Learning from "the most fam'd Italian masters": sonata composition in the seventeenth century

Sanna, Alberto (2014) Learning from "the most fam'd Italian masters": sonata composition in the seventeenth century. In: Reappraising the Seicento: Composition, Dissemination, Assimilation. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge, pp. 43-90. ISBN 9781443855297

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In 1683 the rising star of the London musical scene, the twenty-four-year-old Henry Purcell, presented the general public with a set of twelve sonatas a3. As the composer himself famously claimed in the Preface to his publication, the sonatas were written in ‘a just imitation of the most fam’d Italian masters’, with the purpose of counterbalancing the French ‘levity and balladry’ dear to king Charles II and his courtiers with the ‘seriousness and gravity’ of Italian music. Purcell scholars have recently shown that the composer’s models for sonata composition were not Corelli’s works in the genre, which were yet to find their way through the British market, but the printed and manuscript sonatas of musicians active in northern and central Italy in the middle of the seventeenth century – Maurizio Cazzati, Giovanni Legrenzi, Giovanni Battista Vitali, Lelio Colista, Carlo Ambrogio Lonati. This chapter takes a closer look at the work of these composers of instrumental ensemble music in mid seventeenth-century Italy. Through a study of the compositional process, the chapter attempts to remove these ‘symphonists’ from vast schemes of music history and pinpoint instead the geographical, social and economic locus of their activities. In particular, the chapter emphasises the relationship between continuities and discontinuities in seventeenth-century sonata composition at the expenses of more familiar narratives centred on such misleading notions as ‘the great composers’ or ‘the regional schools’. In pursuit of these goals, the chapter reconsiders several well-known if underrated treatises of music theory originating from places and authors with which the sonata composers were associated, including Lorenzo Penna in Bologna, Giovanni Maria Bononcini in Modena, Angelo Berardi and Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni in Rome. The result is something that may be called, for want of a better term, ‘historically informed analysis’, whereby present modes of musical thought are abandoned in favour of concepts and categories which would have sounded familiar to the participating historical agents or, at any rate, to some prominent groups among them.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: sonata; compositional process; Corelli; Purcell
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > Music (up to 30th April 2018)
Depositing User: Angela Duckworth
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2016 09:32
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2016 09:32
URI: http://hira.hope.ac.uk/id/eprint/1236

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