Chaconne (Fr., also chacony; It. ciaccona, ciacona; Sp. chacona)
- Alexander Silbiger
(Fr., also chacony; It. ciaccona, ciacona; Sp. chacona)
Before 1800, a dance, often performed at a quite brisk tempo, that generally used variation techniques, though not necessarily ground-bass variation; in 19th- and 20th-century music, a set of ground-bass or ostinato variations, usually of a severe character. Most chaconnes are in triple metre, with occasional exceptions. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with Passacaglia (the terms ‘chaconne’ and ‘passacaglia’ are used throughout this article regardless of the national tradition under discussion). Many composers drew a distinction between the chaconne and the passacaglia, the nature of which depended on local tradition and to some extent on individual preference. The only common denominator among the chaconnes and passacaglias is that they are built up of an arbitrary number of comparatively brief units, usually of two, four, eight, or 16 bars, each terminating with a cadence that leads without a break into the next unit. This almost limitless extendibility allows for the creation of a momentum sustainable over an appreciable length of time, a quality that contributes much to the special character of the genres as well as to their usefulness in certain contexts (for example, as the concluding number in an instrumental suite or stage work). Large-scale articulation by means of temporary shifts of mode or key is not uncommon in either early or more recent works....