‘Cori Spezzati’, por Denis Arnold – Parte 2

Página 10: “the invention of a notation for continuo playing affected the whole range of music very deeply. Polyphony had been dying in the madrigalian forms for some little time. In church music even as late as 1590 it had seemed securely rooted. By 1610, Monteverdi was sounding its death-knell when he described his Gombert Mass as a work of great studiousness at which he had had to work hard to bring it into shape. Thereafter true polyphony was something rather unnatural for composers. It was the stile antico and had a multitude of sins to answer for.
Cori spezzati survived this change without any sign of strain. Indeed it welcomed the use of the basso continuo as a new resource to be tried.”
(…)
“(…) the book containing them [Viadana’s first motets in the new style] is called ‘Cento concerti ecclesiastici’, a reminiscence of all the polychoral books which had poured forth since I587. For another, Viadana’s music had borrowed a great deal from the Venetian composers. The comparative simplicity of texture might very well be that of a work by Giovanni Gabrieli. The extended triple-time sections and the importance of simple diatonic harmonies are unmistakably those used in the latest polychoral music, and in fact if we reduced a motet by Croce or Bassano to the notation used by Viadana, we should find very little difference.”

Página 11: “As we have seen, the use of solo voices was also something known to the Gabrielis”
“if we possessed the Venetian motets in the ornamented forms used by the musicians of St. Mark’s, we should find that the moderate fioritura of Viadana comes directly from the same tradition.”
“In Croce’s ‘Sacrae cantilene concertate’, the cori spezzati have become rather different in build. One choir is now a group of soloists accompanied by an organ. Groups of instruments and ripieno voices are in other choir galleries. The relationship between the music of this volume and the older music for double choir is quite apparent. The tutti sections are the old “alleluia” refrains, triple time, simple texture and all; and their use as recurring passages in a sort of rondo form is merely an extension of a similar use which we find in many a motet of the Gabrielis. In the solo sections there is the new style, a loose imitative counterpoint with an organ giving the harmonic basis. Here again the old polychoral idiom is not far off, and the split-up melody between the voices, which is so characteristic of the early concertato motet, might well be the interplay between the solo voices of a Gabrieli motet if only two voices were being used and the other parts taken by instruments.”
“The differences between soloist and tutti are now more marked. The former sing in a decorated style, with expressive ornaments and virtuoso gorgie. The tutti is now split up into voices, which sing the homophonic refrains in a massive style, and an orchestra, which sometimes accompanies the voices and sometimes has its own sections.”
“In spite of its new look the style is essentially dependent on groups separated in space. The orchestra sometimes accompanies the solo voices, and it is clear that if the singers are not at some distance from the instruments they will be drowned.”
“Instead of the closely linked dialogue of Andrea Gabrieli, the later volumes of Croce and the younger Gabrieli have strongly defined sections. The soloists sing their duets and trios. When they finish, the tutti or the orchestra is allowed another complete section. At a climax all the forces may be used and there may be some interplay between them.”

Página 12: “In this sectionalism were the seeds of decline for cori spezzati. After all, the whole basis of the separated choirs is that they provided contrasts in colour at a time when such contrasts were diminished by imitative counterpoint.”
“In the works of Grandi, Rovetta, Cavalli and Monteverdi there is really not much need to space out the choirs through the building.”
“The tutti have now become choral sections with the soloists doubling the ripieni”
“the great days of cori spezzati were over by about 1625.”
“There was a brief flowering in Germany, including some fine works by Schütz. This apart, there are no composers who can be compared with the Gabrielis, and the originality even of Schütz is not really concerned with devices peculiar to separated choirs.”
“Nevertheless, the style was too firmly established to die, and we find that cori spezzati were used well into the eighteenth century.”
“One of these [two features developed in early 17th century] is the use of what we can only call “tricks”; the other is the use of cori spezzati by the Roman school, the followers of Palestrina.”
“When cori spezzati were first used in secular music, many new effects were gained by the use of echoes, for example. In madrigals, especially those written with some dramatic intention, echoes seem quite in place.”

Página 13: “The most famous, perhaps, is the setting of “Audi coelum” in Monteverdi’s Vespers, with “gaudio” changing to “audio” and so on.”
“Ignatio Donati recommends in his ‘Sacri Concentus’ (1612) a method which he calls “distant singing”. This, he claims, is an invention
made by me and my singers in the cathedral of Pesaro and elsewhere where I have been. The method which has been tried is this. The part which starts singing first must stay in the organ loft, and the other three voices shall be placed distantly from one another, so as not to be seen in the church.
Several other composers suggested similar things.”
“The complexity which can be reached is seen in a piece by Croce, a setting of ‘Laudate pueri’. This has solo groups all at different places in the church, singing echoes of one another. Then there is a ripieno choir somewhere else, not forgetting an alto accompanied by a group of trombones, again in another part of the church.”
“[Michael Praetorius] fill every possible corner of the church with the forces available. Boys and men soloists were sent away from the others, each with their continuo instrument. Even the outside of the church could be used if the instrumental forces were enough. The military, indeed, were better outside.
It must be arranged for this type of concerto that 5, 6 or 7 trumpeters with or without a drummer be stationed in a special place just outside the church; in this way the loud resonance and sound of the trumpets will not drown and deafen the whole body of musicians, as it would if they were inside the church.”
“it is difficult to account them as anything more than the fripperies of music. Whereas in the music of the Gabrielis, to remove the spatial element will ruin the whole effect, if we do this to one of the monodic works we hardly notice any difference.”
“The Roman school continued writing true polychoral music for a long time. Soriano, Agostino, Abbatini and Benevoli all used the style. So did a host of well-known German composers, not to mention such people as Messaus of Antwerp, Lohr of Dresden and Heinrich Hartmann of Coburg.”

Página 14: “Cori spezzati have now become the plaything of the conservatives, the composers in the stile antico.”
“Although using octave doublings and occasional un-Palestrinian dissonance, he [Benevoli] nowhere approaches the essentially harmonic attitude of even the more moderate seventeenth-century Venetian composers. His splendid and famed Mass for 53 voices, written for the consecration of Salzburg Cathedral, has instrumental groups and choirs of voices in the manner of Giovanni Gabrieli; but this is in itself significant. Gabrieli’s methods had been left completely behind in the two decades after his death, and the essentially linear methods of Benevoli are very different from the more modern orchestral style, based as it was on continuo instruments.”
“Thus cori spezzati, like so many musical forms, lived on to become something of an anachronism. They were used by Carissimi in his oratorios, by Lotti in his very old-fashioned a cappella church music, by Bach in his motets.”
“although we remember that cori spezzati make a most impressive appearance in the St. Matthew Passion, the element of space is a minor feature in the dramatic intensity.”
“Bereft of variety in harmony and sudden contrasts in rhythm, cori spezzati gave an ideal way of maintaining interest. Even so, space effects cannot make these works great music, as they did the music of the Venetian giants.”
“The true significance of the polychoral techniques lay not in their longevity, but in their power to give rise to something new, to make the natural successor, the concerto motet, a sturdy and independent being. Without this progression of events, the church music of even the later eighteenth century would have been very different.”

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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