Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Grove Music Online. Grove is a registered trademark. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 26 January 2020

Recitative (Fr. récitatif; Ger. Rezitativ; It. recitativo)locked

  • Dale E. Monson,
  • Jack Westrup
  •  and Julian Budden


(Fr. récitatif; Ger. Rezitativ; It. recitativo)

A type of vocal writing, normally for a single voice, with the intent of mimicking dramatic speech in song. In practice its nature has varied widely by era, nationality, origin and context.

Dale E. Monson and Jack Westrup

Recitativo is properly an adjective. As a noun, short for stile recitativo, it occurs as early as 1626 (Domenico Mazzocchi, La catena d’Adone). It derives from the verb recitare, ‘to recite’, which was also used in the 16th century for vocal performance, for example in Baldassare Castiglione’s Il libro del cortegiano (1528), where the phrase ‘cantare alla viola per recitare’ occurs. The liberalization of poetic forms and blank verse in late 16th-century Italy fostered approximations of the affects of dramatic speech through pitch and rhythm in many different places and circumstances. These attempts, by groups such as the Florentine Camerata, had a number of typical traits: the text was generally not repeated, the rate of harmonic change varied with the affect of the text, an overall slow harmonic rhythm unfolded over a generally static bass line (which gave the impression of declamatory freedom, though chord progressions were still clearly derived from the madrigal), the poetic accents were reinforced by harmonic change, and particularly affective passages or individual words were often supported with strong dissonance (another madrigal borrowing). These sections were not initially known as recitative, although this is implied by Agazzari (...

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.

Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde
Allgemeine (deutsche) Musik-Zeitung/Musikzeitung (1874-1943)
Music Review
Gesellschaft für Musikforschung: Kongress-Bericht [1950-]
Early Music
Musical Quarterly
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Archiv für Musikwissenschaft
Mozart-Jahrbuch [Salzburg, 1950-]
Revue de musicologie
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Analecta musicologica
Musical Times
Mitteilungen der Internationalen Stiftung Mozarteum
Revue musicale
Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters
Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association
Music & Letters
Studies in Music [Australia]
Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft
Rivista italiana di musicologia
Musik und Gesellschaft
Recherches sur la musique française classique