Trecho sobre Cori Spezzati no Le Istitutioni harmoniche (1558) – por Gioseffo Zarlino –

[x] representa o número da página da edição de 1968.

“[232]66. Some Advices about Compositions for More than Three Voices
[243]Psalms are sometimes written for the so-called split chorus (choro spezzato), which is frequently heard in Venice during vespers and other offices of the solemn feasts. The chorus is divided into two or three groups, each of which sings in four parts; they sing alternately, or simultaneously when it is appropriate. At the end it is particularly effective when they sing together. Because the choirs are located at some distance from one another, the composer must see to it that each chorus has music that is consonant, that is without dissonance among its parts, and that each has a self-sufficient four-part harmony. Yet when the choirs [244] sound together, their parts must make good harmony without dissonances. Thus composed, each choir has independent music which could be sung separately without offending the ear. This advice is not to be scorned; rather it is very handy and was formulated by the most excellent Adrian [Willaert].
Although this style presents some difficulties, one should not run away from them, because the results can be very admirable and excellent. These difficulties will indeed be minimized by a study of the learned [245] works of Adrian, such as the psalms “Confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo in consilio iustorum”, “Laudate pueri Dominum”, “Lauda Jerusalem Dominum”, “De profundis”, “Memento Domine David”, and numerous others such as the canticle of the Blessed Virgin “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”, which I wrote years ago for three choirs. To see and study these pieces will be of great value to all those who wish to compose in like manner. One will find, for instance, that the basses of the choirs always form unisons or octaves, or occasionally thirds, but never fifths, because they would cause difficulties and nothing good would be possible. The composer who stays within these limits will have much less difficulty in blending the parts of the choirs without dissonance.
Now, to conclude the discussion, let me say that the composer who understands all that has ben done so far must yet learn to organize the notes of his composition in terms of tempus, modus and prolation, the schemes under which his composition will be written. Because the schemes were once of great importance, and some still use them, I shall strive to give everyone an understanding of them. I shall cover only the essentials, ignoring what is cryptic and irrelevant. I shall begin with tempus, which is, I believe, the most universal and the principal of these.

ZARLINO, Gioseffo. The Art of Counterpoint – Part Three of Le Istitutioni harmoniche 1558. Trad.: MARCO, Guy A. & PALISCA, Claude V.. New Haven: W.W Norton, 1968.

Precursores de Adrian Willaert – Giovanni D’Alessi – Parte 2

Página 197: “he [Fra Ruffino] gives a characteristic individuality to the coro battente which will be used later and carried to the acme of perfection by Andrea Gabrieli. These characteristics are lacking in the eight Psalms for coro spezzato published by Willaert in I550. Rather, he observes rigorously not only the tone and the mode but also the unitary structure of the verses in the alternation of the two choirs, and in the few cases in which he breaks the verse, he has the break come where the text permits, i.e., at the flexa or mediant, but not in the midst of the text of the two hemistichs. Except for these few cases, the two choirs proceed regularly without interruption, one following the other in the singing of the verses. It is not his custom to repeat the text, nor do the two choirs sing together except at the final Doxology, where he employs greater variety and liberty(…).”

Página 198: [Willaert] “intention of creating a new style in this genre of composition, fusing the Flemish contrapuntal conception with the requirements of the Italian style, which germinated from the popular song (such as the villotta, lauda, and frottola of the 15th and early 16th century), a style which, remote from every foreign influence, was flourishing in Venice and neighboring cities when Willaert was called to direct the chapel of St. Mark.
All the eight Psalms [1550] show identical characteristics.”
– “transposed a fourth lower, i.e., to its natural position (first tone), probably for better adaptation to the vocal exigencies of the chapel”

Página 202: “It will be noticed that the Gloria [Willaert Ps 112 Laudate Pueri (Gloria)] offers a more articulated and lively dialogue than the preceding verses and finishes with an eight-voice tutti at the words ‘et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.'”
– “in Fra Ruffino a contrapuntal form like that of the composers of the first part of the 16th century, with a somewhat awkward conduct of the parts and still immature harmonic progressions, and with resulting prominent frictions between the voices”
– “Fra Ruffino’s freer and more varied conception offers him a field propitious for a brilliant dialogue and the creation of verses of free invention, with frequent interchanges of choirs. The style of Adriano is more severe and more in conformity to the liturgy; although he composes verses of his own, more often he uses the ecclesiastical chant, and at the beginning he has the Gregorian intonation”
[Treviso] “an act of 1524 of the Council of the School of the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
– “Such was the performance in 1523, as well as the one two years before. This is proved by an act of the Council of the ‘School’, dated April 3, 1524, which shows clearly the admiration and enthusiasm aroused by the singing of Vespers and Mass with music for ‘two choirs’.”
– “[1524 act] the number of the said singers and their marvelous and excellent solemn singing both at Vespers and at Mass with two choirs”
– “[the 1524 act] determined to augment the modest remuneration offered to the singers, pledging them for the future to sing ‘all the Vespers and all the Mass every year with two choits, as it has been done hitherto and especially in the last two or three years, that we know they have done well and will do even better if it is possible.'”
– “The document [1524 act] thus explains the amazing effect of the compositions”

Página 204: “At the present time the musical archive has fifteen compositions certainly by Santacroce–five motets (one for four voices, four for five voices) and ten Psalms for coro battente and, it may be noted, all for ‘coro spezzato’, these forming music for Compline and Vespers, without the Magnificat.”

Página 206: “But if Patavino wrote for coro spezzato before 1527, we have reasons for maintaining that he had used this style also in the Vespers and the Mass for the Dead of 1523. To arouse the enthusiasm of the presidents of the Confraternity, the performance could not have been one of the level he was in the custom of giving the chapel, but must have been something new and extraordinary.”
– “he [Santacroce] had learned the art of coro spezzato from Fra Ruffino and that he had introduced it in Treviso”

Página 210: “There was a school of composers not only in Venice, as Benvenuti proves, but also in other cities of the dominion of Veneto, such as Padua, Treviso, Bergamo, and Verona – cities closely linked to Venice in musical principles through community of taste, tendencies, form, and style to the first decades of the 16th century. These schools show evident signs of uncommon vitality(…).”

D’ALESSI, Giovanni. Precursors of Adriano Willaert in the Practice of Coro Spezzato. In Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Autumn, 1952). California: University of California Press, 1952, p. 187-210.

Precursores de Adrian Willaert – Giovanni D’Alessi – Parte 1

Apesar da idade desse texto (publicado em 1959), ainda é considerado um texto relevante para a discussão da gênese do Cori Spezzati (como visto em Charteris, 1990, “Indications in Early Sources”).

Página 187: “coro spezzato (also called coro battente) was not a novelty introduced by Adriano Willaert”
– “As has been observed, the question does not concern the ancient practice of the Church of performing the Psalms with two choirs, alternately answering each other in chanting verses, but rather a custom introduced in the early part of the 16th century; while the ancient tradition of two alternating choirs was maintained, the Gregorian chant came to be supplanted by polyphonic verses, generally entrusted to two vocal quartets (cantus, altus, tenor, bassus).”
– “the double choir, as used in the 16th century, might take three different forms:
1. Two choirs, one of which performs the Gregorian chant, while the other responds with polyphonic verses.
2. Two choirs that respond alternately, each one with “closed” polyphonic verses, i.e., compositions complete in themselves and not related to each other, except in so far as they preserve the mode and psalm tone.
3. Two choirs that alternate with closely interwoven polyphonic verses, so that the entire Psalm forms a single composition. Although each of the two choirs lives its own life, in dialogue with the other, they are nevertheless framed into a unitary composition and sometimes unite to form a complex of eight voices, especially toward the end, or even at some other point, in order better to enhance the sense of the text. Psalms composed in such a way form coro spezzato in the true sense.”

Página 188: [Zarlino 1552] “Sometimes it. happens that some Psalms are composed in such a way that they are called coro spezzato, which many times it is a custom to sing in Venice at Vespers and other hours of the solemn feasts; and they are arranged and divided into two, or three, choirs, in each of which four voices sing, and the choirs sing first one and then the other in alternation, and sometimes (depending upon the intention) all together, especially at the end, and this has a very fine effect. And since such choirs are stationed at some distance from each other, the composer will take care (to the end that there be no ugly dissonances between the parts in any of them) to form the composition in such a manner that each choir is consonant, i.e., that the parts of one choir are arranged in such a way as the piece would be composed for four simple voices, without consideration of the other choirs, having regard, however, in arranging the parts, that they are all in concord and there is no dissonance. For if the choirs are composed in such a manner, each one may be sung separately by itself, and nothing will be heard that might offend the ear. This advice is not to be scorned, for it is of great convenience; and it was formulated (ritrovato) by the most excellent Adriano.”

Página 189: “Since the Istitutioni harmoniche had a didactic character, Zarlino found it opportune to remind the student of this advice, since Willaert, working in a field already prepared by tradition, understood how to provide a new and very definite stylistic model for the employment of coro spezzato, by keeping it closer to the nature of psalmody and to the spirit of the liturgy. Thus the novelty of the discovery of the Flemish master has no reference to its having been he who first used the coro battente but rather to his particular form of treating it, as distinct from that adopted by the composers who had preceded him in the same practice and to whom I shall refer later.”
– [Zarlino 1552] “Then let such a Psalm be composed so that its verses can be sung with another choir in alternation, as Jachetto and many others have composed; or again everything may be composed as a whole, as Lupo composed the Psalms In convertendo Dominus captivitatem Syon and Beati omnes qui timent Dominum in four voices in the eighth mode; or they may be composed for two choirs, like the Psalms of Adriano’s Laudate pueri Dominum, Lauda Jerusalem Dominum, and many others, which are called for coro spezzato.”
– “the third [type on page 189], i.e., the true coro spezzato.”

Página 190: “Mass in eight voices for coro spezzato with the title Missa super verbum bonum by a certain Ruphinus, whom he identified, with good reasons, with Fra Ruffino Bartolucci of Assisi, maestro di cappella at the Padua Cathedral from 1510 to 1520 and then for some years at the Cappella del Santo”
– “a collection of all sorts of sacred compositions by composers flourishing at the end of the 15th and in the first part of the 16th century (Andrea de Silva, Jean Mouton, Josquin des Prez, Gombert, Lheritier, Claudin, Lupus, etc.).”
– [Monsig. Casimiri] “After I transcribed the eight parts,” he writes, “and reconstructed the score, there resulted a composition for double coro battente, with animated and rapid dialogue; yet with some technical life there is still something a little primitive, so that it gives rise to some critical reflections.”
– [Mosig. Casimiri] “The date of the manuscript miscellany which contains the Missa super verbum bonum and which, as I have said above, might be ascribed from its writing to the first quarter of the 16th century; the presence of Ruffinus at Padua, as chapel master of the Cathedral from 1510 to 1520 and then for some years at the Cappella del Santo; the preservation of the manuscript in the archive of a city in Veneto; the internal criterion of style, which reminds us of the first part of the I6th century–all these points suggest, I venture to say with certainty, that in the name Ruphinusis to be recognized Fra Ruffino of Assisi, and the work is to be attributed to the period when he held his post in Padua. Now if this is true, it was an Italian, a son of green Umbria, a Franciscan, who was practicing the form of dialogue for double choir, even in the first years of the 16th century.”

Página 191: “nine Psalms for coro spezzato by “Frater Ruflinus Patavinus” contained in a manuscript in the library of the Liceo Musicale G. Donizetti in Bergamo, the drafting of which was certainly prior to 1550″
– [Prof. Giuseppe Pedemonti 1943] “these are compositions for double coro battente.”

Página 192: “The existence of this codex [Ms. 1207-8, 1524-1542] containing Psalms for coro spezzato, written for the use of the choir of the chapel of S. Maria Maggiore at the period of the major activity of De Albertis, shows conclusively that in Bergamo at that time Psalms for coro spezzato not written by Willaert were being performed.”
– [Pietro Aaron, 13/3/1536, Convent of S. Leonardo in Bergamo] “All the Vespers were performed on the day of the Most Blessed Gregory, the day when, may it please God, I took the habit of the Order of the Crosachieri, honored and respected by many people. For the sake of the love that these musicians and singers have for me, Maestro Gasparo, the chapel master, came here voluntarily with twenty-two singers to honor me, and they sang Vespers most excellently with two choirs and psalmi spezzati.”
– [Fra Ruffino] “the Mass Super verbum bonum, the Bergamo Psalms, and particularly the Dixit and the Laudate pueri, which I was able to score. These are complete for two choirs, so that they offer the possibility of showing the way in which he [Fra Ruffino] treated the coro battente, a way very different from that of Willaert.
As the nature of antiphonal singing requires, Fra Ruffino preserves the tone and mode of the Gregorian melody and in the construction of the verses, which reveal certain technical traits of the first decades of the 16th century, he sometimes uses the imitative style but for the most part has the parts proceed with simultaneous declamation of the text. In the alternation of the choirs he does not always respect the structural unity of the individual verses; more often he breaks them with a give and take between the two choirs. Profiting by their contrast and echo effects with repetition of words, he gives life to a rapid dialogue, briefly articulated, lively, and concerted. In both of the Psalms he unites the two choirs twice-at the fifth verse and the final Doxology of the Dixit, and at the second verse and the Gloria of the Laudate pueri.”

Página 195: “The Gloria (…) is attacked simultaneously the two choirs and then proceeds in a very rapid dialogue(…).”

D’ALESSI, Giovanni. Precursors of Adriano Willaert in the Practice of Coro Spezzato. In Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Autumn, 1952). California: University of California Press, 1952, p. 187-210.

Mito e Realidade – por David Bryant – Parte 2

Página 177: “According to one of the general rubrics in the ceremoniale of 1564 the organists were present during Vespers of almost all the most important feasts.” Never, however, in the detailed descriptions of the various individual ceremonies are they mentioned specifically in connection with the accompaniment of the psalms”.
– “The evidence of sixteenth-century musical prints, moreover, points vaguely to the prevalence of an a cappella style [nos salmos].”
– “The other instrumentalists were certainly not normally involved in the accompaniment of the double-choir psalms.”

Página 178: “Never in the ceremoniale of 1564 is their presence at Vespers recorded; they are not, in fact, mentioned in connection with this service until 1604, when Stringa refers to their participation on only one feast – First Vespers in Nativitate Domini”
– “The ceremonialia and other documents of St Mark’s contain valuable information not only on the double-choir Vespers psalms but also on the other main category of music for cori spezzati: the concerti and sacrae symphoniae of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli and Giovanni Bassano.
– “In almost every respect this repertory differs fundamentally from the salmi of Willaert and Croce. First, in form: thestrictly liturgical, verse-by-verse alternation of choirs so typical of the salmi is here replaced by a rapid interchoir dialogue of overtly musical orientation. Second, in the number of performing groups: while salmi, in conformity with the liturgical rubrics, are invariably scored for two performing groups, concerti frequently have one (in which case they are not polychoral), three or even four. Third, in the use of cantus firmus: this, ever present in the salmi, is, with few exceptions, absent from the concerti. Fourth, the texts of the salmi are derived from the Offices of Vespers, Compline and Terce, they comprise all verses of the chosen psalm (complete with Doxology), and were always performed in their prescribed liturgical positions; those of the concerti, by no means all of them psalms, are drawn for the most part from the liturgies of Matins and Lauds (at both of which the attendance of the singers was not normally required), are frequently curtailed, and (to judge from a total of nine occurrences of the word ‘concerto’ in contemporary descriptions of Venetian religious ceremonial)” were generally performed outside their immediate liturgical positions at Mass. Finally, while salmi were used exclusively in connection with the greatest liturgical commemorations, concerti, as testified by all nine above-mentioned occurrences of the word, were more often associated with occasional events. (As the published repertory shows, however, concerti too may sometimes have been destined for use at the very greatest of the annually recurring solemnities.)”

Página 180: “A repertory conceived, or largely conceived, for a series of quite unrelated, special occasions will tend to exhibit a minimum of unity both in style and in manner of performance, and to reflect instead the differing musico-ceremonial requirements of the various individual events. This might account for the remarkable range in number of voices used in Concerti di Andrea,& di Gio: Gabrieli (1587) – a minimum of six, a maximum of sixteen – and Giovanni’s two books of Sacrae symphoniae (1597 and 1615) – a minimum of six, a maximum of nineteen.” It would also explain an apparent inconsistency in the use of organists and instrumentalists.”
– uma enorme lista de variações de instrumentação;

Página 181: [1603-1612? Bryant: 1607] “April 2nd. Giovanni Croce, maestro di cappella … having communicated to the Most Illustrious … Procurators that, it being necessary to perform music in the organ [lofts] at such times as the Most Serene Prince and the Most Serene Signoria come to church, it is [also] necessary that there be someone of ability who serves in the organ [lofts] to beat the time, as it is regulated by this maestro. And because, in [Giovanni] Gabrieli’s loft, there is … Giovanni Bassano, capo dei concerti, who on that side [of the choir] is charged with this responsibility, and on the other side this maestro [i.e. Croce] is accustomed to employ … Friar Agostin, the minorite, singer in the choir, who, having left the city already some days ago, without leave, he [Croce] wished to give notice of the fact to Their Excellencies, in order that they might make that provision which seems to them best, that the music pass with that honour and public decorum which is the will of Their Excellencies.”

Página 182: “This account, which by reason of its position in the register may be dated 1607, must refer principally to concerti, and not to the salmi spezzati: frequently, even when (contrary to its stated terms of reference) neither doge nor senators were present, the psalms would be performed in double-choir settings. Two conductors, it would appear, were located in the organ lofts: one was Fra Agostin, a member of the choir; the other was the capo dei concerti, the cornettist Giovanni Bassano, which strongly suggests that the other instrumentalists were here also, together with a few vocal soloists who, according to the practice later noted by Praetorius, were positioned among the instruments. The conductors in the organ lofts were entrusted with the task of relaying the beat, indicated by the maestro di cappella, Giovanni Croce, to the musicians in their charge.”
– “As for Croce himself, he, together with or near to a separate group of performers, can have been located only at quite some distance from the rest (otherwise, why the need to relay the beat?). The obvious question is ‘where?'”
– “It would seem that sometimes, space permitting, he might direct the proceedings from the floor of the choir, as was apparently the case during a specially organised Mass in January 1579 when, in the presence of five visiting Austrian archdukes – and in the absence of all but five representatives of Venetian Church and State – ‘music was made with the two organs and instrumentalists, and the singers in surplices in the choir'”
– “On other occasions he might be situated either in the two-storey pulpitum novum lectionumor in the hexagonal pergolo, as during Mass on Easter Sunday (a feast for which many large-scale concerti and sacrae symphoniae have been preserved) when, according to the ceremoniale of 1564, ‘the singers … mount the pulpit of the lessons, where they sing Mass; for nowadays Our Lord the Doge … mounts the great pulpit [of the singers] in which he hears Mass. Whenever he [the doge] remains in the choir for Mass, the singers mount the great pulpit to sing it.'”
– “And on still others he would appear to have stood in a third, temporary pulpit specially erected for the event, as during the Mass celebrated in June 1585 in honour of four visiting Japanese princes, for which ‘there was made a new platform for the singers’.”

Página 183: “Whatever the case, he seems almost invariably (and in view of his position as maestro di cappella quite properly) to have taken command of the ripieno choir – which group, according to each of the above-quoted statements, was the only one to have been situated, like him, quite separately from the musicians in the galleries; since this choir was located at floor level, the maestro too was presumably there. Any problems of communication between him and his two assistants need not have proved insurmountable since at least one of the organ lofts is always clearly visible both from the floor of the choir, the pulpitum novum lectionum and the pulpitum magnum cantorum.”
– “It was not without reason that the main body of the singers was positioned at floor level. On all the greatest occasions they had, besides the performing of large-scale concertia, number of other liturgical and ceremonial duties.”
– “they often sang the litanies in procession. Sometimes, as on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, and the Feast of St Mark, they sang the introit of the Mass from the pulpitum magnumc antorumor alternatively from the steps of the choir (that is, ‘in medio ecclesiae’). Occasionally two of their number would be charged with the singing of the tract, or four might sing during the confession.”

Página 184: “The segregation of the ripieno singers from the rest of the ensemble is implicit in much of the published musical repertory. It is immediately apparent in the use of the designation ‘cappella’, a word that, on the relatively few occasions when it occurs, is reserved exclusively for one (and one only) of the four-part choirs. In this context it is used, with only two exceptions, to designate the whole choir (the exceptions occur in Giovanni Gabrieli’s fourteen-voice In ecclesiis and seventeen-voice Magnificat, where ‘cappella’ is applied respectively to three and two voices only).”
– “The spatial separation of the ripienists has a specifically stylistic dimension: the so-called cappella choir, in contrast to the predominantly instrumental groups (which stood much closer together both in location and timbre), is with one exception harmonically self-sufficient and complete.”
– “One is reminded of the comments of the contemporary theorist, Giovanni Maria Artusi:”

Página 185: [Artusi:] “Nowadays composers, in the cantilenae composed for concerti, place the lowest parts (that is, the bass parts of the one, and of the other choir) at the interval of a fifth, a third or an octave; almost always, one hears [a] wretched [sound, such as] I cannot describe, which offends the hearing … And [concerning] those choirs which are situated at a distance one from the other … when their bass … has become a middle-range part it can be said that that choir is [actually] without bass part and foundation; and what good effect can it have if the building be in one place and the foundations elsewhere? what sweet harmony can it yield to hear three or four parts of a cantilena without the bass, or at [other] times so far away that [these three parts themselves] can scarcely be heard?”
– “For Artusi, as indeed for the Gabrielis, the physical separation of one choir from the others appears to have underlined the need for its harmonic self-sufficiency.”
– “Although, then, in the case of the salmi the architectural characteristics of St Mark’s clearly did not influence the style of the music, in the concerti and sacrae symphoniae they do seem to have had a certain definite significance.”
– “While the ripieno choir had a number of liturgico-ceremonial duties which necessitated its remaining at floor level, the instrumentalists, who generally played no active role in ceremonial and the celebration of the liturgy, would surely have been given less conspicuous accommodation. Where more convenient in St Mark’s than the elevated lofts where the two ‘stationary’ musicians, the organists, were already housed? Had these galleries not existed, however, and had some other equally inconspicuous position been available, the result in terms of distance between instrumentalists and singers – hence also in terms of musical style – could well have been identical.”
– “This combination of architectural and ceremonial considerations seems to offer the most plausible explanation for the particular lines along which the cori spezzati developed at St Mark’s.”

BRYANT, David. The ‘cori spezzati’ of St Mark’s: Myth and Reality. In: FENLON, Iain (org). Early Music History, Vol. 1 (1981). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 165-186.

‘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

‘Cori spezzati’, por Denis Arnold

Cori spezzati (it.)

Literally ‘broken choirs’, the term being used to describe the division of the forces used (voices and/or instruments) and the spatial separation of the resulting groups.
The idea of using two groups of singers antiphonally can be traced to Jewish and early Christian times, but the deliberate, artistic development of the concept dates from the later years of the 15th century, when choirs would sometimes be divided into two groups, one on each side of the church, to perform festive motets. This arrangement became popular after the publication of Willaert’s Salmi spezzati (1550). It used to be assumed that these were performed in the two organ lofts of St Mark’s, Venice, but it now seems likely that in fact the groups were placed on the floor of the church, near or even in the pulpits. Certainly elsewhere, cori spezzati were used in churches without galleries.
The St Mark’s galleries were, however, used for the performance of ceremonial motets in the later 16th century, such composers as the two Gabrielis exploiting the arrangement’s capacity to surprise. During this period, the groups were frequently unequal or unlike each other: a high choir (coro acuto) might be pitted against a low one (coro grave); a group of soloists (favoriti) contrasted with the ripieno (or cappella); and both against the instrumental ensemble. These groups would engage in what is best described as a musical dialogue, the phrase lengths being varied and the musical material passed from one group to another, so that interest is kept up by the continual change of the place from which the sound is coming. Echo effects were also common, and these led to the consideration of contrasting dynamics as a useful device, even when spatial effects were not intended.
As it became customary to use a continuo part, composers took the opportunity to set accompanied solo voices against the choir. Since such forces are so unequal, the music was divided in to separate sections for each medium, rather than having a real ‘dialogue’; this sectionalization was eventually to lead to the church cantata, the ‘Neapolitan’ Mass, and other forms of church music where solo voices and duets alternate with choruses.
The continuo also encouraged various gimmicks- such as the so-called musica lontana of Ignazio Donati, where soloists were placed at various parts of the church. Monteverdi uses similar effects in his Vespers of 1610. In Germany, such effects were taken up with enthusiasm, Michael Praetorius in his Syntagma Musicum (1619) advocating the singing of chorales with each verse sung by different forces from different parts of the church.
The vogue for cori spezzati was at its height in Italy c. 1600, although Roman composers (notably Benevoli) went on writing polychoral music until at least the mid century. In Germany, it was taken up at the end of the 16th century and remained popular for many years. The Missa Salisburgensis (once ascribed to Benevoli, but now believed to have been written as late as the 1680s) divided 53 parts (sung and played) into eight choirs, obviously intended for the widely-spaced galleries of Salzburg Cathedral. The use of such large forces meant that the harmony had to be correspondingly simple, to avoid acoustical confusion in a resonant building, and indeed the sole interest in such a work lies in spatial and textural effects.
The cori spezzati arrangement was still used in the 18th century: Burney reported a Mass for four choirs and orchestras by Galuppi being given in Venice in 1770, while Bach’s St Matthew Passion and the double choruses of Handel’s Israel in Egypt imply spatial separation of some kind. In more recent times, the stereophonic reproduction of music has stimulated new interest in spatial effects, from Stockhausen among others.

CORI SPEZZATI. In: ARNOLD, Denis.The New Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984, p. 494-495.