‘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

‘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.