention as late as 1782 in Johann Samuel Petri's Anleitung zur practischen Musik, vor neuangehende Sanger und Instrumentspieler (Lauban, 1767; 2/1782).(17)

It is clear that composers in Italy and Germany during the first part of the 17th century were well aware of the currency of two basic approaches to keyboard accompaniment, and understood moreover that compositional style was the principal factor determining whether basso continuo or some manner of score reduction was to be employed. Our modern approach to keyboard accompaniment for music of the Baroque, at least in practice, has largely failed to reflect this dichotomy. On the one hand, we were perhaps misled by the proliferation of publications in the 17th and 18th centuries that focused entirely on basso continuo, writings initially required to explain how compositions in the new style were to be realized in performance and needed subsequently to keep pace with changing musical styles and tastes. Keyboard accompaniment based on score-reading or tablature, on the other hand, had already been in use for some 200 years by 1600,(18) so required no special attention at that time and because it was unexceptional has failed to catch the attention of scholars and performers working in the source-dependent field of performance practice. It would seem that the traditional mode of accompanying from score and tablature--like so many other aspects of period performance practice--was so quietly routine in its day that there was no good reason for spending time on it in formal published writings. Thus the general tendency today is to see basso continuo as a new development (which it was not) that completely supplanted earlier, presumably inferior kinds of accompaniment (which it did not), when, in fact, the origins of basso continuo are inextricably interwoven with older accompanying practices.(19)

In the earliest discussions of basso continuo, Italian and German musicians recognize the compositional significance and convenience of this mode of accompaniment, but, in their treatment of it, have difficulties dissociating themselves from the traditional score-reading and intabulations. In Italy, for instance, the early monodists Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini indicate the harmonic rhythm over a sustained bass pedal by breaking up the bass note into the appropriate rhythmic values and then reconnecting those notes with ties.(20) As to the efficacy of these ties paired with the customary figures in Le nuove musiche, Caccini admits `not being able ... to write it out more clearly except in tablature'.(21) This same method is employed by Emilio de' Cavalieri in the Rappresentatione di Anima, e di Corpo in 1600. But where Peri and Caccini sometimes fail to provide figures at all, Cavalieri conscientiously seeks to render in his basses a rather specific accompaniment by indicating simple and compound intervals, so that triads in second inversion could be figured as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and even [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].(22) Clearly Cavalieri's figured bass is not intended just as a stenographic reduction of the harmony; it is meant additionally to indicate specific pitches for the accompanist to play. Cavalieri also uses the numeri and signi of the figured bass to specify unaccented and accented nonharmonic tones,(23) emphasizing counterpoint as much as harmony. Even when compound intervals were not used, performers were expected nonetheless to listen carefully and to resolve the dissonances at the correct pitch.(24)

Similar practices were employed in Germany. Under the heading `Concerning the ties above and below the notes and numbers' in the Kurzer und Einfaltiger Bericht,(25) Johann Staden adopts the Italians' system of ties to indicate changing harmonies over a sustained bass note. He also includes a supplementary heading, `Concerning the dots beside the numbers or figures'.(26) With this second system Staden sets `dots next to the numbers or figures ... in order to give an indication of the duration of the minims, semi-minims, etc., according to what note they stand over',(27) which is merely a variant of the Italian practice.

The most important and comprehensive source of information about early continuo practices in Germany is the Syntagma musicum of Michael Praetorius. The principal discussion of thoroughbass, derived almost entirely from Italian sources, is found in chapter 6, `De Basso Generali seu Continuo', of volume 3 (Wolfenbuttel, 1619).(28) What Praetorius has to say about basso continuo is revealing both in terms of his conception of the technique in general and, more specifically, in terms of how it was supposed to be realized in 17th-century musical practice.

Praetorius introduces his discourse with his definition of the term:

The bassus generalis or continuus is so named because it continues from the beginning [of a work] to the end and, as a master part, contains within itself the entire motet or concerto.(29)

It seems from his discussion in the Syntagma that Praetorius conceived of basso continuo as being somehow equatable to keyboard tablature, advising organists to compare the intabulation of a vocal composition with its continuo part.(30) For the benefit of the reader, Praetorius provides an untexted three-voice composition and its figured bass part (illus.2, transcribed in ex.1a). On the surface it is apparent that the application of the numbers (numeri) and accidentals (sign)) is consistent with a fairly standard, if excessively detailed, figured bass. However, upon closer scrutiny of the figured bass vis-a-vis an intabulation of the same work (ex.1b) it becomes apparent that Praetorius's continuo part is not so much a harmonic reduction of the composition as it is an intabulation of the three-part polyphonic texture. With the exception of the rhythmic dimension, the cadential raised third and the avoidance of compound intervals, a strict performance of Praetorius's figured bass would sound exactly the same as an intabulation of the composition. Even though Praetorius does not use compound intervals in the figured bass, except as an example later on in the Syntagma of how one could use them, he nevertheless expects organists to play the notes at the correct pitch level, as did Cavalieri and Viadana before him.(31) Upon making this comparison, we can perhaps better understand what Praetorius means in his definition of basso continuo when he says it `contains within itself the entire motet or concerto'.


Praetorius is emphatic in prescribing detailed figurings of the bass, hoping thereby to prevent the performer from incorrectly realizing the intended harmonies. To underscore this point, Praetorius quotes extensively from book 3 of Bernardo Strozzi's Affetuosi concerti ecclesiastic):

And this [playing in accordance with the composer's intentions] could not be brought about otherwise, or more easily, than by this device of numbers or figures, by means of which any little boy, even if he has familiarized himself with them only a little, will play the music just as correctly and without discord as if he were playing from a complete Tablature. And indeed I have heard sundry persons, and found by actual experience that, by the aid and employment of the figures in question, they treated and played the Motets of Palestrina (which, as everyone well knows, are admirably constructed in accordance with the rules [of counterpoint], filled with imitations, and, in short, interwoven and complicated with beautiful ties and syncopations) in such manner that it seemed to the hearers quite as though they had all been set out in complete Tablature, since they heard nothing that sounded amiss in the playing.(32)

Even though Praetorius himself seems to have embraced basso continuo with enthusiasm, we see him also trying repeatedly in the Syntagma to soften the resistance of German organists who appear more sceptical of the practice.(33) In his opening remarks to chapter 6 Praetorius is quick to assure the wary organist that basso continuo was not invented merely to satisfy dilatory organists too lazy to intabulate compositions(34)--precisely the accusation that had been levelled by Banchieri. He continues, saying that organists who are unable, or simply unwilling, to play directly from the figured bass may use it as a basis for entering transcriptions into score (Partitur) or letter tablature. Praetorius proposes that organists still uncomfortable with Noten Tabulatur (i.e. staff notation) acquaint themselves with thoroughbass by first setting works `in their customary letter tablature, and see for themselves therein how it agrees with the basso continuo in every respect'.(35) In an appendix to the second part of chapter 6,(36) Praetorius, having already argued for the respectability and usefulness of basso continuo, advances one more line of argument to convince the doubtful organist of its merits. He shows by example that basso continuo is sometimes simply indispensable and, as a case in point, refers the reader to the German Credo (2. Teil) from his own Polyhymnia caduceatrix et panegyrica (Wolfenbuttel, 1619). Praetorius suggests that organists set the work in staff notation (Noten Tabulatur) or, if necessary, in `German letter tablature' (Teutsche Buchstaben Tabulatur), knowing that playing strictly from score or tablature will result in several chords lacking thirds.(37)

While Praetorius's writing implies a certain ambivalence in 17th-century Germany towards the wholesale adoption of basso continuo, the clearest and most authoritative testimony in support of maintaining distinct types of accompaniment comes from Heinrich Schutz.(38) The titles and prefaces to his published collections are most helpful because Schutz uses them as a platform from which to promote his musical aesthetic. They reveal to us much about the interpretation of Schutz's music and, by extension, the music of his contemporaries. The four volumes of greatest relevance to the present study are the Psalmen Davids (1619), Cantiones sacrae (1625), Geistliche Chormusik (1648) and Zwolf geistliche Gesange (1657) in that the use of organ tablature--or perhaps more accurately the explicit eschewal of thoroughbass--enters significantly into Schutz's conception and performance of the works. In each of these volumes Schutz makes his position on accompanying clear to the musical public in general and to organists in particular. He states in the preface to the Psalmen Davids that `the basso continuo is actually intended only for the Psalms; from the motet "Ist nicht Ephraim [mein teurer Sohn]" to the end of the work, diligent organists will endeavour to transcribe [the vocal parts] into score'.(39) Although, the practice of accompanying from a figured bass appears to be well established in Germany by 1625, Schutz writes in his prefatory address to the benevolus rector in the Cantiones sacrae:

The publisher, thinking that this slight work would be more agreeable [to the public], wrested this basso continuo from me; and he provided the opportunity that I should furthermore add, at the end, one or two pieces suited to basso continuo. I would beg the organists who wish to satisfy more sensitive ears, however, not to spare the pains of writing out all the parts in score or so-called tablature; should you wish to accompany, in the usual manner, solely from the continuo part, I should find it misguided and clumsy.(40)

More assertive still are Schutz's comments 23 years later, boldly stated on the title-page of the Geistliche Chormusik: `Whereby the basso continuo, on the recommendation and at the request [of the publisher], not however out of necessity, is also to be found'.(41) The actual preface to the work is a rather lengthy discourse on the importance of novice composers learning to compose according to the rules of strict counterpoint. Schutz, like numerous others before him, insists that only by mastering the stricter, regulated style of composition will the beginning organist be able to lay the musical foundation upon which to base his efforts in the concerted style. As for the nature of the accompaniment best suited to the motets of the Geistliche Chormusik, Schutz writes unambiguously:

Since some, amongst organists, have perchance the inclination to join in in this slight work of mine, originally composed without basso continuo, and are not discouraged by transcribing such into tablature or score, I am hopeful that the diligence and effort, hereupon applied, not only will not make him regret it, but rather that this style of music will also achieve all the more its desired effect.(42)

The fourth collection, the Zwolf geistliche Gesange,(43) which followed in 1657, was not prepared for publication by the aged Schutz but rather by his protege Christoph Kittel, court organist in Dresden. Even though Kittel wrote the preface to this collection (illus.4),(44) the voice of Schutz resonates throughout. Kittel informs the reader that the 12 compositions in the collection can be performed vocally or instrumentally, with or without organ accompaniment. He adds:

Hence the basso continuo, to be used only at pleasure thereby and not out of necessity, is also attached and published together on the recommendation of the publisher; and organists, who perchance propose to join in with their organ[s], are kindly reminded to transcribe if not all of this slight work nevertheless some pieces from it (above all, however, the Mass and the Magnificat) into their customary tablature or score, and to play from it.(45)

What was it about basso continuo that rankled in Schutz? What was it about certain continuo accompaniments that, to him, not only failed to `achieve the desired effect' but in fact sounded `misguided and clumsy'? First of all, continuo enforces a perception of a musical texture that is primarily vertical; the eye and ear of the accompanist, and consequently that of the listener, are compelled to see and hear harmonically rather than contrapuntally, to focus on a progression or succession of harmonies rather than attending to the polyphonic interplay of the independent lines. By extension the rhetoric of affective melodic writing may be enfeebled by the continuo's early completion of the full harmony, anticipating important pitches before they are sung.(46) To accompany these works from a figured bass must also subvert the effectiveness of transitions between polyphonic and homophonic sections, because the polyphony will most often be tainted by the pervasive homophony of the accompaniment.(47) Within the polyphonic sections themselves, the presence of basso continuo would also compromise considerably the effectiveness of subtle textural changes in the scoring. Moreover, differences between harmonic rhythm and the activity of the vocal lines, in the presence of a continuo accompaniment, will result in a constant level of dissonance that would not exist--or would at least be compositionally controlled--if the work were accompanied from tablature or score. F. T. Arnold prefaces his authoritative The art of accompaniment from a thoroughbass by stating his view that `a chordal accompaniment on a keyed instrument ... presents a clear, though unobtrusive, picture of the harmony, and forms a background to the filigree-work of the moving parts'.(48) This may hold true for a good deal of Baroque music, but what Arnold implies through metaphor--i.e. that sounds can somehow exist on exclusive planes--is misleading. In fact, the harmonies rendered by the keyboardist move at a pace sometimes gratingly different from that of the vocal parts. An instance of this from Schutz's `Ist nicht Ephraim mein teurer Sohn' of the Psalmen Davids of 619 is shown in ex.2. Schutz's figured bass--a 6-4 chord with d in the bass--does nothing to inform the player of the active harmonic and melodic movement taking place above it in the vocal parts. Consequently, instead of the tension growing gradually before the resolution of the harmony in the next measure, there is a premature harmonic crush on the third beat of the measure comprising the pitch aggregate d-d'-g'-a'-b[flat]-c"-d". (An additional e' is also heard for half the beat.) While brisk tempos, short rhythmic durations, and differentiated dynamics and timbres may serve to sublimate such harmonic clashes, they are clashes nonetheless and evidently were perceived as such by Schutz and some of his contemporaries.


Two other features should be taken into consideration in view of Praetorius's discussion of basso continuo in the Syntagma musicum. First, Praetorius advocates the use of an instrument to reinforce the bass line(49) But consider what this does to the balance in a work of equal-voiced polyphony; the lowest voice is shown in relief not only by the noticeable increase in numbers--the left hand of the keyboardist and the added bass instrument--but also by the multiple timbral colourings that these instruments bring to the bass line.(50) In short, it is no longer equal-voiced polyphony. In addition to the so-called Fundament-Instrumenta, Praetorius also endorses the active participation of Ornament-Instrumenta, such as the lute, theorbo, harp, chitarrone, lirone, violin and cornetto.(51) The players of these `continuo' instruments, according to Praetorius, are expected to use only the figured bass to improvise `new passagi and counterpoints, and thus virtually compose entirely new parts or lines'.(52) While it is precisely this kind of accompaniment that Schutz prescribes in the Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi of 1623, in a `worst possible' scenario, one can well imagine what could become of the delicate shadings and subtle rhetoric in Schutz's Cantiones sacrae or Geistliche Chormusik.

Having looked now at the two manners of accompaniment that co-existed in the first part of the Baroque, there are several interrelated issues that should be raised. To what extent should accompaniment from tablature or score inform modern performances of 17th-century choral music? First of all, it is impossible to say how many composers of polyphonic music, besides Schutz, had to make concessions to fashion-conscious publishers. Schutz at least seems to have been secure enough in his position at Dresden to express repeatedly his chagrin at the thought of performers accompanying certain of his works from figured bass. But how many other composers at this time silently had to give in to publishers' demands as a precondition of seeing their music in print; or provided figured basses of their own accord for purely commercial reasons; or, without their consent or foreknowledge, had figured basses appended to their music by the likes of Vincentius? It is also important to consider how these works would then be treated by performers. Considering the tradition and prevalence of accompanying from tablature in Baroque Germany, Praetorius's solicitous pitch to German organists on the merits of basso continuo, and Schutz's observation that `better' musicians would prefer accompaniment from tablature (a challenge to the ego of any self-respecting organist), it is entirely likely that many works composed in the style of equal-voiced polyphony would have been accompanied from an intabulation or score, whether or not they had been published originally with figured basses.

As a case in point, one might examine a surviving intabulation made in 1645 by Johannes Simbracky of the first two items of Heinrich Schutz's Musikalische Exequien (swv279, 280).(53) When the Exequien was published in 1636 Schutz included with it a figured bass for each of the three movements. Schutz remarked in the prefacing ordinance, however, that the instrumental accompaniment is essential only to the first and third movements. Simbracky responded accordingly in his intabulation by including basso continuo only in the first movement and omitting it altogether from the second.

My objective in this article has not been to argue one-sidedly in favour of one mode of accompaniment over another, or to oversimplify the extremely complicated relationship between types of accompaniment. Rather I have attempted to redress, in part, the balance that is evident in discussions of accompaniment in 17th-century sources but is sorely lacking in modern commentaries and performances. The tendency, past and present, has been to use historical sources to trace innovative changes or developments of basso continuo. In order to narrow the focus in their studies of continuo, scholars have largely excluded from their discussion any significant mention of accompaniment from intabulations and scores--or have only nodded in its direction before moving on to the more dynamic subject of basso continuo. This fundamental problem compounds with each successive step, however, as these exclusionary secondary sources are then credited as comprehensive distillations of the primary sources. As references to Baroque keyboard accompaniment become more general--as they must, for example, in music history textbooks--tablature and score-reading either cease to exist altogether or are mentioned fleetingly as an introduction to basso continuo. By acknowledging intabulations and score-reading as legitimate methods of accompaniment for polyphony from the first half of the 17th century, we may well be rewarded by hearing this music, to recall Schutz, `achieve all the more its desired effect'.

Earlier versions of this article were read at the Fifth Biennial Conference on Baroque Music at the University of Durham in July 1992, and at `Was der Generalbass Sey?: Ein Symposium der Schola Cantorum Basiliensis' in Basel (Switzerland), March 1993.

(1) H. Riemann, `Des General-Basszeitalter: Die Monodie des 17. Jahrhunderts und die Weltherrschaft der Italiener', Handbuch derMusikgeschichte, ii/2, ed. A. Einstein (Leipzig, 2/1912; it/New York, 1972). M. F. Bukofzer subsequently calls it the `thorough-bass era' (Music in the Baroque era from Monteverdi to Bach (New York, 1947), p.11). The Harvard Dictionary of Music and, more recently, The New Harvard Dictionary of Music find the Baroque synonymous with the `thoroughbass period'. See The Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. W. Apel (Cambridge, MA, 2/1969), s.v. `Baroque music; and The New Harvard Dictionary, ed. D. Randel (Cambridge, MA, 1986), s.v. `Thorough-bass, figured bass'.

(2) Messe a 4 voci: Le tre prime del Palestina [sic] cioe, Iste Confessor, Sine Nomine, & di Papa Marcello, ricotta quattro da Giov. Franc. Anerio, & quarta della Battaglia dell'istesso G. Fr. Anerio. Con il Bc. per sonare (Rome, 1619). According to Robert Eitner, this collection was reissued in 1626, 1635,1639,1662 and 1689. R. Eitner, `Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi', Biographisch-Bibliographisches Quellen-Lexikon, vii (Graz, 2/1959), p.297.

(3) O. Riemer, `Schadaeus, Abraham', New Grove.

(4) RISM L1033. In magni illius magni Boiariae ducts symphoniarchae Orlandi de Lasso Magnum opus musicum Bassus ad organum nova methodo dispositus; studio et opera Gasparis Vincentii (Wurzburg, 1625).

(5) A. L. Kirwan, `Vincentius, Caspar', New Grove. A reprint of Vincentius's preface may be found in `Mittheilungen', Monatshefte fur Musikgeschichte, iv/10 (1872), pp. 209-10.

(6) Girolamo Diruta, Seconda parse del Transilvano dialogo diviso in quattro libri (Venice, 1609), Lib. 4, p.16. O. Kinkeldey, Orgel und Klavier in der Musik des 16 Jahrhunderts: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Instrumentalmusik (Leipzig, 1910; R/Hildesheim, 1968), p.211.

(7) Diruta, Seconda parse del Transilvano: `Non si puo afar regola sicura, atteso che non si puo sapere senza vedere le consonanze, che fanno l'altre parse sopra quel Basso generale: e di qui viene che si commettono tanti error) di dissonanze: ... Si che non vi date a questa poltonaria, partite li cant), e suonate tutte le part), che farete bel sentire ...' (`One can give no reliable rules, because one cannot know, without seeing the composition, what the other voices are doing over the basso generale, and therefore one will commit many incorrect dissonances ... If one does not give in to this laziness, set the voices in score and play all the parts, and then it will sound beautiful ...') Cited in A. Compagne, `Die Anfange des Generalbasses oder: Die Praxis des Begleitens im Italienischen Fruh-Barock', Basler Jahrbuch fur historische Musikpraxis, xix (1995), p.18.

(8) Quoted in F. T. Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thorough -bass as practiced in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries (London, 1931), p.81.

(9) Quoted in Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thorough-bass, p.80.

(10) `Denselben Bassum ad Organum habe ich zwar niemals fur eine Nothdurft erkannt zu setzen, als nur in gemelter Viadanischer Manier, da er nicht zu entbehren; der Meinung ich noch verbleibe, jedoch lasse ich einem jeden sein Belieben, solchen zu setzen wo er hin will.' J. Staden, Kurzer und einfaltiger Bericht fur diejenigen, so im Basso ad Organum unerfahren, was bey demselben zum Theil in Acht zu nehmen, appendix to Kirchen-Music, Ander Theil, Geistlicher Gesang und Psalmen auf die furnembsten Fest im Jahr und sonsten zu gebrauchen; von 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 und 7 Stimmen: Dabei etliche auf Violen und andern Instrumenten gericht Mit einem Basso ad Organum (Nuremberg, 1626). The complete Bericht is reproduced in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, xii (1877), cols. 99-103,119-23. English trans. quoted in Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thorough-bass, p.101.

(11) F. Oberdorffer, `Generalba[Beta]', Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Kassel, 1955), iv, cols. 1715-16.

(12) W. Apel, The notation of polyphonic music, 900-1600 (Cambridge, 5/1953), p.37.

(13) A facsimile reprint of Bach's chorale prelude `Wir Christen Leut' from the Orgelbuchlein may be found in Apel, The notation of polyphonic music, p.39. See also R. Hill, `Tablature versus staff notation: or, Why did the young J. S. Bach compose in tablature?', Church, stage, and studio: music and its contexts in seventeenth-century Germany, ed. P. Walker (Ann Arbor, 1990), pp. 349-59.

(14) For facsimile reprints of Buxtehude's use of tablature see Dietrich Buxtehude, Werke, vi, ed. G. Harms and H. Trede (Hamburg, 1935), pp.8-12. Also see C. Lasell, `Vocal polyphony in the Luneburg Tablatures: a double repertory of solo organ literature and accompanimental Absetzungen', Church, stage, and studio, ed. Walker, pp. 231-78.

(15) Ironically, Werckmeister, writing in 1698, uses German letter tablature in presenting his discussion of basso continuo, in Die nothwendigsten Anmerckungen und Regeln, wie der Bassus continuus oder General-Bass wol konne tractiret werden (Aschersleben, 1698, 2/1715).

(16) On the topic of letter tablature Adlung says, `Sie ist schwer; doch konnte nebsten der italianischen mein Vater sie so fertig, als ein andrer die Noten.' (`Tablature is difficult; nonetheless, my father could read it, as well as staff notation, as easily as another can read the latter.') J. Adlung, Anleitung zu der musicalischen Gelahrtheit (Erfurt, 1758; R/Kassel, 1953), 186-7n. English trans. in Hill, `Tablature versus staff notation', p.

(17) J. Wolf, Handbuch der Notationskunde, ii: Tonschriften der Neuzeit: Tabulaturen, Partitur, GeneralbaB und Reformversuche (Leipzig, 1919; R/Hildesheim, 1963), p.35.

(18) For discussions of the history of keyboard partitura and tablature in Germany, see Apel, The notation of polyphonic music, pp.16-47; and Wolf, Handbuch der Notationskunde, ii, pp.3-35.

(19) See M. Schneider, Die Anfange des Basso Continuo und Seiner Bezifferung (Leipzig, 1918); and T. Borgir, The performance of basso continuo in Italian Baroque music (Ann Arbor, 1987), pp.11-20.

(20) Peri and Caccini use this method in their respective settings of Euridice, and Caccini also discusses it in the foreword to Le nuove musiche (Florence, 1601). For a richly annotated translation of Caccini's foreword, see G. Caccini, Le nuove musiche, ed. H. W. Hitchcock, Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, x (Madison, 1970). Caccini's foreword is also translated in O. Strunk, Source readings in music history: the Baroque era (New York, 1965), pp.17-32.

(21) `... non si potendo fuori della ntauolatura per quanto io conosco descriuerlo con piu facilita ...' Giulio Caccini, Le nuove musiche, Monuments of Music and Music Literature in Facsimile, 1st ser., music, xxix (New York, 1973), n.p. English translation quoted from Hitchcock's edition, p.56. The type of tablature referred to in this instance is the two-staved keyboard score.

(22) Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thorough-bass, p.49.

(23) Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thorough-bass, p.59.

(24) Viadana comments on the importance of matching pitches in the preface to his Cento concerti ecclesiastic) (Venice, 1602): `Let the organist be warned always to make the cadences in their proper position: that is to say, if a concerto for one bass voice alone is being sung, to make a bass cadence; if it be for a tenor, to make a tenor cadence; [etc.]' Quoted in Strunk, Source readings in music history the Baroque era, p.62, based on the translation and commentary in Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thoroughbass, pp.11-15. See also H. Haack, Anfange des Generalbass-Satzes: die `Cento Concerti Ecclesiastici' (1602) von Lodovico Viadana, ii (Tutzing, 1974), pp.xiv-xv; and M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii (Wolfenbuttel, 2/1619; R/Kassel, 1958), pp.131-2.

(25) Staden, Kurzer und einfaltiger Bericht, cols. 119-20. `don den Bogen uber und unter den Noten und Zahlen'.

(26) Staden, Kurzer und einfaltiger Bericht, colt 120. `don den Punkten neben den Numeris oder Zahlen'.

(27) Staden, Kurzer und einfaltiger Bericht, col.120: `Die Punkten neben den Numeris oder Zahlen werden nicht vergebens gesetzt, sondern geben ein Anzeigung der Mensur, der Minimen und Semiminimen &c. nachdem sie uber einer Noten stehen.'

(28) The Italian writers that Praetorius draws on are Lodovico Grossi da Viadana, Bernardo Strozzi, Agostino Agazzari, Adriano Banchieri and Bastiano Miseroca.

(29) `Der Bassus generalis seu Continuus wird daher also genennet/well er sich vom anfang biB zum ende continuiret, vnnd als eine General Stimme/die gantze Motet oder Concert in sich begreiffet.' Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, p.144 (recte p.124).

(30) See n.35 below. It is worth noting that Praetorius himself, at this time, in 1619, had rather little experience with basso continuo. His first published attempt at using basso continuo--in fact a basso seguente (Orgelbass)--is found in seven pieces in the ninth part of his Musae Sioniae of 1607. In his study of Praetorius's use of basso continuo, Lars Ulrich Abraham suggests that Praetorius did this as a commercial consideration. See L. U. Abraham, Der Generalbass im Schaffen des Michael Praetorius und seine Harmonischen Voraussetzungen (Berlin, 1961), p.30. According to Abraham (p.31), Hugo Riemann was also unimpressed with Praetorius's early efforts to use basso continuo, calling them `unsuccessful attempts' (`vergluckte Versuche'). Abraham provides a rather detailed discussion of Praetorius and basso continuo in chapter 1, `Der GeneralbaB--Notationsmittel oder Stilelement?', pp.29-40.

(31) Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, pp. 131-2.

(32) English trans. quoted in Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thorough-bass, p.95. `Welches dann anderer gestalt vnd leichterer nicht geschehen konnen I als durch diB mittel der Numern oder Zahlen I durch welche auch ein jedweder kleiner Knab/wenn er sich dieselben nur ein wenig bekant gemacht/den Gesang so recht vnd gut ohne dissonantien schlagen vnd tractiren wird/als wenn er aus der vollkommenen Tabulatur schluge.

`Wie ich dann etliche gehort/auch in effectu probiret, daB sie die Motetten des Palestrini (welche/wie jederman wol weiB/gar trefflich nach den Regulen formiret, fugiret, vnd in Summa mit schonen Ligaturen vnnd Syncopationibus vermenget vnd intriciret seynd) mit hulff vnd zuthun solcher Signatur der Numerorum dergestalt tractiret vnd geschlagen haben/daB sie den Zuhorern nicht anders vorkommen/als wenn sie alle in der vollkommenen Tabulatur gesetzet weren/dieweil sie keine dissonantien im schlagen gehoret haben. `Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, pp.129-30.

(33) Appended to the Wolfenbuttel copy of Johann Andreas Herbst's Musica poetica (Nuremberg, 1642) (Herzog August Bibliothek: 2.3.10 Musica) is a 25-page manuscript by Friedrich Emanuel Praetorius (fl.1655-95) entitled Exempla auf den Bassum Continuum (n.d.). This Praetorius shows progressions and cadential formulae presented as figured basses but then realized exclusively in German letter tablature.

(34) Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, p.144 (recte p.124).

(35) `... in ihre gewohnliche Buchstaben Tabulatur ... vnd sich darinnen notdurfftig ersehen/wie es allerseits mit dem General-Bag vberein komme ...' Syntagma musicum, iii, p.146 (recte p.126). Praetorius provides the figured bass together with an accompanying Discant pro Organo to help young organists in his Puercinium (Wolfenbuttel, 1621). In the 12th ordinance of the Nota ad musicum he advises inexperienced organists first to transcribe the bass and accompanying melody into letter tablature, and then likewise to intabulate the signi and numeri. See M. Praetorius, Puercinium 1621, ed. F. Blume, Gesamtausgabe der Musikalischen Werke von Michael Praetorius xix (Wolfenbuttel, 1938), p.viii.

(36) Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, pp.143-5.

(37) M. Praetorius, Polyhymnia Caduceatrix et Panegyrica 1619, ed. W. Gurlitt, Gesamtausgabe der Musikalischen Werke von Michael Praetorius, xvii/1-2 (Wolfenbuttel, 1928), pp.91-2. The excerpt that Praetorius refers to comprises the first ten bars of Part 2. In bars 5 and 7, the third is omitted from the chords formed by the written voices There is additional harmonic ambiguity in the succession of first-inversion chords; the root of the chords would be added by the continuo group.

(38) The role of tablature in the music of Heinrich Schutz is referred to periodically in Schutz studies and is covered most extensively in G. Kirchner, Der Generalbass bei Heinrich Schutz (Kassel, 960), pp.13-19. Quoting heavily from Schutz's prefaces, Kirchner's discussion of tablature with regard to Schutz is, at best, perfunctory. Although basso continuo is discussed in detail, mention of tablature is studiously avoided in W. Ehmann, `Heinrich Schutz: Die Psalmen Davids, 1619, in der Auffuhurungspraxis', Musik und Kirche, xxvi (1956), pp.145-71. A work which unfortunately seems to have made virtually no impression on modern performances of this repertory is J. N. Keller's intabulation of Schutz's Geistliche Chormusik (Kassel, 1975). In the one review of it mentioned in Music index, Keller's intabulation was barely acknowledged by Christiane Bernsdorff-Engelbrecht in Musik und Kirche xlvi/2 (1976), pp.78-9.

(39) `... der Basso continovo ist eigentlich nur fur die Psalmen geminet/von der Motet an: Ist nicht Ephraim/biB zum BeschluB deB operis werden sich fleissige Organisten mit absetzen in die Partitur zu bemuhen ...' H. Schutz, Psalmen Davids 1619, ed. W. Ehmann, Neue Ausgabe samtlicher Werke, xxiii-xxv (Kassel, 1971-81). The four works referred to by Schutz are: `Ist nicht Ephraim mein teurer Sohn' (swv40; Jeremiah 31.20); `Nun lob mein Seel den Herren' (SWV41; Ps. 103); `Die mit Tranen seen' (swv42; Ps. 126); `Nicht uns, Herr, sondern deinen Namen gib Ehre' (swv43; Ps. 115). But see Kirchner, Der Generalbass bei Heinrich Schutz, p.17. Kirchner mentions only the first three of the four.

(40) `Bibliopola, opusculum hoc gratius fore ratus, Bassum istum Generalem mihi extorsit, & ut porro unam atq; alteram cantilenam proprie ad Basin accommodatam in calce adjicerem, ansam praebuit. Vos autem Organicos, qui auribus delicatioribus satisfaciendum judicatis, rogatos volo, ne gravemini voces omnes in Partituram seu Tabulaturam, uti vocant, vestram transcribere. Siquidem in hoc genere Bassum solum pro solido fundamento vobis struere, vanum atq; inconcinnum mihi visum fuit'. H. Schutz, Preface to Cantiones sacrae 1625, ed. G. Grote, Neue Ausgabe samtlicher Werke, viii (Kassel, 1960). Compositions in the Cantiones sacrae which stylistically require continuo accompaniment and were later added by Schutz are nos.18, 32-5.

(41) Geistliche Chormusik ... Worbey der Bassus Generalis, auff Gutachten und Begehren/nicht aber aus Nothwendigkeit/zugleich auch zu befinden ist.

(42) `Da auch demand von den Organisten etwa in dieses mein ohne Bassum Continuum eigentlich auffgesetztes Wercklein/wohl und genaw mit einzuschlagen Beliebung haben/und solches in die Tabulatur oder Partitur abzusetzen sich nicht verdriessen lessen wird: lebe ich der Hoffnung/daB der hierauff gewandte FleiB und Bemuhung ihn nicht allein nicht gerewen/sondern auch diese Art der Music desto mehr ihren gewunschten Effect erreichen werde.' H. Schutz, Preface to Geistliche Chormusik 1648, ed. W. Kamlah, Neue Ausgabe samtlicher Werke, v (Kassel, 1935/1965), p.vii.

(43) H. Schutz, Zwolf geistliche Gesange 1657, ed. K. Ameln, Neue Ausgabe samtlicher Werke, vii (Kassel, 1988). Also see H. Schutz, Zwolf geistliche Gesange, ed. G. Graulich, Stuttgarter Schutz-Ausgabe, xv (Neuhausen Stuttgart, 1971).

(44) Kittel also contributed to the collection one of his own works, `O susser Jesu Christ'.

(45) `Daher auch der Bassus Continuus nicht aus noht/sondern nur nach beliebung dabey zugebrauchen/auff Gutachten des Buchhandlers/aufgesetzet/und zugleich mit heraus gegeben worden ist/und die Herren Organisten/welche etwa mit ihrer Orgel einzustimmen gedencken/derowegen freundlich erinnert werden/wo nicht das gantze Wercklein iedoch etzliche Stucke daraus/bevorab aber die Me[Beta] und das Magnificat/in ihre gewohnliche Tabulatur oder Partitur zu ubersetzen/und daraus mit einzuspielen.' Facsimile reprint in Schutz, Zwolf Geistliche Gesange, Neue Ausgabe samtlicher Werke, p.xiii; and Stuttgarter Schutz-Ausgabe, p.xliv.

(46) H. H. Eggebrecht, `Arten des Generalbasses im fruhen und mittleren 17. Jahrhundert', Archiv fur Musikwissenschaft, xiv (1957), p.80. Eggebrecht identifies this as a problem in monodic compositions.

(47) As Viadana suggests in his fifth rule in the Cento concerti, the keyboard player realizing a figured bass would double the vocal parts for works that begin imitatively. It seems that after the exposition of a work, however, all remaining sections--homophonic and polyphonic--may be accompanied chordally.

(48) Arnold, The art of accompaniment from a thorough-bass, p.vii.

(49) The instruments best suited for doubling the bass line, according to Praetorius, are the bass viol, bassoon, dulcian, trombone and, interestingly, a voice with an added text. See Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, p.145 The violone or great bass viol (Grosse Bassgeige), according to Schutz in 1636, is `the most pleasing and best instrument ... attested not only by its effect but is confirmed by the example of the most famous Musicians in Europe, who use this instrument all the time in the way outlined above ... I am resolved to do this [i.e. '. .. make a copy of the basso continuo part for the use of the Violone ...'], not only with the present slight work but also in future--God willing--with other publications soon to follow [Kleine geistliche Konzerte, i (Dresden, 1636)?].' H. Schutz, `Special index of the musical items contained in this slight work together with the ordinances for the gracious reader', Musikalische Exequien, op.7, ed. G. Graulich, trans. D. McCulloch, Stuttgarter Schutz-Ausgabe, viii (Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1973), p.xl; facs. repr. p.lxii. But see Borgir, The performance of basso continuo in Italian Baroque music, pp.5-20. In the opening comments to this work Borgir asserts that `the automatic inclusion of bass-line instruments in 17th-century music is based on the flimsiest evidence ...' (p.5) and summarizes the ensuing discussion by stating that the `review of the birth of the basso continuo practice and its roots in sixteenth-century music fails to provide any argument for doubling the bass line' (p.19).

(50) This is supported by Schutz's third point in his memoranda for the violone. He suggests that `wane etwa eine alleine auch zwey/oder mehr Vocal Bass stimmen concertiren, daB so dann der Violon auch still schweige/well ohne deB der Vocal Bass das fundament furet vnd der Violon mit ebenmassigen Chorden oder Vnisonien eine vnangeneme harmonei verursachet ...' (`... when one or more bass voices sing alone to the organ, then the Violone should not join them, because the vocal bass will perform the harmonic foundation and the Violone playing the same chords or unisons brings about an unpleasant effect on the ear ...'): Schutz, Musikalische Exequien, p.lxii; p.xl (trans.).

(51) Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, pp.146-9

(52) `... newer Passaggien, Contrapunct; vnd also fast gantz newe Parteien oder Stimmen ...', Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii, p.146.

(53) Facsimile reprint in Schutz, Musikalische Exequien, p.lx.

Gregory S. Johnston is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. He is currently writing a book on Heinrich Schutz's Musikalische Exequien in the context of funerary practices in 17th-century Germany.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Oxford University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Johnston, Gregory S.
Publication:Early Music
Date:Feb 1, 1998
Previous Article:A singer's book in the British Library.
Next Article:A Hogarth puzzle.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters