A Vince Torelli Novel Book 2: Retribution

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Profiting by this felicitous innovation, he continued to emphasize the importance of the string band, enlarged it, and, by a judicious suppression of the weaker members of the viol family, established a body of strings that conforms, at least approximately, to the violins, violas, 'cellos, and basses of the present day.

Having once for all instituted a rational and permanent foundation for obtaining solidity of tone combined with facility of execution, it was a matter of course that the brass should ultimately appear in more logical proportion to the strings. The progress of the wood-wind was of slower growth, largely due to technical imperfections and mechanical difficulties of performance.

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But, considering the means at his disposal, a commendable appreciation for contrasted groups of instruments is embodied in the pages of his later works,—indeed, already in " Orfeo " can be traced this tendency to enhance the dramatic situation by means of judicious tone-coloring. Oft-quoted illustrations are the accompaniment of Pluto's songs by four trombones, the lament of Orpheus by bass viols, the chorus of spirits by organi di legno. And in his riper works, intelligent instrumentation and characteristic orchestration progress simultaneously.

The introduction of the tremolo , pizzicato , and other dramatic and expressive devices is attributed to him. He showed some system of scoring, which included more specific instructions for the performers than had hitherto been the custom. It is remarkable that the direct successors of Monteverde should have been more or less blind to the latent powers of this newly vitalized organism,—this prototype of the modern orchestra.

Even Carissimi cannot be included among the progressive writers for the orchestra, indeed, his art of scoring stands lower than Monteverde's. Of course, in the development of oratorio, his dramatic influence was of great importance. He caused the monodic style to advance rapidly, by infusing into recitativo and the aria more spontaneity, into instrumental accompaniment greater interest.

Though inferior to Monteverde in originality, Carissimi evinced a keener appreciation for plastic and tonal effects. His eminent pupil, Cesti , is likewise to be remembered less for his instrumentation than for his further development of recitativo and the da capo aria in connection with the operatic stage.

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On the other hand, Cavalli , apart from the fortuitous influence his sojourn at the court of Louis XIV had upon Lulli, inherited a more decided talent for orchestration from Monteverde, whose pupil he was. His interesting experiments in writing accompaniments for two violins and a bass established a precedent that survived the test of many years.

Like Monteverde, his instincts were strongly dramatic, but perhaps his connection with St. Mark's Church modified his style of writing for the orchestra. For more especially his a capella sacred works are imbued with considerable warmth of expression, and show sentient regard for melody, rhythm, and form.


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And thus, even as Carissimi displayed but little feeling for purely instrumental effects, though holding a unique position as a composer of oratorio, so Cavalli must be regarded as primarily a dramatic writer,—indeed, among the immediate successors of Monteverde, he alone succeeded in substantially furthering dramatic development in Italy, that is to say, the development of dramatic ideals as had been attempted by the Florentine neophytes of Greek tragedy.

For as Langhans expresses it: "After him Italian opera gradually diverges from the path originally taken, and sacrifices the antique simplicity aimed at by its founders to the ever increasing demand for sensuous charm. The alliance of poetry and music, dissolved in the Middle Ages and renewed but a few decades before, is again broken off, and the equilibrium that had just been acquired is sacrificed anew to the claims of music.

But while the nature of Italian music after Cavalli's time was subject to variable influences, France took up the cause of drama with enthusiasm, and in this field Lulli looms up as the sole dictator of his age.


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  • Favored by the extravagant demands for display and spectacular effects prevalent at the court of Louis XIV, Lulli proceeded to develop dance forms as had been inaugurated by his predecessor, Cambert, whose position he usurped. The ballet de cour , already in vogue in France, consisted of dances, dialogues set to music, combined with dramatic episodes.

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    Out of this native form of entertainment, modern French opera was destined to germinate. Having found this a suitable prototype as a basis for his operas, Lulli proceeded to imbue it with exotic principles. Like Monteverde, he discarded the ecclesiastical modes. Again, he adhered strictly to the requirements of his text, and developed declamatory recitative as promulgated by Cavalli.

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    But, considering the versatility of the man, once again a disappointing analogy to the peculiarly prominent deficiency of Carissimi and Cavalli confronts us. For Lulli's orchestration was, like that of Meyerbeer two hundred years later, sensational rather than of enduring worth. By no means is Lulli's universal genius as organizer, composer and orchestrator to be undervalued, nor is the importance of his influence upon subsequent French music to be lost sight of.

    But it is evident that the direct evolution of really stable instrumentation was benefited, during this period, more by the crowning achievements of Scarlatti, and by the labors of the secondary Italian composers, who devoted themselves more especially to purely instrumental music, and thereby sowed the seed for subsequent purely orchestral music in Germany. It is true that credit is due to Lulli for having introduced into his orchestra a large variety of instruments, which he used with considerable skill, although all of them were not suitable for permanent retention; but it would appear to the present writer that Lavoix, in his " Histoire de L'Instrumentation ," page , is, perhaps, somewhat extravagant in his eulogy of Lulli's orchestration, especially since he previously makes but passing reference to that of Scarlatti.

    Again, similar use of solo effects and of contrasted groups of instruments as cited by Lavoix is also to be found in the scores of Lulli's predecessors and contemporaries in Italy. Had Lulli and his contemporaries understood the art of judiciously distributing the notes of a chord throughout the orchestra, not to mention the proper choice in number and species of instrument, this custom would have soon fallen into disuse; and, as we know, not until this did take place one hundred years later, was it possible to obtain ideal solidity, balance of tone, contrast, and variety.

    By a coincidence, the year of Beethoven's birth sounded the death-knell of the orchestral harpsichord, for in the opera " Mitridate ," written in that year, Mozart was the last of the great composers to employ it as a regular component of the orchestra. To Lulli, therefore, orchestration was but a secondary issue, in spite of the importance he attached to it. Form, on the other hand, was permanently benefited by his labors, whereas, in musical history, he occupies the second of the four pedestals sustaining the arch that spans the realm of pure music drama, and retires into the mythical haze of Hellenic tragedy.

    As intimated above, further survey of the field of instrumentation in Italy discovers commendable activity, such as was displayed by Legrenzi; by Steffani and Clari; by the violinists Torelli, Vivaldi, and especially Corelli; finally, by the greatest musician both active and creative of the seventeenth century, Scarlatti. The labors of Legrenzi are worthy of consideration on account of his logical development of the constituency of the orchestra.

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    As Maestro at San Marco, Venice, he increased the number of instrumentalists at that church to over thirty. It is noteworthy that he employed almost exclusively violins and viols, supported in the bass by four theorbos i. The wood-wind was represented by a solitary bassoon, whereas two cornets and three trombones replaced Monteverde's earlier assortment of brass.

    And thus, already in the seventeenth century was found a man whose perspicuity in the choice of a modest band of loud-voiced instruments commended itself for some of the mightiest climaxes of Beethoven's immortal works. The significance of chamber music as fostered by Steffani and Clari is, of course, well known in musical history. And the wonderful impetus given to the art of violin-making, by stimulating a development of executive technique, brought forth fruit that culminated in the regency of a number of famous violinist-composers.

    Among these, Torelli died , for the creation of the concerto grosso , Vivaldi died , for the development of harmonic design and figuration characteristic of his instrument, and Corelli , for combining principles of harmony with contrapuntal devices, rendered invaluable service to the nascent architecture of modern string writing. For by exploring the possibilities of the violin, by establishing its superiority as a solo instrument, by demonstrating not only its potentiality but also its limitations in relation to other instruments, there arose, in consequence, a more delicate perception as to the necessary constitution of an evenly balanced string band.

    This acquirement was accompanied by improved methods of writing for the strings. No composer of his time combined these requirements more successfully than Corelli, for the types of composition which occupied his attention were the precursors of the classic sonata, and his contributions thereto mark the starting point of genuinely artistic instrumental music.

    Corelli's relation to chamber music and the concerto is as that of Monteverde to the orchestra. Neither of them was a radical reformer; they both proceeded along the more conservative lines of evolution, selection, elaboration. The scaffolding of their respective spheres of activity had already been reared by that countless throng of forgotten and unappreciated workers, whose mission it is to make smooth the path for the greater lights, that appropriate and mould into collectaneous form the puny though individual originality of the lesser.

    But whereas nothing more than a pious interest in an historic heirloom has preserved Monteverde's efforts from falling into oblivion, those of Corelli have been perpetuated by reason of their intrinsic merit. The highest development of productive musical art during the seventeenth century culminated in Scarlatti [5] And orchestration was aided by him to no small degree.

    Of course, his name is primarily coupled with the Neapolitan operatic principles,—principles that ultimately led to baneful results, in spite of having enriched the world with sensuous and beautiful melody. Only a cursory review of Scarlatti's expansive activity is permissible as being mostly irrelevant to our subject. Reared in the characteristic atmosphere of Carissimi's cantatas and oratorios, impelled by poetic instinct and fondness for melodic design, he enlarged upon the da capo aria , the recitativo accompagnato , and in general paid careful attention to the external structure of the separate numbers in his operas.

    Above all, Scarlatti became the knight errant though eventually the thrall of il bel canto. It was fortunate, therefore, that Scarlatti possessed both these attributes; and through the channels of this important branch of orchestration, independent orchestration received permanent form. Let us see how this metamorphosis took place.

    Retrospection shows us that Peri, initiating a rudimentary dramatic style in place of Flemish polyphony, contributed but slightly to the advancement of instrumental accompaniment. He and his collaborators wrote little more than a figured bass for the harpsichord, and at performance they evoked the aid of the adventitious efforts of a motley aggregation of instrumentalists.

    In France, the lyrical stage piece of Perrin and Cambert, " La Pastorale " produced in —the year of Scarlatti's birth showed some slight improvement in the art of scoring; but it has been said that even Lulli composed his operas at the spinet, and at times delegated various details of instrumentation to his secretary. Monteverde established a nucleus of strings. Cavalli developed three-part writing for two violins and a bass. Legrenzi regulated the "distribution" of instruments.

    Corelli and his contemporaries advanced technique of performance and cultivated instrumentation in the miniature. The task allotted to Scarlatti was, therefore, not difficult. He accepted the already established supremacy of strings, but soon realized that three-part writing did not produce even balance of tone. Consequently, he adopted a manner of writing which comprised a division of the violins into firsts and seconds.

    He added, moreover, an individual part for the violas, and thereby established a canon of phonetics that has been accepted by all erudite composers since his time. It is true that these characteristics of orchestration cannot be said to have originated with him, but his persistent use thereof established a precedent of permanent value.

    It is obvious that this practice was the result either of sophism or of indifference and ignorance.

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    And the fact that as late as the eighteenth century no less a composer than Haydn and even Mozart should have continued to frequently employ three-part writing for the strings is certainly a paradox, and tends to prove how circuitous the process of evolution is.

    However, Haydn and Mozart had such perfect command of florid counterpoint, that no matter what the distribution of string parts might be, the results were invariably effective. Four instead of three notes of a chord being now properly dispersed among the strings, [7] Scarlatti proceeded to enrich his orchestra by a logical employment of wind instruments in pairs.

    But Scarlatti's orchestra was more plastic than Lulli's, and his overtures more purely instrumental. As has been stated, Italian culture of the violin and the increasing regard in which that instrument was held, led to the development of execution as well as to an appropriate style of writing for it on a well defined harmonic basis. These improvements were, moreover, further reflected by a more earnest attention to the progress of other instruments, both as to mechanism and technique.

    As a result, musical performances improved rapidly, and the isolated, purely instrumental numbers of the opera, heretofore utterly disregarded by the public, began to excite comment. Whereupon Scarlatti, keen to perceive any nascent inclination on the part of his audience, turned to a more careful consideration of the overture. His motives for doing so may not have been of the highest, but the results were directly beneficial in that by eliciting warm approval, these overtures were eventually performed as concert numbers apart from the opera.

    Though short in form, they consisted of three or four distinct, well-rounded movements, and were destined to become the prototype of the classic symphony. Finally, the components of his orchestra—represented in his most felicitous scoring by violins, violas, 'cellos, double-basses, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns—were practically identical with those of the early classicists.

    So we see that the orchestra as bequeathed by Scarlatti was based upon a well organized body of strings, supported by a modest array of wood and brass instruments.