The variation canzona for keyboard instruments in Southern Italy and Italy and Austria in the seventeenth century
Potter, Sewall Bennett
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The variation canzona was a keyboard forn of the early and middle Earoque periods; an era which coincided closely with the duration of the seventeenth century. It had its beginnings ca. 1600 in Naples. Along with other characteristics of the Neapolitan school, the variation canzona was taken up by the Roman composer, Frescobaldi. Following Frescobaldi the tradition of the South Italian school was passed on to a group of Viennese composers of whom the earliest and leading figure was Johann Jakob Froberger, a pupil of Frescobaldi and a composer of cosmopolitan background. With the death of Frescobaldi the South Italian school fell into a decline during the middle Baroque period and then revived towards the end of the century under such composers as Bernardo Pasquini, Gregorio Strozzi, and Domenico Zipoli, reaching another climax in the works of Domenico Scarlatti. The Franco-Flemish and French chanson, of which the canzona was the instrumental counterpart, was a periodic form consisting of fugal sections juxtaposed in various schemes of repetition and recapitulation. It was characterized by lively themes in contrast to the slow moving themes of the ricercar, and typically, had a first subject which began with repeated notes in dactylic rhythm. The popularity of the chanson, aided by the growth of music printing, led to the making of keyboard transcriptions; and the keyboard transcriptions led to coloristic keyboard versions. The earliest known publication of keyboard music in Naples, Antonio Valente's Intavolatura di Cimbalo. . . (1575) contains Canzoni francesi desminuiti. Earlier in the century the Venetian composer, Girolamo Cavazzoni, had taken the first step toward establishing the canzona francese as an independent form in his Intavolatura cioe recercari. . . (1542) by taking the material of Josquin des Pres's chanson Fault d'Argent and making his own contrapuntal elaboration of the themes. Independent keyboard canzonas based on the form of the chanson were written by Venetian composers of the early seventeenth century. Contemporary terms used for the keyboard counterpart of the chanson were canzona alia francese and, for a type of chanson with special themes, capriccio. The canzona for keyboard instruments merged with the ricercar in the monothematic and uni- sectional fugue in the late Baroque period. In the canzona literature of the South Italian school and the Viennese school unifying elements were introduced into the originally periodic form. The first step was found in the works of Giovanni Macque, a Flemish composer who lived in Naples and became the founder of a school of keyboard composers who were the forerunners of Frescobaldi. Macque introduced the monothematic concept into the keyboard canzona. It had appeared earlier in connection with a type of learnedly contrapuntal ricercar first found among the works of Andrea Gabrieli and taken up by the Dutch composer, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck in his fantasias. Macque, however, was the first to adapt it to the lighter form of the canzona. The term variation canzona itself is a modern term. The seventeenth century composer was thinking in terms of a monothematic form when he wrote his variation cenzonas as evidenced by the use of such titles as Capriccio sopra un sogetto solo found occasionally in Macque, Trabaci, and Frescobaldi to describe a variation canzona. In the process of adapting the single theme to the various sections of a canzona with their varying meters and tempi, the theme underwent the rhythmic transformations that led to the use of the term variation canzona by modern writers. The form thus established by Macque was taken up by his pupil Giovanni Maria Trabaci in Naples and then by the great composer and organist of San Pietro di Roma, Girolamo Frescobaldi. In its earliest manifestations the variation canzona still retained vestiges of its earlier periodic forebears. Thus, in the canzonas of Macque and Trabaci organization in terms of repetition and recapitulation of sections can still be found. The following scheme of a canzona by Trabaci is a typical example: A B C B' C' A This survival from the chanson form was finally discarded in the works of Frescobaldi who replaced the periodic organization with a continuous building up of rhythmic and contrapuntal tension from one section to another--though the sections are definitely divided from each other and contrasted in meter. Though Frescobaldi gave up the repetition and recapitulation schemes, he retained the multiplicity of sections found in the earlier men. Since these numerous sections had lost the organizational raison d'etre they had formerly had, Frescobaldi could give the unusual instructions found with his most extended compositions. In the introduction to the Capricci. . . of 1624 we find a note to the effect that the performer need not play the whole composition, but may begin anywhere he wishes and end with a section whose cadence is on the same tone. In his best known work, the Fiori Musicali (1635), a work of his mature years, the canzonas are mostly in three sections and sometimes in two. Frescobaldi's pupil, Froberger, took the basic scheme of the variation canzona and greatly expanded the individual sections while reducing their number. Of all the composers, he was the most consistent in his employment of the variation canzona form. All the canzonas and capricci collected by Guido Adler in the Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich (IV, i; X, ii) are variation canzonas; there are six canzonas and eighteen capricci (Froberger makes no distinction between compositions entitled canzona and capriccio). Froberger is the leading representative of the Middle Baroque Viennese group which found its roots in South Italian influences. An interesting set of compositions which exhibits the same general tendencies as Froberger's are the Capricci which appear in the Yale Ms 5056 as compositions of N.A. Strungk. These capricci, though not all variation canzonas, show the same tendencies toward expansion of sections and reduction in number of sections; they often have only two sections, one in duple and one in triple meter, each of which approaches the scope of a separate fugue. Kerll, another Viennese composer, shows very conservative tendencies in his handling of the form and uses periodic elements. The adaptation of a vocal form to the keyboard inevitably brought with it the problem of idiomatic keyboard writing. The earliest attempts, coloristic versions of specific vocal pieces, (such as the examples cited above by Valente) had resulted in the obscuring of the original contrapuntal structure of the composition. There were two types of idiomatic keyboard writing in the Renaissance which were available to the seventeenth century composer, and both were absorbed into the variation canzona early in the century. The two types were (1) the keyboard variation, characterized chiefly by the treatment of the melody as a cantus firmus while the other voices wove figurations around it and (2) the toccata with its free, improvisatory, running passages. There were two sources of keyboard variations in the sixteenth century: the English school, whose most important members were William Byrd, John Bull, and Orlando Gibbons, and the Spanish School whose outstanding representatives were the lutenists Narbaez, Fuenllana and Valderrabano and which reached its climax in the works of the organist Antonio de Cabezon. The toccata originated with the Venetian composer Andrea G-abrieli. Of the two schools of keyboard variation the Spanish was, geographically and politically, most closely allied with the Neapolitan. Thus, it is the influence of Cabezon that can be seen in the canzones of Trabaci and Macque. Cabezon used a technique of patterned figuration in the accompanying voices of his cantus firmus variations, and the influence of his style can be traced throughout the South Italian and Viennese schools. The incorporation of toccata-like passages into the canzona is found first in Trabaci, who uses them to decorate the final cadences of his canzonas. Frescobaldi, in many of his canzonas, uses toccata-like passages at the end of each section, and Froberger and his followers make Fresccbaldi's procedure a regular part of their technique. In some of the very late examples of the variation cenzona the toccata-like passages are replaced by true sequential episodes (cf. Poglietti, and in Italy, Zipoli). The seventeenth century added a technique of its own to the kevboard techniques of the Renaissance, the instrumental theme. Instrumental subjects were found first in Frescobaldi, who applied characteristic keyboard figures to his themes. Later, influences of violin writing occur in the works of Poglietti and Kerll. The instrumental theme opened the way for the homogeneous instrumental counterpoint of the Late Baroque.
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