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Article

Owen Jander

revised by Tim Carter

In music, the relation between verbal stress and melodic accent in the setting and delivery of a text. Clear and appropriate text setting, measured by quantity or quality, was extolled by humanist thinkers in the Renaissance on the basis of classical precedent, and it was central to the emergence of recitative and the ‘new music’ in Florence during the late 16th century. Throughout the Baroque period, the notion of the musician as orator, persuading and moving an audience, depended on proper declamation. The subject was often discussed by theorists, particularly as clear declamation became threatened by the more musical demands of the aria. J.G. Walther (WaltherML) applied to music the rationalistic concept of declamation, which originally dealt with speech, and focussed his attention on recitative. J.J. Rousseau (Dictionnaire, 1768) dealt with declamation as the relationship between musical and linguistic accent, which had been much discussed in French singing treatises, such as Bénigne de Bacilly’s ...

Article

Andrew V. Jones and Will Crutchfield

The present article is concerned with the improvised embellishments added by singers (as opposed to notated ornaments indicated by the composer, or instrumental improvisation in opera). It is scarcely surprising that evidence about improvisation should be sparse and often imprecise. Writers were often more concerned to criticize what they considered excessive or tasteless embellishment than to give positive advice as to what was appropriate. For much of the repertory conclusions have to be based on inference and hypothesis, one source of which is the tendency of what was once improvised embellishment to graduate into notated melodic decoration. The paucity of documentary evidence does not necessarily imply that singers of certain repertories eschewed ornamentation. The (relatively) ephemeral nature of opera combined with the professional status of the singers meant that precision of notation was not a priority. As in all aspects of performing practice, the evidence that does survive must be interpreted carefully: with what body of music was the writer concerned? what were the circumstances surrounding the genesis of a document? for which singer were particular embellishments intended? Even if answers are not immediately forthcoming, the questions themselves at least emphasize the often provisional nature of present knowledge....

Article

(Ger. Reminiszenzmotiv, Erinnerungsmotiv)

A theme, or other coherent musical idea, which returns more or less unaltered, as identification for the audience or to signify recollection of the past by a dramatic character. It is an important ancestor of the Leitmotif .

The systematic use of motifs for dramatic purposes first developed in France and Germany in late 18th-century opera, though earlier examples may be found (for example where one character quotes another’s music allusively). With the weakening of the closed aria form, greater importance began to pass to arioso, recitative and scena; and the association of motifs with characters and events began now to provide not only a useful system of illustration but, gradually, the means of applying formal control through quasi-symphonic techniques. An early formulation of the principle of associating a musical idea with a character occurs in Lacépède’s La poétique de la musique, ii (1785): a chapter on ‘Des caractères des personnages considérés relativement à la tragédie lyrique’ proposes for the musician that, in ‘chaque morceau qu’il composera, il comparera ce sentiment qu’il aura, pour ainsi dire, créé, avec celui que le morceau devra montrer et faire naître’ (‘in each piece that he composes, he shall match this feeling that he will have, so to speak, created, with the person whom the piece is to show and bring to life’)....