‘Cori Spezzati’, por Denis Arnold – Parte 1

Apesar de curto, esse artigo é uma síntese da importância histórica do Cori Spezzati, portanto seu foco é descrevê-lo com muitos detalhes e cronologicamente. Uma segunda parte acompanhará esse post.

Página 4: Nobody knows where cori spezzati – choirs divided by space – were invented. The principle of splitting up performing forces into spatially separated groups is certainly of great antiquity, but its significance for the historian undoubtedly begins in the last few years of the fifteenth century. The evidence we possess suggests that the custom was most popular in northern Italy. The wedding celebrations of Costanzo Sforza and Camilla of Aragon at Pesaro in 1475 were graced by a performance of double-choir music. The confraternity of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Treviso remembered its past members with Vesper psalms sung by two choirs from very early in the sixteenth century; while the Order of the Crosachieri at Bergamo admitted one distinguished member at least with salmi spezzati. These, it will be seen, are all occasions of some dignity when large-scale music was almost a necessity, and we shall find that this is true of polychoral music for more than a century.

Página 5: (…) Even so, their [Santacrose and Fra Ruffino] music for double choir is of considerable interest to the historian because it cuts across so many of what we consider the traditional features of early sixteenthcentury music. It is not polyphonic; it can hardly be considered modal; it treats the words syllabically instead of with the extended melismas of the Netherlands style. In its diatonic chordal structure, the clarity of its words and the simplicity of its texture, this music seems so much more modern than the music of many of their contemporaries. Most of all, instead of the long limpid flow of continuously moving music with phrases interlocking effortlessly with one another, here the phrases can be short, cut off from one another by cadences and given some variety(…).

Página 6: He [Willaert] also sees that there are special problems to be solved. Of these the most important is to make the harmony tolerable even if a listener is much nearer one choir than the other. His solution was to make both choirs harmonically complete in themselves.

Página 7: Indeed, he went a great deal farther than Lassus, using groups of varying tessitura and with a huge range between the highest and lowest parts. Implied in all this is the use of instruments, and sometimes we can even find signs that definite orchestral colours were in Gabrieli’s mind. In one or two works certain choirs are marked to be performed a cappella, and we know from the writings of Praetorius that other groups consisted of solo voices accompanied by strings or brass. Out of such material Gabrieli weaves a web of contrasting colours which Lassus never knew (…).

Página 8: By quick interchanges of choir, overlappings of choral entries and splendidly sonorous tutti, we are overwhelmed by continual change. The emotional development of the piece is usually closely tied up with the variety of phrase-lengths. The long phrases of Lassus and Willaert may be sufficient for the opening of a motet; they are never enough for its climax, and the quick changes from one choir to another, with phrases of very short duration, give a sense of excitement unequalled in sixteenth-century music.
With these resources to hand, Andrea Gabrieli finds it unnecessary to use more than simple textures. Homophony predominates, perhaps because it makes performances easier when choirs are distant from one another, certainly because imitative counterpoint would be less effective in such a mass of sound. Nor does the composer need the great varieties of harmony known to the madrigalists. It is quite remarkable how simple the harmonies are. As each phrase must end with some form of perfect cadence, the climaxes, where choir follows choir rapidly, seem to consist of nothing but a stream of primary triads. This is further emphasized by the comparatively slowly moving harmonic rhythm, which again probably arose from the acoustical necessities of separated choirs. Add to this the free doublings of bass parts, and we are very near to the sound of modern music.

Página 10: In his ‘Sacrae Symphoniae’ (1597) we see the natural development of his uncle’s idiom. The contrast between the various choirs is now much sharper and instruments are optional only by an immense stretching of the imagination. It is sometimes very easy to see that a motet for double choir would be most effective if sung by two solo voices both accompanied by instruments, even though these are not specified as we sometimes find in his later music. This has become possible only by a destruction of the traditional equality of interest between the voices. In many of the motets there is virtually no imitative counterpoint at all.
The texture, then, is simple in many pieces. So in general are rhythms and harmonies. The reliance on perfect cadences and primary triads again results from the closely knit dialogue in which choir follows choir rapidly. As in Andrea’s work, there is a distinctness of phrase and a variety of phrase-length which clearly derives from the element of space and the difficulty of ensemble. These problems also give rise to a music of strong accents and simple rhythms.

ARNOLD, Denis. The Significance of Cori Spezzati  In: Music & Letters, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan., 1959). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959, p. 4-14

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