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date: 02 December 2020

Arabesque(i) (Ger. Arabeske)locked

  • Maurice J.E. Brown
  • , revised by Kenneth L. Hamilton


(Ger. Arabeske)

A term, apparently introduced into Europe during the Moorish conquest of Spain, first applied to architecture and painting to describe an ornamental frieze or border, whose elaborations, foliate and curlicued, have their counterparts in music in ornamentation and complex figuration. In music the term has been implied in, if not applied to, three musical devices: (1) the contrapuntal decoration of a basic theme, e.g. the obbligato to the chorus ‘Jesus bleibet meine Freude’ in Bach’s Cantata no.147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben; (2) an elaboration by gruppetti, scale figures and so on, of the theme itself which was to lead to the variation techniques of the 19th century – an excellent example is Schubert’s Andante in A d604; (3) a rapidly changing series of harmonies that decorate, without furthering, a point in the progress of a composition, such as is found in, for example, the nocturnes of Field and Chopin....

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