Assignment Five ~ Ars Nova, Renaissance and Baroque Music
Music 1 ~ From the Present to the Past – Ms Suncica Lazic, Student ID: 516098
ARS NOVA, RENAISSANCE AND BAROQUE MUSIC
Assignment Five – [Pt.V] ~ Ars Nova, Renaissance and Baroque Music
Example score 1
Example score 1 is written on the grand staff, for a keyboard instrument. I can discern three voices. The piece is in 2/4 time with no tempo marking but given the time signature and a fair amount of 16th notes I would hazard a guess that the tempo should be quite lively. At 85 bars length this would mean it is a relatively short piece of music. The key signature has 4 flats and considering various other clues like starting on the F, I’ve determined it’s in F minor. There are no notated dynamics so I’m presuming the piece is fairly static in this respect. I can only find a couple of ornamentation markings, in the form of mordents in the opening bar and at bar 25.
I decided to input the notes into Sibelius notation software in order to hear it back. On playback it sounded unmistakably like a Bach fugue. If this impression was correct it means it was written in the Baroque era. I set about looking for evidence in the score, and sure enough, this did seem to be the case. The piece does begin with stating a Subject (Bar 1-4) in a single voice (Tenor) and then Answers (Bar 5-8) it by restating it on the dominant in the second voice (Alto). Finally, the third voice, the bass, is introduced and repeats the Subject on the Tonic. (see fig. 2.)
This is all very typical of Baroque fugues. The subject itself consists of 8th note repetition which is followed by runs of 16ths. There’s a jump between the upbeat and down beat whereas the run of 16th notes is mainly by a stepwise movement. The Exposition is followed by an Episode containing a sequence. After the Exposition there is a Development section where modulation to the relative Major Ab and its dominant Eb Major occurs. This is in fact very typical of Bach’s fugues. He favoured writing his Development sections in the Relative key (or it’s corresponding dominant). All the Sections are divided and elaborated on by four Episodes and introduce new figures using suspensions and sequences in order to modulate to other keys, only to be brought back to the home key in the final section and ending with a coda.
Having satisfied myself that this piece most likely was written by Bach it wasn’t too complicated to find it, given that I had the key of F minor. This is in fact the Fugue part of Bach’s ‘Prelude and Fugue No.12 in F minor, BWV 881’ from Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier. It was probably written for education purposes sometime in the 1740’s while Bach was the cantor at St Thomas church in Leipzig. My admiration for Bach and for the complexities of his fugues is such that I recently made a pilgrimage to Leipzig in order to visit the Bach museum and St Thomas church. (see fig. 3.) I can’t exaggerate my admiration for him and his significance to music composition.
Example score 2
Example score 2’s instrumentation consists of a Flute, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns in D, Violins I, Violins II, Viola, Cello and Bass. Given its size I think this is an early to mid-period Classical orchestra. There’s an absence of Timpani and Clarinets and even though it’s a large orchestra it is not quite as large as during the late Classical or Romantic Eras. On the other hand, the elaborate flute writing, and the absence of Basso continuo seems to indicate it not being Baroque. There are also some distinctly Classical features, such as appoggiaturas in bars 29 and 30.
The key signature has two sharps and opens with outlining the D Major chord in every instrument save the Horns which are holding the D. This strongly suggests that the piece is in D Major. (see fig.4.) The opening motif is ornamented with a turn in the woods and strings (not in the bass parts).
The time signature is notated with the symbol for Cut Time, i.e. 2/2. The tempo given is Allegro (quick or lively). The tempo given is Allegro (quick or lively). The marking Allegro suggest that it might be the first movement of a Classical Symphony in the stereotypical Sonata Form, consisting of an Exposition, a Development and a Recapitulation section, but I don’t have the entire First Movement in the Example score 2. in order to definitively confirm this. Looking at the figures in the score they remind me of Mozart’s or Haydn’s writing. I find it difficult to determine which one of these composers it could be, since Mozart copied (and arguably improved on) some of Haydn’s style.
The passages marked forz. in bar 29-30, along with the rapid dynamic changes from p to f in bar 5-6 do bring to mind Haydn’s tendency for a big dynamic range. The mixture of legato and staccato notes in the Exposition’s first theme also seem quite Haydnesque. (see fig.4.) However, simply looking at the score is not sufficient for me to distinguish between the two. I repeat the same process that I used for Score example 1 and input the notes into the Sibelius notation software in order to hear it back. There’s a grandeur and pathos to the piece which I associate with Haydn. My favourite trait of Haydn’s is his tendency to write theatrical and emotionally overwhelming, but impeccably structured music. Given these particular stylistic traits and the drama conveyed in this piece I’d say it was composed by Haydn. If this is the case, then I would expect it to have been composed whilst Haydn was at the Esterhazy court. The Esterhazy palace had an opera, a theatre and a concert hall on the grounds were Haydn’s works were performed by the residential orchestra there. Since Haydn experienced a great degree of success in his lifetime and his music was widely copied and performed all over Europe it is quite possible the piece also travelled and was heard by the masses.
Example score 3
Example score 3 is an unaccompanied choral piece for three voices Cantus, Altus and Bassus. The chorale is set to the text ‘Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Osanna in excelsis’ which is taken form the ‘Benedictus’ section (usually performed during the Eucharist) of the Catholic Mass called ‘The Mass Ordinary’. (Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 2018).
The chants of the Catholic Mass date as far back as the 9-10th Century. The early mass was in the form of Plainchant. Plainchant was widely used in sacred settings and rituals in early civilisations. The Catholic version of plainchant is often attributed to the Era of Pope Gregory I and is often referred to as Gregorian chant. However, more resent research suggests slightly later origins. The Gregorian chant pretty much became standardised within the Catholic Christendom although a handful of other types of chants survived, in for example, Spain. (Schola Cantorum Bogotensis, 2018)
Plain chant is characterised by an unaccompanied monophonic vocal line set to text usually performed by either a soloist or by a choir singing in unison. Some hundred years after the emergence of Gregorian Plainchant additional vocal lines were slowly added to create, at first heterophonic, and later polyphonic choral music. This style of writing was referred to as Organum and it adhered to strict rules of permissible intervals occurring in parallel of 4ths and 5ths. As more voices were added and ‘modal rhythms’ were applied, a freer Organum style developed in the Notre Dame school lead by Leonin and expanded upon by his student Perotin. With the emergence of ‘Ars Nova’ in the 13th Century truly polyphonic chorales started being used in the Latin mass. By Renaissance time an imitative style of polyphony emerged, and clearer definitions of consonance and dissonance developed. This led to highly evolved contrapuntal chorales. (Taruskin and Gibbs, 2013:177)
Example score 3 was likely written in one of the old Church Modes. The cadential points throughout the piece predominantly end, on either the G which is the Finalis or on the D which is the Co-Finalis. Given that there is no b flat in the time signature I’d say that this is not a transposed mode but is probably in the Authentic Mixolydian mode, Mode 7. (Wayland Public Schools, 2018)
The composition shows no traces of the Organum style, but uses imitative contrapuntal polyphony starting on a G in the Bassus voice and then entering on the D a fifth higher in the Altus voice to eventually come in on a G again in the Cantus voice. (see fig. 5.)
This seems to be typical of the Late Renaissance Era. (Schubert, 1999) The writing adheres beautifully to the contrapuntal rules of that time and is both elegant and economical, giving a high degree of fluidity and clarity. This elegance reminds me of Palestrina’s music, but with a weightier and more solemn flavour. (Bush, 1948) I am not familiar with this music, but I find it very mysterious and would love to explore this composer further.
List of Illustrations
Figure 1. Lazic, S. (2018) J.S Bach’s own instrument on display at Leipzig’s Bach museum [Photograph] In: possession of: Suncica Lazic: London.
Figure 2. Lazic, S. (2018) Example score 1 annotated [Photograph] In: possession of: Suncica Lazic: London.
Figure 3. Lazic, S. (2018) St Thomas Church in Leipzig [Photograph] In: possession of: Suncica Lazic: London.
Figure 4. Lazic, S. (2018) Example score 2 page 1 annotated [Photograph] In: possession of: Suncica Lazic: London.
Figure 5. Lazic, S. (2018) Example score 3 annotated [Photograph] In: possession of: Suncica Lazic: London.
Bach, J.S. (1925) Bach’s ‘Prelude and Fugue No.12 in F minor, BWV 881’ from Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier. [Music Score] Public Domain At: http://hz.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/9/9f/IMSLP514816-PMLP786971-BWV881.WTC.book2.f-moll.pdfhttp://ks.petruccimusiclibrary.org/files/imglnks/usimg/3/3e/IMSLP104942-PMLP04505-Prokofiev_-_Symphony_No._1,_Op._25_(orch._score).pdf
Bush, A. (1948) Strict counterpoint in the Palestrina style. London Strainer & Bell.
Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2018) Mass Music. At: https://www.britannica.com/art/mass-music#ref205675 (Accessed on 22 July 2018)
Schola Cantorum Bogotensis. (2018) Gregorian Chant History. At: http://interletras.com/canticum/Eng/history_intro.htm (Accessed on 22 July 2018)
Schubert, P. (1999) Modal Counterpoint Renaissance Style. New York: Oxford University Press.
Taruskin, R. and Gibbs, C. (2013) The Oxford History of Western music. (College Edition) New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Wayland Public Schools. (2018) The Medieval Church Modes, Dorian Scales & Mixolydian Scales.
(Accessed on 30 July 2018)
‘Ars Nova, Renaissance and Baroque Music ‘has been one of my favourite parts so far. There has been an awful lot to sink my teeth into. J.S Bach himself is worthy of decades of studying. I find the complexity of his fugues overwhelming and mesmerising, like riddles that need solving. Earlier this year I paid a visit to the Bach Museum in Leipzig and the various churches in which he worked. Looking at his manuscripts and listening to how the instruments from the era sounded was illuminating. The Bach Museum had a room where you could listen to his work performed on early instruments and you could solo and select what sections you wanted to hear. I spent a couple of hours in there and felt like I really learnt a lot from ‘building’ my own Baroque orchestra. I have an appreciation for early instruments and even though they can be cruder and sometimes shrill sounding they do provoke a more primal emotional reaction in me. For instance, I love the sound of the Shawm because it cuts through and calls to attention. The shrillness makes a lot of sense considering most music started off being played outdoors.
I also found the Music Theory Project really interesting. In April this year I attended a week long residential (in the French Pyrenees) composing master class with Gavin Bryars. A couple of his lectures were on Pythagorean tuning and Just Intonation and he illustrated his teachings by using examples of pieces he had written for the Hilliard Ensemble and for Trio Mediaeval. I must say, the sound was so pure and the pitching so sublime, it made me feel like a lot of beauty has been lost with equal temperament. Another area Gavin Bryars explored was the writing of Madrigals and how his are informed by old manuscripts and based on Petrarch. Whilst I was there, I worked on my own modal piece under his supervision. It has become an area of great interest to me and this course module was fortuitously timed when it comes to my own music. I have found some of Monteverdi’s recitative style very helpful to learn from, when it comes to solving some of my own composing conundrums. This is something that I came across thanks to the coarse material and listening suggestions you’ve given.
For the assignment I picked the score reading task, which was quite difficult for me and slightly beyond my reach. It has taken me a lot longer to complete than the previous assignments and I can’t say I am entirely happy with the result. I feel like I could have observed a lot more with more practice. However, I do think that it was really worthwhile to push myself even at the risk of failure, in order to learn more. I feel like the attempt has paid off and was worth the extra effort. It is the difficult tasks that result in the biggest progress and leaps in understanding.