CHAPTER 31 The Concerted Style in Venice and Dresden
The basilica of St. Mark was and is the focus of civic and spiritual life in Venice It is built in the form of an equal-sided Greek cross, a unique architectural plan among the major churches of the West.
Cori spezzati: literally "broken choirs," it is music composed for two, three, or four choirs placed in different parts of the building. Since the mid sixteenth century, cori spezzati was a whole mark of composers working at St. Mark's, where separate ensembles would perform in the two choir lofts to the left and right of the main isle (see Fig. 31-1). • Stile concertato: Italian for "corcerted style," it is a term broadly used to identify Baroque music marked by grand scale and strong contrast, either between voices and instruments, between separate instrumental and choral ensembles, or even between soloist and choir.
Giovanni Gabrieli: organist and composer at St. Mark's, he is important to history for having been the first composer to indicate dynamic levels and specify particular instruments in a musical score, as can be heard throughout the two volumes of his Sacred Symphonies (1597 and 1615). • Concerted motet: a motet entirely in stile concertato (for an example of a concerted motet, listen to Anthology, No. 83).
Claudio Monteverdi, creator of a new-style madrigal at the end of the Renaissance (see Chapter 28) and main progenitor of opera (see Chapter 30), succeeded Giovanni Gabrieli as maestro di cappella at St. Mark's in 1613. While Monteverdi's secular music survives in print, most of his compositions for St. Mark's have been lost as they were never published. • Concerted madrigal: a madrigal in which instruments appear, and textures and timbres are strongly contrasting (for an example of a concerted madrigal, listen to Anthology, No. 84).
Stile concitato: a style of composition particularly suited to warlike music which consists in dividing whole notes into machine gun-like short notes—sixteenth notes all firing on the same pitch (Ex. 31-2). Monteverdi claims to have invented this new style in his eighth book of madrigals, in which it is featured prominently.
Barbara Strozzi: a pupil of opera composer Francesco Cavalli, she published eight volumes of vocal music, mostly solo madrigals, arias, and cantatas with basso continuo. • Cantata: literally "a sung thing," it was the primary genre of vocal chamber music. Grown out of the solo madrigal, the cantata is usually a piece of accompanied solo vocal music dealing with secular topics. Because it was usually performed for a small audience in a private residence, this genre is also called the chamber cantata.
Basso ostinato: a bass line that insistently repeats, note for note. The most frequent types of basso ostinato in the seventeenth century are the passamezzo antico, folia, passacaglia, and ciaconna (called chaconne in French).
Lament bass: A basso ostinato which consists in a descending tetrachordal figure, usually in triple meter (Ex. 31-4a). This ostinato figure would remain a signpost of lament all the way to J.S. Bach, who used it in the "Crucifixus" of his B-Minor Mass.
The Concerted Style Moves North: Heinrich Schütz in Dresden • Heinrich Schütz was among the first of a long line of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century composers who made their way to Italy to learn the Italian style (Handel and Mozart would follow). He studied with Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, and later with Monteverdi in Venice. He composed the first opera in German, namely Dafne (now lost) of 1627. In 1621 Schütz became Kapellmeister (chief of music at court, German equivalent of maestro di cappella) in the chapel of the Elector of Saxony in Dresden, where he started to publish sacred music for the court. • Thirty Years' War (1618-1648): a series of declared and undeclared wars fought essentially between the Protestants and the Catholics over political control and religious dominance in central Europe. During this time, musical institutions in Germany were devastated, including those in Dresden. Schütz's compositions during the Thirty Years' War reflect the mood of these troubled times.
Schütz's knowledge of the dramatic conventions of opera and the Venetian concerted motet can be heard in his Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? (Anthology, No. 86), which recounts St. Paul's conversion to Christianity on the way to Damascus. In this concerted motet, Schütz makes use of many compositional techniques learned in Italy— among them cori spezzati, monody, concerted madrigal style, and dynamic markings—which reinforce the dramatic contrast at the heart of much Baroque art and music (see, for example, the stark contrast between light and dark in Fig. 31-3).