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Edward D. Latham contends that Gershwin’s experimental use of simple rondo form with the main theme as the refrain echoes the tension between Porgy and Bess in the duet, “It is as if Bess is clinging to the refrain for dear life, afraid that if she wanders too far from it, she will lose Porgy’s love for good.
Once again, it is Porgy who guides Bess back to the home key, re-establishing F major with a half cadence at the end of the B and C sections.” Gershwin thereby subverts the rondo forms as a guaranteed sign of confidence and stability into an indication of the situation’s volatility. Gershwin had originally changed the title from Porgy to Porgy and Bess to emphasise the romance between the two title characters and accommodate operatic conventions.
On the technicality of Bess’s role in the duet, Helen M. Greenwald, chair of the department of music history at New England Conservatory and editor of the Oxford Handbook of Opera, wrote that Bess’s solo “requires the legato power of a Puccini heroine”.
I Loves You Porgy (1935) from the opera “Porgy and Bess”
“It takes years and years of experience to know that such a note cannot take such a syllable, that many a poetic line can be unsingable, that many an ordinary line fitted into the proper musical phrase can sound like a million.”
– Ira Gershwin
The folk opera Porgy and Bess was based on a 1926 novel Porgy written by a white poet from South Carolina, DuBose Heyward, who, with his wife Dorothy, adapted the novel for a play which had a successful run in 1927. The story centers on a disabled black man (Porgy), the woman he loves (Bess), her lover (Crown), and a drug dealer (Sportin’ Life). In the Broadway show which featured a mostly black cast these roles were played respectively by Todd Duncan, Anne Brown (who introduced “I Loves You Porgy”), Warren Coleman, and John W. Bubbles.
The Heywards and the Gershwins spent part of the summer of 1934 near Charleston observing a group called the Gullahs who became the prototypes for the residents of the show’s Catfish Row.
Although George Gershwin had proposed in 1926 that Heyward write the libretto for an opera, nothing happened for several reasons until 1933, and then their lack of proximity to each other made the collaboration difficult. It was then that Ira Gershwin became involved in the project. Some of the lyrics for songs from Porgy and Bess are credited to Ira alone, but the ever self-effacing lyricist is quoted in Philip Furia’s book Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist as saying, “Even with these, however, Ira maintained ‘I’m pretty sure I was indebted, theme-wise, to a word or phrase borrowed from the text.’” Several songs, including “I Loves You Porgy,” are credited to both Ira and Heyward.
As Furia points out, “In their collaborations, it was apparent to Ira that Heyward, fine poet that he was, simply was not skilled in the lyricist’s craft of writing singable and memorable words.” As Ira says in his book Lyrics on Several Occasions, “This is no reflection on DuBose’s ability. It takes years and years of experience to know that such a note cannot take such a syllable, that many a poetic line can be unsingable, that many an ordinary line fitted into the proper musical phrase can sound like a million.”
Many jazz artists have mined the now popular score, including Billie Holiday (1948), Oscar Peterson (1959), and the MJQ (1964). A 1956 studio recording (reissued on CD in 1999) included the complete score with Al “Jazzbo” Collins providing the narration, Mel Torme singing the role of Porgy and Frances Faye as Bess; Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded the songs in 1957; Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans recorded their highly praised album in 1958. Nina Simone’s rendition of “I Loves You Porgy,” featured on her 1959 debut album, became one of the top 20 songs on the Billboard charts. In 2004 trumpeter/flugelhornist Clark Terry recorded songs from Porgy and Bess (including “I Loves You Porgy”) with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Jeff Lindberg.
There was great enthusiasm for the production which opened at the Alvin Theatre in New York on October 10, 1935. An elaborate opening-night party was planned, but there was little to celebrate after the reviews came out, most of which, at best, were mixed. The show ran for only 124 performances, most of them at a loss. George, who considered Porgy and Bess his best work, would not live to see the acclaim that it eventually received.
According the Edward Jablonski in Gershwin: A Biography, “[Ira] was thrilled in 1976 when the Houston Grand Opera presented a stunning production of Porgy and Bess with the original score and orchestration intact. The production was a triumph which brought the shock of recognition: Porgy and Bess was a real opera. Ira rejoiced in this, his brother’s vindication. (Ira did not live for that ultimate endorsement, a production at the Metropolitan Opera House, during the spring of 1985, nor the greater triumph at Glyndebourne, England, in the summer of 1986.)” Although bedridden, Ira was pleased that the show also was revived at Radio City Music Hall before his death in 1983.
The 1959 film of Porgy and Bess featured Sidney Poitier as Porgy (voice dubbed by Robert McFerrin), Dorothy Dandridge as Bess (voice dubbed by Adele Addison), Sammy Davis, Jr. as Sportin’ Life, and Brock Peters as Crown.
Other notable songs from the opera include the ever popular jazz standard “Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “Bess You Is My Woman Now,” and “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’.” Selections from Porgy and Bess were recorded in 1935 by white opera singers. Several other versions were recorded between 1940 and 2006 when the first recording of Gershwin’s original production was released featuring a cast backed by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
American composer Aaron Copland is known for works like “Appalachian Spring” and “Fanfare for the Common Man,” among many others.
Who Was Aaron Copland?
Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, and went on to study piano and composition and studying in Europe for some time. He became one of the century’s foremost composers with highly influential music that had a distinctive blend of classical, folk and jazz idioms. Some of Copland’s most prominent pieces included Fanfare for the Common Man, El Salon Mexico and Appalachian Spring, for which he won the Pulitzer. An Oscar-winning writer of film scores as well, Copland died on December 2, 1990.
Early Years and Travels
Composer Aaron Copland was born on November 14, 1900, in Brooklyn, New York to parents of Jewish and Eastern European descent. The youngest of five children, Copland went on to develop an interest in the piano, receiving guidance from his older sister. He later studied under Rubin Goldmark in Manhattan and regularly attended classical music performances. At 20 years old Copland opted to continue his studies in Fontainebleau, France, where he received tutelage from the famed Nadia Boulanger.
A Visionary Composer
Studying a variety of European composers while abroad, Copland made his way back to the U.S. by the mid-1920s. Having been asked by Boulanger to write an organ concerto, Copland eventually debuted Symphony for Organ and Orchestra on January 11, 1925, with the New York Symphony Society under Walter Damrosch.
The decade that followed saw the production of the scores that would spread Copland’s fame throughout the world. He was concerned with crafting sounds that would be seen as “American” in its scope, incorporating a range of styles in his work that included jazz and folk and connections to Latin America.
Some of his most well-known pieces include Piano Variations (1930), The Dance Symphony (1930), El Salon Mexico (1935), A Lincoln Portrait (1942) and Fanfare for the Common Man (1942). Copland later composed the music to Martha Graham’s 1944 dance Appalachian Spring. The following year Copland won the Pulitzer Prize for the piece.
An author as well, Copland published the first edition of the book What to Listen for in Music in 1939, followed by Our New Music (1941) and Music and Imagination (1952). The latter title was shaped by the composer’s Norton Lectures at Harvard, and he also taught at the New School for Social Research.
Oscar for ‘Heiress’
Copland was a renowned composer of film scores as well, working on Of Mice and Men (1939), Our Town (1940) and The North Star (1943)—receiving Academy Award nominations for all three projects. He eventually won an Oscar for The Heiress (1949). And more than a decade later, Copland composed a stark, unsettling score for the controversial Something Wild (1961). Selections from his various works would be used in TV series and commercials over the years, as well as films like Spike Lee’s He Got Game (1998).
In his later compositions, Copland made use of a European derived tonal system. By the 1970s, he had ceased crafting new works, focusing on teaching and conducting.
Copland died on December 2, 1990 in North Tarrytown, New York at 90 years old. Having received an array of accolades in his later years, the iconic composer had also worked with Vivian Perlis on a two-volume autobiography, Copland: 1900 Through 1942 (1984) and Copland Since 1943 (1989). A well-received, lengthy biography on his life was published in 1999—Aaron Copland: The Life & Work of an Uncommon Man, by Howard Pollack. And an extensive collection of Copland’s works, including his personal letters and photographs, are held by the Library of Congress.
Copland wrote a total of about 100 works which covered a diverse range of genres. Many of these compositions, especially orchestral pieces, have remained part of the standard American repertoire. According to Pollack, Copland “had perhaps the most distinctive and identifiable musical voice produced by this country so far, an individuality … that helped define for many what American concert music sounds like at its most characteristic and that exerted enormous influence on multitudes of contemporaries and successors.” His synthesis of influences and inclinations helped create the “Americanism” of his music. The composer himself pointed out, in summarizing the American character of his music, “the optimistic tone”, “his love of rather large canvases”, “a certain directness in expression of sentiment”, and “a certain songfulness”.
While “Copland’s musical rhetoric has become iconic” and “has functioned as a mirror of America,” conductor Leon Botstein suggests that the composer “helped define the modern consciousness of America’s ideals, character and sense of place. The notion that his music played not a subsidiary but a central role in the shaping of the national consciousness makes Copland uniquely interesting, for the historian as well as the musician.” Composer Ned Rorem states, “Aaron stressed simplicity: Remove, remove, remove what isn’t needed…. Aaron brought leanness to America, which set the tone for our musical language throughout [World War II]. Thanks to Aaron, American music came into its own.”
Aaron Copland’s music has served as the inspiration for a number of popular modern works of music:
Baden Powell was considered one of the world’s best contemporary acoustic guitar players and one of the most expressive composers of 20th century Brazilian popular music.
Baden Powell was born in the town of Varre-e-Sai (State of Rio de Janeiro) on August 6, 1937, first child of Adelina Gonçalves de Aquino and Lilo de Aquino and was named after the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Thompson Baden Powell, of whom Mr. de Aquino was an admirer. The family moved to Rio when the child was four months old and Baden then became a carioca from the São Cristóvão borough. The boy grew up listening to music: his father, a shoe maker by trade and a violinist by calling, held regular get-togethers at home, at which Pixinguinha and Donga, two of Brazil’s popular music icons, were always present.
At the age of eight, after much insistence from Baden, his father arranged for him study guitar with Jaime Florence (“Meira”), violinist from the group “Regional do Canhoto”. Florence introduced Baden to Brazilian popular music and the classics, especially the Spanish masters Francisco Tàrrega and Andrés Segóvia. The boy proved to be a prodigy on the instrument and the following year at age nine, performed in the program Papel Carbono, produced by Renato Murce at the Ràdio Nacional, winning first place as a guitar soloist. By thirteen Baden was practically playing as a professional musician, earning small cachets for performances in balls and parties in the suburbs.
After finishing junior-high school, Baden Powell worked as a musician for the Ràdio Nacional and toured the country performing in small towns. Around 1955 he joined the trio of pianist Ed Lincoln which performed in the Bar Plaza, in Copacabana. At that time jazz had marked its presence in Brazil not only by the possibilities of improvisation and the technique required, but also by the presence of jazz greats such as Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. And the Plaza was the place to be for music lovers, including one of Powell’s admirers: Antônio Carlos Jobim.
That is when Baden started to compose and, all by himself, produced Deve Ser Amor (It Must Be Love), Encontro Com a Saudade (Date with Loneliness), Não é Bem Assim (Not Quite Like That). In 1956 came his first big success Samba Triste (Sad Samba), with lyrics by Billy Blanco. Other collaborators are: Aloysio de Oliveira (Vou por Aí – Wandering), Geraldo Vandré (Rosa Flor – Rose), Ruy Guerra (Canção à Minha Amada – A Song to My Love), etc.
In 1960, during a performance by Tom Jobim at Arpège, a nightclub in Copacabana, Baden met Vinícius de Moraes, who would become his most frequent collaborator and who was responsible for Baden’s integration into the bossa-nova movement. Cançã o de Ninar Meu Bem (Lullaby for My Love) was the duo’s first composition and was an immediate success. The new greats of modern music were practically in house arrest for three months. Samba em Prelúdio (Samba in Prelude), Só por Amor (Only for Love), Bom Dia Amigo (Good Morning, Friend), Labareda (Blaze), Astronauta (Astronaut) were from that vintage and remained in the charts for months on end.
Baden, now part of the bossa-nova movement, participated in shows and television programs. As an interpreter he highlighted his versatility, his refined technique coupled with unique musicality, conquering the highest applause for his absolute command of the instrument, virtuosity and personalized interpretations.
As a composer he contributed with his songs to the development of popular music. The composer’s inspiration is of unsurpassed richness and new, successful songs with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes were introduced shortly; among these Além do Amor (Besides Love), Valsa Sem Nome (No-name Waltz), Deve Ser Amor (It Must Be Love), Canção do Amor Ausente (Song to an Absent Love), Consolação (Solace), Deixa (Let It Be), Amei Tanto (Too Much Loving), Tempo Feliz (Happy Times), Apêlo (Appeal), etc., etc. The Candomblé theme which had been attracting Baden for some time, generated a new flood of compositions by the duo called Afro-sambas. The first songs of the new genre were Berimbau and Samba da Bênção. The latter was part of director Claude Lelouch movie Un Homme et Une Femme, re-titled Samba Saravah.
In his declarations about Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes said: “Before Berimbau and Samba da Bênção, Baden had already chosen me to write Canto do Caboclo Pedra Preta (Black Rock’s Chant). That song was composed ‘right there and then’ – that is, music and lyrics for the second part searching for a meaning for the original caboclo’s chant. From that same period is Canto de Yemanjá in which, it is my opinion, Baden reached a beauty rarely attained.” Vinicius went on: “Baden’s musical antennae to Bahia and, in a final stretch, to Africa, allowed him to put together this new syncretism, adding a ‘carioca’ taste, within the spirit of modern samba, to the Afro-Brazilian candomblé, giving it a more universal dimension.”
Other Afro compositions include Canto de Ossanha (Ossanha’s Chant), Canto Xangô (Xango’s Chant), Lamento de Exu (Exu’s Lament), Bocoché (Secret) and Tristeza e Solidão (Sadness and Solitude).
In the Sixties, Baden went to the United States to meet and play with Stan Getz. In 1966, Baden went to Europe and became well known with the song Samba de Bençao which was part of the original soundtrack of French filmmaker Claude Lelouch’s Un Homme et Une Femme. One year later, he received his first Golden Record in Paris. In the Seventies Baden discovered Japan.
Baden Powell died on 2000. As an acoustic guitar virtuoso, he never forgot his Brazilian musical roots. Baden bridged the gap between classical and modern music.
Antonio Vivaldi (b. March 4, 1678, Venice, Republic of Venice [Italy]—d. July 28, 1741, Vienna, Austria)
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an Italian composer and violinist who left a decisive mark on the form of the concerto and on the style of late Baroque instrumental music.
Vivaldi’s main teacher was probably his father, Giovanni Battista, who in 1685 was admitted as a violinist to the orchestra of the San Marco Basilica in Venice. Antonio, the eldest child, trained for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703.
He made his first known public appearance playing violin alongside his father in the basilica in 1696. He became an excellent violinist, and in 1703 he was appointed violin master at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned or orphaned children. The Pietà specialized in the musical training of its female wards, and those with musical aptitude were assigned to its excellent choir and orchestra.
Vivaldi had dealings with the Pietà for most of his career: as violin master (1703–09; 1711–15), director of instrumental music (1716–17; 1735–38), and paid external supplier of compositions (1723–29; 1739–40).
Vivaldi’s earliest musical compositions date from his first years at the Pietà. Printed collections of his trio sonatas and violin sonatas respectively appeared in 1705 and 1709, and in 1711 his first and most influential set of concerti for violin and string orchestra (Opus 3, L’estro armonico) was published by the Amsterdam music-publishing firm of Estienne Roger. In the years up to 1719, Roger published three more collections of his concerti (opuses 4, 6, and 7) and one collection of sonatas (Opus 5).
Vivaldi made his debut as a composer of sacred vocal music in 1713, when the Pietà’s choirmaster left his post and the institution had to turn to Vivaldi and other composers for new compositions. He achieved great success with his sacred vocal music, for which he later received commissions from other institutions. Another new field of endeavour for him opened in 1713 when his first opera, Ottone in villa, was produced in Vicenza. Returning to Venice, Vivaldi immediately plunged into operatic activity in the twin roles of composer and impresario.
From 1718 to 1720 he worked in Mantua as director of secular music for that city’s governor, Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt.
This was the only full-time post Vivaldi ever held; he seems to have preferred life as a freelance composer for the flexibility and entrepreneurial opportunities it offered.
Vivaldi’s major compositions in Mantua were operas, though he also composed cantatas and instrumental works.
The 1720s were the zenith of Vivaldi’s career. Based once more in Venice, but frequently traveling elsewhere, he supplied instrumental music to patrons and customers throughout Europe. Between 1725 and 1729 he published five new collections of concerti (opuses 8–12).
After 1729 Vivaldi stopped publishing his works, finding it more profitable to sell them in manuscript to individual purchasers.
In the 1730s Vivaldi’s career gradually declined. The French traveler Charles de Brosses reported in 1739 with regret that his music was no longer fashionable. Vivaldi’s impresarial forays became increasingly marked by failure. In 1740 he traveled to Vienna, but he fell ill and did not live to attend the production there of his opera L’oracolo in Messenia in 1742. The simplicity of his funeral on July 28, 1741, suggests that he died in considerable poverty.
Almost 500 concerti by Vivaldi survive. More than 300 are concerti for a solo instrument with string orchestra and continuo. Of these, approximately 230 are written for solo violin, 40 for bassoon, 25 for cello, 15 for oboe, and 10 for flute. There are also concerti for viola d’amore, recorder, mandolin, and other instruments. Vivaldi’s remaining concerti are either double concerti (including about 25 written for two violins), concerti grossi using three or more soloists, concerti ripieni (string concerti without a soloist), or chamber concerti for a group of instruments without orchestra.
Vivaldi perfected the form of what would become the Classical three-movement concerto. Indeed, he helped establish the fast-slow-fast plan of the concerto’s three movements. Perhaps more importantly, Vivaldi was the first to employ regularly in his concerti the ritornello form, in which recurrent restatements of a refrain alternate with more episodic passages featuring a solo instrument. Vivaldi’s bold juxtapositions of the refrains (ritornelli) and the solo passages opened new possibilities for virtuosic display by solo instrumentalists.
The fast movements in his concerti are notable for their rhythmic drive and the boldness of their themes, while the slow movements often present the character of arias written for the solo instrument.
Several of Vivaldi’s concerti have picturesque or allusive titles. Four of them, the cycle of violin concerti entitled The Four Seasons (Opus 8, no. 1–4), are programmatic in a thoroughgoing fashion, with each concerto depicting a different season of the year, starting with spring. Vivaldi’s effective representation of the sounds of nature inaugurated a tradition to which works such as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony belong. Vivaldi also left more than 90 sonatas, mainly for stringed instruments.
More than 50 authentic sacred vocal compositions by Vivaldi are extant. They range from short hymns for solo voices to oratorios and elaborate psalm settings in several movements for double choir and orchestra. He composed some 50 operas (16 of which survived in their entirety) as well as nearly 40 cantatas. Many of Vivaldi’s vocal works exhibit a spiritual depth and a command of counterpoint equal to the best of their time. Moreover, the mutual independence of voices and instruments often anticipates the later symphonic masses of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
APPROACHING PIAZZOLLA’S MUSIC: an analysis of his music and composition styles (2)
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Milonga del ángel
As for Soledad, Milonga del ángel has the milonga rhythm as a basis more or less throughout the entire piece. Except for the middle section, the primary melody is repeatedly presented.
Consequently, the element that is processed is not the melody; instead, it is of more interest to study the contexts of which the melody is placed.
The articulations between the sections are characterised by a continuous flow, and there is no dominant chord that prepare for their arrival; however, the sections are still smoothly merged.
The first primary section (P) establishes the harmonic environment and presents the primary melody twice. Furthermore, the secondary section (S) starts with modulating sequences and then continues with a part that is reminiscent of P. The last section is more or less a recurrence of the first section, although with a more refined environment. As with Soledad, it is possible to read the large scale structure as an ABA structure. In fact, these two milongas are rather similar in large and middle scales respectively.
In the introduction (O), the motivic chord gesture that opens every subsection, except for T and 2T, is presented. Letting this gesture end the O subsection smoothly merges the O and P subsections; thus, the subsections overlap each other.
The changes of key areas between subsections enter without fifth motions in the bass line. Instead, the changes are characterized by ascending chromatic motion. Either it is only the melody that is moving, or it is both the melody and the bass line. The bass line’s gesture is probably derived from the arrastre gesture and therefore I define this kind of key change for as ‘change of key area by arrastre’.
With a single bar gesture as basis, the primary melody is present almost the entire piece through. While preparing for the melody’s arrival by establishing an atmosphere, the introduction also presents a motivic gesture that is frequently recurrent throughout the piece.
In P and P2, the same process continues, though in different keys, and in P1 and P3 it is slightly accustomed. Remains of the primary melody is also to be found in the S(P) subsection. Just like in Soledad, there is a large amount of ‘jazzy’ II-V-I chord progressions in minor mode; altered fifths and ninths are used frequently. Except for T and 2T, the bass line is pending, moving in fifths or moving in descending motion. In the following illustration, notice how the usage of reinterpretation of the chord in bar four (C#7b9/B to E13b9no1/B) enables an immediate transfer to Am.
Just as in Libertango, the melody is moving in triads when the bass line is pending; it seems like the melody is active when the bass line is passive, and the melody is passive when the bass line is active. As the illustration shows, the melody is a descending motion from the second to the fifth note in the scale. Linked together with an arppegio, the structural motive (D B A G F#) is presented at the beginning and at the end.
Unlike the other subsections, T is a more rhythmical passage where two tresillo rhythms and the mordent rhythm confront each other in sequences. P1 and S(P) may be smoothly merged without T though, especially since they end with the same note. Perhaps it is not satisfying defining this passage as a transition; hence, it might rather be defined as an excursion or as sequenced tonicizations (to make it more graphically, I have excluded the chords in the illustration).
The similiarities between Soledad and Milonga del ángel are quite recognisable: e.g. the ‘jazzy’ chords; frequent mordents; accompaniment gestures; lyrical melody; and naturally the milonga rhythm that saturates them. A major disparity though, is the way the change of key areas are realised; in Soledad by descending chromatic motion with pedal, and in Milonga del ángel by ascending chromatic motion. In the latter case though, the gesture is implemented just before the new key arrives; in the former case, there is a preparation that lasts for several bars and it is not that clear where the new key enters.
Just as Soledad, Milonga del ángel has an ABA-structure and with the milonga rhythm as basis it is characterised by long note values, ‘jazzy’ chord progressions and change of key area by arrastre. Throughout the piece, the primary melody is located in different environments regarding harmony, tempo and instrumentation.
Fuga y misterio
In the same manner as for Fugata, I prefer to analyse Fuga y misterio as three sections: fugue exposition; middle section with melody and accompaniment; and a closing coda-section, which differs from the first two sections.
Covering half the piece, the first section (P) is a fugue exposition in four parts, which through a large-scale fifth motion changes key from E-minor to G-minor.
The secondary section (S) presents a contrasting theme that is accompanied by a chord progression that is derived from the fugue theme. Leading back to the primary theme, this section reveals the chord progression that has been hinted in the exposition. The last section (K) is a slow cantabile passage where a new melody theme is presented. While the fugue exposition (P) has a polyphonic texture, the other sections have a texture of ‘melody and accompaniment’. Though every section is in minor, the two first sections are a little ‘edgier’ due to the augmented fourth (or the jazz blue note) that is exposed already from the beginning. The large-scale structure can be read as an ABC-structure.
In the fugue exposition, which is characterized by a rhythmical contrapuntal texture, there are strong accented rhythms. Short note values are predominating. Just as in Fugata, the most frequent surface rhythm of the fugue theme is tresillo 1. The key change between these subsections is realized by transforming the tonic chord into a dominant (e.g Em E7 Am).
Thus, unlike the exposition in Fugata, there is no preparation of the new dominant. In the following illustration, notice how the last bar of the fugue theme is a diminished variation of the two first bars.
Reaching G-minor, the exposition is accomplished and the key of the secondary subsections (Em) is introduced without preparation; the only gesture that indicates E-minor is an ascending diatonic bass line (B C# D#). With the marcato base as a basis, the secondary subsection presents a contrasting melody that is characterized by mordents and harmonic intervals such as the diminished 10th and the added 11th, which serves as top notes in chords.
The last secondary subsection is a recurrence of the fugue theme, presented in a homophonic environment though. As pointed out earlier, the last subsection (K) is a cantabile passage that differs quite a lot from the other passages. It is slower, have longer note values, and it is the first time in the piece that there is a descending bass line in crotchets present.
The fugue exposition is rather similar to the one in Fugata, especially regarding the treatment of gestures, counterpoint and change of key areas; it is rather clear to see Piazzolla’s influences from the inventions of Bach. Notice also how the usage of instrumental rubato automatically implies that tresillo rhythms are accented.
The melody has typically stepwise motion or motion as skips, which reaches chord notes.
Similar to Fugata, this applies to all fugue parts. The most common intervals in parallel motion are thirds and sixths. In contrast to Fugata’s chord progression, which is based on a descending bass line, the chord progression in Fuga y misterio is instead based on II-V-I progressions. With a cycle of fifth as a basis, the II-V-I sequences implies tonicization; Bm-E7-Am Am-D7-G instead of E7-Am-D7-G.72 The first subsection of S is a more homophonic passage where the secondary melody is harmonized with block technique.
As pointed out earlier, the chord progressions are rather similar to the progressions in the exposition’s first eight bars, though with altered chords similar to the ‘jazzy’ one’s used in Soledad and Milonga del ángel. In the first four bars, which are rather static due to its harmony based on primary chords, the low notes in the bass line is reached through octave leaps. This implies an accentuation that enhances the static state. As in e.g. Fuga, there are also several percussive gestures produced by dissonant chords.
Due to its different style regarding tempo, harmony and melody, the last subsection has a completely different character. The most significant characteristics are the descending bass line and the 9-8 appoggiaturas that are exposed in the melody. Implemented as sequences, the chord progression is rather similar to the one that is to be found in the primary subsection of Soledad.
The very last bars are a descending chromatic gesture presented by diminished seventh chords, though with the tonic pedal as bass note. Ending with a B7b9 (without root note though), these last four bars functions as codetta. The gesture may be regarded as a T-DD-s progression, which is similar to the motivic chord gesture in Libertango.
Fuga y misterio has a structure similar to the one found in Fugata: A fugue exposition as a start; melody and accompaniment in the middle; and a closing section that is rather different than the other two. There is no key change between sections (but the key changes within sections though), and the harmony is characterized by chord progressions with primary chords and fifth motions by tonicization sequences.
This chapter will give emphasize techniques and musical events that are, in a general perspective, mutual to the compositions that have been analysed. As suggested of LaRue, I have chosen to categorise the characteristics of Piazzolla’s music that I have found into four categories: harmony; melody; rhythm; and structure (I prefer using structure as a category instead of growth). The sketches and the tables are not exact rules of how Piazzolla’s music functions; they are rather to regard as suggestions how to relate to his composition style.
The change of key areas may be categorised into two main categories: maintaining the key or entering a new key. As pointed out in chapter 1.5, LaRue defines this as ornamental modulation and structural modulation respectively. The techniques, which are to be found in both categories above, I define as ‘tonicization’ and ‘descending chromatics with pedal’. Thus, they are used for both purposes. The following illustration shows my suggestion on how to regard the tonicization technique.
The latter one is concerning the relation between a descending chromatic motion and its pedal accompaniment in the end of subsection. Unlike the tonicization technique, this procedure does not include any intermediate tonic states; there is either no change of key area at all, or the passage has the aim to modulate. It seems like when a new key is going to be established the pedal is fading out before the new dominant chord (this is not the case in the K-section of Fugata though). When the key is maintained the pedal keeps on going, and it seems like it frequently has a role of a dominant. In its simplicity, it may be illustrated as follows:
Additionally, Piazzolla also changes key without preparation by implementing the arrastre gesture74 (as described in Milonga del ángel). As pointed out in Soledad, two techniques are sometimes combined. There are three characteristics regarding melody that I want to point out. The first one I define as ‘ostinato gestures’, which are rhythmical patterns based on tresillo rhythm 4 and 7.
Frequently subordinated the main melody though, they contribute to the melodic tension by exposing characteristic intervals (e.g chord notes like b9, #5 and 13).
The second one, which describes the relation between the top voice and the bass line, I have chosen to define as ‘uniform ambitus’. It seems like when the bass line is pending, the top voice has a more active role; it moves in arpeggios and repeatedly presents an immanent chord progression. Consequently, when the bass line is more active the melody’s ambitus decreases.
The third characteristic regarding melody is the melodic motion. Applicable in small dimensions, when descending, the melody tends to have a stepwise, often chromatic, motion.
Furthermore, when ascending it tends to move in leaps or in arpeggios; consequently, there are also neighbor notes implicated.
Two common large-scale structures that the analysed pieces share are the ABA-structure and the ABC-structure; ABA in the milongas, and ABC in the fugues.
As pointed out earlier, Piazzolla freely uses the tresillo rhythm and its shifts. In addition to the original rhythm, which is the most common, it seems like the second, the fourth and the seventh shift are the most common rhythms that are based on the tresillo. Particularly clear in Fugata, the tresillo rhythm is also to be found in large-scale patterns. In this piece, the tresillo rhythm is carefully distributed which makes the ABC-structure mathematically equal to 3:3:2.
At the time his Symphony No. 2 was composed, Rachmaninoff had had two successful seasons as the conductor of the Imperial Opera at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. He considered himself first and foremost a composer and felt that the performance schedule was detracting from his time to compose.
He then moved with his wife and infant daughter to Dresden, Germany, to spend more time composing and to also escape the political tumult that would put Russia on the path to revolution. The family remained in Dresden for three years, spending summers at Rachmaninoff’s in-law’s estate of Ivanovka. It was during this time that Rachmaninoff wrote not only his Second Symphony, but also the tone poem Isle of the Dead.
Rachmaninoff was not altogether convinced that he was a gifted symphonist. At its 1897 premiere, his Symphony No. 1 (conducted by Alexander Glazunov) was considered an utter disaster; criticism of it was so harsh that it sent the young composer into a bout of depression. Even after the success of his Piano Concerto No. 2 (which won the Glinka Award and 500 rubles in 1904), Rachmaninoff still lacked confidence in his writing. He was very unhappy with the first draft of his Second Symphony but after months of revision he finished the work and conducted the premiere in 1908 to great applause. The work earned him another Glinka Award ten months later. The triumph restored Rachmaninoff’s sense of self-worth as a symphonist.
Because of its formidable length, Symphony No. 2 has been the subject of many revisions, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, which reduced the piece from nearly an hour to as little as 35 minutes. Before 1970 the piece was usually performed in one of its revised, shorter, versions. Since then orchestras have used the complete version almost exclusively, although sometimes with the omission of a repeat in the first movement.
The first movement begins with a slow, dark introduction, in which the ‘motto’ theme of the symphony is introduced and developed. This leads to an impassioned climax, after which a cor anglais solo leads the movement into the allegro in sonata form. Assuming the symphony is performed uncut, this also includes a full repeat of the exposition.
In contrast to the exposition, the development is stormy at times and moves through multiple key centres. Only the first subject and central motto theme are used in the development. After a long dominant pedal, the music slowly transitions to the recapitulation in E major, in which only the second subject is recapitulated, but is heavily expanded on compared to the exposition. This device of omitting the first subject from the recapitulation was also used by Tchaikovsky in his second, fourth and sixth symphonies. The coda in E minor builds up intensely and the movement culminates in two fortissimo outbursts.
This movement really only resembles a scherzo insofar as it relates to the early- to mid-Romantic tradition of symphonic movements, and its use of a typical scherzo form (ABACABA). However, it is in 2/2, while the typical scherzo would be in 3/4 or some kind of triple meter. The movement, in A minor, opens with a lively ostinato in the upper strings. As a fixture in large-scale works by Rachmaninoff, the Dies Iraeplainchant is referenced, here in the opening bars by the horns.
The B section is a lyrical cantabile melody in C major. The music slows down and the opening ostinato is referenced, and in returning to the A section it abruptly speeds back up to its opening tempo. The central trio section notably begins with a sudden, tutti, fortissimo B Dominant 7th chord, and is an example of Rachmaninoff’s mastery of counterpoint and fugal writing, thanks to his studies with Taneyev, to whom this symphony is dedicated. At the conclusion of the movement, the Dies Irae is again stated, this time by a brass choir. The momentum dissolves, and the movement ends pianississimo (ppp).
This movement is in a broad three-part form, and is often remembered for its opening theme, which is played by the first violins and restated both as a melody and as an accompanying figure later on in the movement. This opening theme, however, is really an introduction to the main melody of the movement, which is presented by a lengthy clarinet solo, and is a typical Rachmaninoff creation, circling around single notes and accompanied by rich harmony.
The development is based on the Dies Irae motto theme of the symphony, as if it was continued on from the first movement’s introduction. A chromatic buildup leads to an impassioned climax in C major. The intensity subsides, and the central melody of the third movement is restated, this time played by the first violins, while fragments of the opening theme are heard in the accompaniment. The Dies Irae motto is restated again apparently to bring about an ending to complement the first movement introduction, as the third movement concludes in a tranquil fashion dying away slowly in the strings.
The final movement is set in sonata form. The lively, fanfare-like first theme, derived from the first “Dies Irae”-like theme of the Scherzo, is played by the entire orchestra, leading into a march-like interlude starting in G# minor played by woodwind.
After the return of the first theme, the first subject is concluded, and transitions directly into a massive, broad melody in D major played by strings. After dying down to pianissimo, the opening theme of the third movement, this time in D major, is briefly recalled over string tremolos. After an abrupt interjection, the development section begins, which is in two sections, the first of which introduces new melodic ideas, and the latter of which revolves around a descending scale.
The recapitulation initially only presents the first subject, before moving into a dominant pedal, building up to the triumphant restatement of the broad melody now in the home key of E major, in which fragments of the first theme, motto theme, and descending scale can be heard in the accompaniment. A whirlwind coda brings the symphony to a close, with a fortissimo restatement of the brass chorale that appeared at the end of the second movement.
The final bars present another fixture of Rachmaninoff’s large-scale works, the characteristic decisive four-note rhythm ending (in this case presented in a triplet rhythm), also heard in his Cello Sonata, second and third piano concertos, and in an altered form in his fourth piano concerto and Symphonic Dances.
The manuscript had been thought lost, until its discovery in the estate of a private collector in 2004. It was authenticated by Geoffrey Norris. It contains material that has not found its way into any published edition.The manuscript became the property of the Tabor Foundation, and was on permanent loan to the British Library.
In May 2014 the manuscript was auctioned by Sotheby’s for £1,202,500.
A section of the symphony’s second movement is used several times in the 2014 film Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and is even used in the trailers promoting it. It is featured as part of a score composed by Mexican jazz drummer Antonio Sánchez.
Operatic tenor, Christian Ketter’s arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Zdes Khorosho (Здесь хорошо/ How Fair This Place) Op. 21, No. 7 quotes the symphony’s paralytic third movement in its introduction on the 2014 recording, “Beloved: live in recital.”
Parts of the third movement were used for pop singer Eric Carmen‘s 1976 song, “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again“, which borrowed the introduction and main melody of the third movement as the song’s chorus and bridge, respectively. As Rachmaninoff’s music was still in copyright at the time (it has since expired in most countries), Carmen was made to pay royalties to the Rachmaninoff estate for the use of the composer’s music, both for the aforementioned song and “All By Myself“, which borrowed from his second piano concerto in its verse. The melody was also used by jazz pianist Danilo Pérez as the main theme of his tune “If I Ever Forget You” on his 2008 album Across the Crystal Sea.
“Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 5”
In April 2008 Brilliant Classics released Alexander Warenberg’s arrangement of the symphony for piano and orchestra, titling it “Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 5”. Warenberg arranged Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 as a concertante work for piano and orchestra. The work contains about 40% of the source material from the symphony with some original scoring by Warenberg, modification of the original score and a change to many of the harmonies “to improve the sound and balance”. Warenberg’s arrangement is a three movement concerto with a new second movement and a revised finale “to create a tighter and more effective emotional climax to the concerto’s finale.”
For the concertante’s first movement, the slow introduction developing the main motif is shortened from the symphony with the material not discarded but instead shifted to the concertante’s cadenza immediately after the climax. The concertante’s second movement largely following the symphony’s third movement, except for immediately after the climax when the exposition of the symphony’s second movement is inserted, before returning to the symphony’s third movement recapitulation.
This video features Nina Simone (vocals, piano) delivering an intense emotional performance at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s in Soho, London on November 17, 1985. Simone is considered to be one of the most diverse singers of the 20th century, recording material in multiple genres including soul, jazz, pop, blues, gospel, and Broadway.
Most often labeled a “soul” singer due to her emotional performing tendencies, Simone is an eclectic musician, who adds a soulful mystique to whatever material she interprets. This brilliant performance at Ronnie Scott’s is testament to this fact.
Ronnie Scott’s opened in 1959 to provide a place where British Jazz musicians could jam. Eventually, American music musicians such as Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, Al Cohn, Stan Getz, Sony Stitt, Benny Golson, Donald Byrd, and Ben Webster played at the club making it the legendary Jazz club it is today. Today, the club still books the greatest Jazz acts in the world, but also plays host to such diverse musicians as the talented Nina Simone.
1 God God God
2 Just In Time
3 Let It Be Me
4 The Other Woman
5 I Got Life
6 If You Only Knew
7 Young Gifted And Black
8 Moon Over Alabama / Mississippi Goddam
9 Because / My Father’s Dream
10 Let No One Deceive You
11 American Pie
12 Just To Know That I’m Alive
Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), known professionally as Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
To make a living, Simone started playing piano at a nightclub in Atlantic City. She changed her name to “Nina Simone” to disguise herself from family members, having chosen to play “the devil’s music” or so-called “cocktail piano”. She was told in the nightclub that she would have to sing to her own accompaniment, which effectively launched her career as a jazz vocalist. She went on to record more than 40 albums between 1958 and 1974, making her debut with Little Girl Blue. She had a hit single in the United States in 1958 with “I Loves You, Porgy“. Her musical style fused gospel and pop with classical music, in particular Johann Sebastian Bach, and accompanied expressive, jazz-like singing in her contralto voice.
Two days before her death, Simone learned she would be awarded an honorary degree by the Curtis Institute of Music, the music school that had refused to admit her as a student at the beginning of her career.
Khachaturian was asked to write music for a production of Masquerade being produced by the director Ruben Simonov. The famous waltz theme in particular gave Khachaturian much trouble in its creation: moved by the words of the play’s heroine, Nina – “How beautiful the new waltz is! … something between sorrow and joy gripped my heart.” – the composer struggled to “find a theme that I considered beautiful and new”.
His former teacher, Nikolai Myaskovsky, attempted to help Khachaturian by giving him a collection of romances and waltzes from Lermontov’s time; though these did not give immediate inspiration, Khachaturian admitted that “had it not been for the strenuous search” for the appropriate style and melodic inspiration, he would not have discovered the second theme of his waltz which acted “like a magic link, allowing me to pull out the whole chain. The rest of the waltz came to me easily, with no trouble at all.” Khachaturian dedicated the waltz to the actress who played Nina, Alla Kazanskaya.
Billie Holiday was one of the most influential jazz singers of all time. She had a thriving career for many years before she lost her battle with addiction.
Who Was Billie Holiday?
Billie Holiday is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday had a thriving career as a jazz singer for many years before she lost her battle with substance abuse. Also known as Lady Day, her autobiography was made into the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues. In 2000, Holiday was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Some sources say her birthplace was Baltimore, Maryland, and her birth certificate reportedly reads “Elinore Harris.”)
Holiday spent much of her childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Sadie, was only a teenager when she had her. Her father is widely believed to be Clarence Holiday, who eventually became a successful jazz musician, playing with the likes of Fletcher Henderson.
Unfortunately for Holiday, her father was an infrequent visitor in her life growing up. Sadie married Philip Gough in 1920 and for a few years, Holiday had a somewhat stable home life. But that marriage ended a few years later, leaving Holiday and Sadie to struggle along on their own again. Sometimes Holiday was left in the care of other people.
Holiday started skipping school, and she and her mother went to court over Holiday’s truancy. She was then sent to the House of Good Shepherd, a facility for troubled African American girls, in January 1925.
Only 9 years old at the time, Holiday was one of the youngest girls there. She was returned to her mother’s care in August of that year. According to Donald Clarke’s biography, Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon, she returned there in 1926 after she had been sexually assaulted.
In her difficult early life, Holiday found solace in music, singing along to the records of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong. She followed her mother, who had moved to New York City in the late 1920s, and worked in a house of prostitution in Harlem for a time.
Around 1930, Holiday began singing in local clubs and renamed herself “Billie” after the film star Billie Dove.
Billie Holiday Songs
At the age of 18, Holiday was discovered by producer John Hammond while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club. Hammond was instrumental in getting Holiday recording work with an up-and-coming clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman.
With Goodman, she sang vocals for several tracks, including her first commercial release “Your Mother’s Son-In-Law” and the 1934 top ten hit “Riffin’ the Scotch.”
Known for her distinctive phrasing and expressive, sometimes melancholy voice, Holiday went on to record with jazz pianist Teddy Wilson and others in 1935.
She made several singles, including “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Miss Brown to You.” That same year, Holiday appeared with Duke Ellington in the film Symphony in Black.
Around this time, Holiday met and befriended saxophonist Lester Young, who was part of Count Basie‘s orchestra on and off for years. He even lived with Holiday and her mother Sadie for a while.
Young gave Holiday the nickname “Lady Day” in 1937—the same year she joined Basie’s band. In return, she called him “Prez,” which was her way of saying that she thought it was the greatest.
Holiday toured with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1937. The following year, she worked with Artie Shaw and his orchestra. Holiday broke new ground with Shaw, becoming one of the first female African American vocalists to work with a white orchestra.
Promoters, however, objected to Holiday—for her race and for her unique vocal style—and she ended up leaving the orchestra out of frustration.
Striking out on her own, Holiday performed at New York’s Café Society. She developed some of her trademark stage persona there—wearing gardenias in her hair and singing with her head tilted back.
During this engagement, Holiday also debuted two of her most famous songs, “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit.” Columbia, her record company at the time, was not interested in “Strange Fruit,” which was a powerful story about the lynching of African Americans in the South.
Holiday recorded the song with the Commodore label instead. “Strange Fruit” is considered to be one of her signature ballads, and the controversy that surrounded it—some radio stations banned the record—helped make it a hit.
Over the years, Holiday sang many songs of stormy relationships, including “T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” and “My Man.” These songs reflected her personal romances, which were often destructive and abusive.
Strange Fruit Lyrics
Southern trees bear a strange fruit Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar treesPastoral scene of the gallant South The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh Then the sudden smell of burnin’ fleshHere is a fruit for the crows to pluck For the rain to gather For the wind to suck For the sun to rot For the tree to drop Here is a strange and bitter crop
Composer: Lewis Allan
Holiday married James Monroe in 1941. Already known to drink, Holiday picked up her new husband’s habit of smoking opium. The marriage didn’t last—they later divorced—but Holiday’s problems with substance abuse continued.
That same year, Holiday had a hit with “God Bless the Child.” She later signed with Decca Records in 1944 and scored an R&B hit the next year with “Lover Man.”
Her boyfriend at the time was trumpeter Joe Guy, and with him she started using heroin. After the death of her mother in October 1945, Holiday began drinking more heavily and escalated her drug use to ease her grief.
Despite her personal problems, Holiday remained a major star in the jazz world—and even in popular music as well. She appeared with her idol Louis Armstrong in the 1947 film New Orleans, albeit playing the role of a maid.
Unfortunately, Holiday’s drug use caused her a great professional setback that same year. She was arrested and convicted for narcotics possession in 1947. Sentenced to one year and a day of jail time, Holiday went to a federal rehabilitation facility in Alderston, West Virginia.
Released the following year, Holiday faced new challenges. Because of her conviction, she was unable to get the necessary license to play in cabarets and clubs. Holiday, however, could still perform at concert halls and had a sold-out show at the Carnegie Hall not long after her release.
With some help from John Levy, a New York club owner, Holiday was later to get to play in New York’s Club Ebony. Levy became her boyfriend and manager by the end of the 1940s, joining the ranks of the men who took advantage of Holiday.
Also around this time, she was again arrested for narcotics, but she was acquitted of the charges.
While her hard living was taking a toll on her voice, Holiday continued to tour and record in the 1950s. She began recording for Norman Granz, the owner of several small jazz labels, in 1952. Two years later, Holiday had a hugely successful tour of Europe.
Holiday also caught the public’s attention by sharing her life story with the world in 1956. Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956), was written in collaboration by William Dufty.
Some of the material in the book, however, must be taken with a grain of salt. Holiday was in rough shape when she worked with Dufty on the project, and she claimed to have never read the book after it was finished.
Around this time, Holiday became involved with Louis McKay. The two were arrested for narcotics in 1956, and they married in Mexico the following year. Like many other men in her life, McKay used Holiday’s name and money to advance himself.
Despite all of the trouble she had been experiencing with her voice, she managed to give an impressive performance on the television broadcast The Sound of Jazz with Ben Webster, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins.
After years of lackluster recordings and record sales, Holiday recorded Lady in Satin (1958) with the Ray Ellis Orchestra for Columbia. The album’s songs showcased her rougher sounding voice, which still could convey great emotional intensity.
Death and Legacy
Holiday gave her final performance in New York City on May 25, 1959. Not long after this event, Holiday was admitted to the hospital for heart and liver problems.
She was so addicted to heroin that she was even arrested for possession while in the hospital. On July 17, 1959, Holiday died from alcohol- and drug-related complications.
More than 3,000 people turned out to say good-bye to Lady Day at her funeral held in St. Paul the Apostle Roman Catholic Church on July 21, 1959. A who’s who of the jazz world attended the solemn occasion, including Goodman, Gene Krupa, Tony Scott, Buddy Rogers and John Hammond.
Considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday has been an influence on many other performers who have followed in her footsteps.
Her autobiography was made into the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues with famed singer Diana Ross playing the part of Holiday, which helped renew interest in Holiday’s recordings.
In 2000, Holiday was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Ross handling the honors.
JOSQUIN DES PRES (b. c. 1450, Condé-sur-l’Escaut?, Burgundian Hainaut [France]—d. Aug. 27, 1521, Condé-sur-l’Escaut)
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Josquin des Prez was one of the greatest composers of Renaissance Europe.
Josquin’s early life has been the subject of much scholarly debate, and the first solid evidence of his work comes from a roll of musicians associated with the cathedral in Cambrai in the early 1470s. During the late 1470s and early ’80s,
he sang for the courts of René I of Anjou and Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan, and from 1486 to about 1494 he performed for the papal chapel. Sometime between then and 1499, when he became choirmaster to Duke Ercole I of Ferrara, he apparently had connections with the Chapel Royal of Louis XII of France and with the Cathedral of Cambrai. In Ferrara he wrote, in honour of his employer, the mass Hercules Dux Ferrariae, and his motet Miserere was composed at the duke’s request. He seems to have left Ferrara on the death of the duke in 1505 and later became provost of the collegiate church of Notre Dame in Condé.
Josquin’s compositions fall into the three principal categories of motets, masses, and chansons. Of the 20 masses that survive complete, 17 were printed in his lifetime in three sets (1502, 1505, 1514) by Ottaviano dei Petrucci.
His motets and chansons were included in other Petrucci publications, from the Odhecaton (an anthology of popular chansons) of 1501 onward, and in collections of other printers. Martin Luther expressed great admiration for Josquin’s music, calling him “master of the notes, which must do as he wishes; other composers must do as the notes wish.”
In his musical techniques he stands at the summit of the Renaissance, blending traditional forms with innovations that later became standard practices. The expressiveness of his music marks a break with the medieval tradition of more abstract music.
Especially in his motets, Josquin gave free reign to his talent, expressing sorrow in poignant harmonies, employing suspension for emphasis, and taking the voices gradually into their lowest registers when the text speaks of death. Josquin used the old cantus firmus style, but he also developed the motet style that characterized the 16th century after him. His motets, as well as his masses, show an approach to the modern sense of tonality. In his later works
Josquin gradually abandoned cantus firmus technique for parody and paraphrase. He also frequently used the techniques of canon and of melodic imitation.
In his chansons Josquin was the principal exponent of a style new in the mid-15th century, in which the learned techniques of canon and counterpoint were applied to secular song. He abandoned the fixed forms of the rondeau and the ballade, employing freer forms of his own device. Though a few chansons are set homophonically—in chords—rather than polyphonically, a number of others are examples of counterpoint in five or six voices, maintaining sharp rhythm and clarity of texture.
He then went to France (he may also have done so while at the papal chapel) and probably served Louis XII’s court. Although he may have had connections with the Ferrara court (through the Sforzas) in the 1480s and 1490s, no formal relationship with the court is known before 1503 when, for a year, he was maestro di cappella there and the highest-paid singer in the chapel’s history.
There he probably wrote primarily masses and motets. An outbreak of plague in 1503 forced the court to leave Ferrara (Josquin’s place was taken by Obrecht, who fell victim in 1505). He was in the north again, at Notre Dame at Condé, in 1504; he may have been connected with Margaret of Austria’s court, 1508-11. He died in 1521. Several portraits survive, one attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.
Josquin’s works gradually became known throughout western Europe and were regarded as models by many composers and theorists. Petrucci’s three books of his masses (1502-14) reflect contemporary esteem, as does Attaingnant’s collection of his chansons (1550). Several laments were written on his death (including Gombert’s elegy Musae Jovis), and as late as 1554 Jacquet of Mantua paid him tribute in a motet. He was praised by 16th-century literary figures (including Castiglione and Rabelais) and was Martin Luther’s favourite composer.
Josquin was the greatest composer of the high Renaissance, the most varied in invention and the most profound in expression. Much of his music cannot be dated. Generally, however, his first period (up to circa 1485) is characterized by abstract, melismatic counterpoint in the manner of Ockeghem and by tenuous relationships between words and music.
The middle period (to circa 1505) saw the development and perfection of the technique of pervasive imitation based on word-generated motifs. This style has been seen as a synthesis of two traditions: the northem polyphony of Dufay, Busnois and Ockeghem, in which he presumably had his earliest training, and the more chordal, harmonically orientated practice of Italy. In the final period the relationship between word and note becomes even closer and there is increasing emphasis on declamation and rhetorical expression within a style of the utmost economy.
His many motets span all three periods. One of the earliest, the four-part Victimae paschali laudes (1502), exemplifies his early style, with its dense texture, lack of imitation, patches of stagnant rhythm and rudimentary treatment of dissonance. Greater maturity is shown in Planxit autem David, in which homophonic and freely imitative passages alternate, and in Absalon, fili mi, with its flexible combination of textures. His later motets, such as In principio erat verbum, combine motivic intensity and melodic succinctness with formal clarity; they are either freely composed, four-part settings of biblical texts, or large-scale cantus firmus pieces. Transparent textures and duet writing are common.
Josquin’s 18 complete masses combine elements of cantus firmus, parody and paraphrase techniques. One of the earliest, L’ami Baudichon, is a cantus firmus mass on a simple dance formula; the simplicity of melody and rhythm and the clarity of harmony and texture recall the Burgundian style of the 1450s and 1460s. Fortuna desperata, on the other hand, is an early example of parody. Canonic writing and ostinato hgures are features. His last great masses, notably the Missa de beata virgine and the Missa ‘Pange lingua’ were preceded by works in which every resource is deployed with bravura.
Josquin’s secular music comprises three settings of Italian texts and numerous chansons. One of the earliest, Cela sans plus, typifies his observance of the formes fixes and the influences of the Burgundian style of Busnois and Ockeghem. Later works, such as Mille regretz, are less canonic, the clear articulation of line and points of imitation achieved by a carefull balanced hierarchy of cadences. Some, like Si j’ay perdu mon ami, look forward to the popular ‘Parisian’ chanson of Janequin.