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Venetian polychoral style

Venetian polychoral style

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The Venetian polychoral style was a type of music of the late Renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

 and early Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 eras which involved spatially separate choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

s singing in alternation. It represented a major stylistic shift from the prevailing polyphonic
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

 writing of the middle Renaissance, and was one of the major stylistic developments which led directly to the formation of what we now know as the Baroque style. A commonly encountered term for the separated choirs is cori spezzati—literally, separated choirs.

History of the style


The style arose from the architectural peculiarities of the imposing Basilica San Marco di Venezia, also known as St. Mark's, in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

. Aware of the sound delay caused by the distance between opposing choir lofts, composers began to take advantage of that as a useful special effect. Since it was difficult to get widely separated choirs to sing the same music simultaneously (especially before modern techniques of conducting were developed), composers such as Adrian Willaert
Adrian Willaert
Adrian Willaert was a Flemish composer of the Renaissance and founder of the Venetian School. He was one of the most representative members of the generation of northern composers who moved to Italy and transplanted the polyphonic Franco-Flemish style there....

, the maestro di cappella of St. Mark's in the 1540s, solved the problem by writing antiphonal music where opposing choirs would sing successive, often contrasting phrases of the music; the stereo effect proved to be popular, and soon other composers were imitating the idea, and not only in St. Mark's but in other large cathedrals in Italy. This was a rare but interesting case of the architectural peculiarities of a single building influencing the development of a style which not only became popular all over Europe, but defined, in part, the shift from the Renaissance to the Baroque era. The idea of different groups singing in alternation gradually evolved into the concertato
Concertato
Concertato is a term in early Baroque music referring to either a genre or a style of music in which groups of instruments or voices share a melody, usually in alternation, and almost always over a basso continuo...

 style, which in its different instrumental and vocal manifestations eventually led to such diverse musical ideas as the chorale cantata
Chorale cantata
In music, a chorale cantata is a sacred composition for voices and instruments, principally from the German Baroque era, in which the organizing principle is the words and music to a chorale. Usually a chorale cantata is in multiple movements or parts. Most chorale cantatas were written between...

, the concerto grosso
Concerto grosso
The concerto grosso is a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists and full orchestra...

, and the sonata.

The peak of development of the style was in the late 1580s and 1590s, while Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.-Biography:Gabrieli was born in Venice...

 was organist at San Marco and principal composer, and while Gioseffo Zarlino
Gioseffo Zarlino
Gioseffo Zarlino was an Italian music theorist and composer of the Renaissance. He was possibly the most famous music theorist between Aristoxenus and Rameau, and made a large contribution to the theory of counterpoint as well as to musical tuning.-Life:Zarlino was born in Chioggia, near Venice...

 was still maestro di cappella. Gabrieli was the first to specify instruments specifically, including large choirs of brass; he also began to specify dynamics
Dynamics (music)
In music, dynamics normally refers to the volume of a sound or note, but can also refer to every aspect of the execution of a given piece, either stylistic or functional . The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics...

, and to develop the "echo" effects for which he became famous. The fame of the spectacular, sonorous music of San Marco at this time spread across Europe, and numerous musicians came to Venice to hear, to study, to absorb and bring back what they learned to their countries of origin. Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, in particular, was a region where composers began to work in a locally-modified form of the Venetian style, though polychoral works were also composed elsewhere, such as the many masses written in Spain by Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria, sometimes Italianised as da Vittoria , was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was not only a composer, but also an...

.

After 1603, a basso continuo was added to the already considerable forces at San Marco—orchestra, soloists, choir—a further step towards the Baroque cantata
Cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

. Music at San Marco went through a period of decline, but the fame of the music had spread far, and transformed into the concertato
Concertato
Concertato is a term in early Baroque music referring to either a genre or a style of music in which groups of instruments or voices share a melody, usually in alternation, and almost always over a basso continuo...

 style. In 1612 Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

 was appointed maestro di cappella, and though he brought the musical standards back to a high level, the vogue of the polychoral style had passed; concertato music, much with solo voice, was now the norm; the productions of this late period are identifiably Baroque.

Representative composers

  • Adrian Willaert
    Adrian Willaert
    Adrian Willaert was a Flemish composer of the Renaissance and founder of the Venetian School. He was one of the most representative members of the generation of northern composers who moved to Italy and transplanted the polyphonic Franco-Flemish style there....

  • Cipriano de Rore
    Cipriano de Rore
    Cipriano de Rore was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in Italy...

  • Gioseffo Zarlino
    Gioseffo Zarlino
    Gioseffo Zarlino was an Italian music theorist and composer of the Renaissance. He was possibly the most famous music theorist between Aristoxenus and Rameau, and made a large contribution to the theory of counterpoint as well as to musical tuning.-Life:Zarlino was born in Chioggia, near Venice...

  • Claudio Merulo
    Claudio Merulo
    Claudio Merulo was an Italian composer, publisher and organist of the late Renaissance period, most famous for his innovative keyboard music and his ensemble music composed in the Venetian polychoral style. He was born in Correggio and died in Parma...

  • Giovanni Gabrieli
    Giovanni Gabrieli
    Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.-Biography:Gabrieli was born in Venice...

  • Andrea Gabrieli
    Andrea Gabrieli
    Andrea Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist of the late Renaissance. The uncle of the somewhat more famous Giovanni Gabrieli, he was the first internationally renowned member of the Venetian School of composers, and was extremely influential in spreading the Venetian style in Italy as...

  • Claudio Monteverdi
    Claudio Monteverdi
    Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...

  • Hans Leo Hassler
    Hans Leo Hassler
    Hans Leo Hassler was a German composer and organist of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras, elder brother of the less-famous Jakob Hassler...

  • Heinrich Schütz
    Heinrich Schütz
    Heinrich Schütz was a German composer and organist, generally regarded as the most important German composer before Johann Sebastian Bach and often considered to be one of the most important composers of the 17th century along with Claudio Monteverdi...


Examples of the style

  • Adrian Willaert, salmi spezzati
  • Andrea Gabrieli, Psalmi Davidici
  • Giovanni Gabrieli, sacrae symphoniae
    • In Ecclesiis
      In Ecclesiis
      In Ecclesiis is Giovanni Gabrieli's most famous single work. A magnum opus of polychoral techniques, it also epitomises Baroque and Renaissance styles, with its prolific use of pedal points and extended plagal cadences....

    • Sonata pian' e forte
      Sonata pian' e forte
      Sonata pian' e forte was written by Giovanni Gabrieli, an Italian composer and organist in 1597.- Description:“Sonata pian’e forte” means an instrumental piece using soft and loud dynamics. A more technical definition of this is a Venetian polychoral style which arose from architectural...

  • Heinrich Schütz, Psalmen Davids 1619

External links