Passacaglia (It.; Fr. passacaille; Ger. passacalia; It. passacaglio, passagallo, passacagli, passacaglie; Sp. pasacalle, passacalle)
- Alexander Silbiger
(It.; Fr. passacaille; Ger. passacalia; It. passacaglio, passagallo, passacagli, passacaglie; Sp. pasacalle, passacalle)
In 19th- and 20th-century music, a set of ground-bass or ostinato variations, usually of a serious character; in the earliest sources, a short, improvised ritornello between the strophes of a song. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘chaconne’ (the forms ‘chaconne’ and ‘passacaglia’ are used throughout this article regardless of the national tradition under discussion). This article concentrates on the early years of the passacaglia, when the term had a quite distinct meaning. Its subsequent history, which largely parallels that of the chaconne, is summarized here; the two genres and their close relationship are explored in greater detail in the article Chaconne .
The passacaglia appears to have originated in early 17th-century Spain as the pasacalle, a brief improvisation (usually barely more than a few rhythmically strummed cadential chords) that guitarists played between the strophes of a song, somewhat in the nature of a vamp. The term comes from pasar...