Spadi da Faenza, Giovanni Battista | Libro de passaggi ascendenti et descendenti (1624)

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Italian ornamentation treatise

Instrumentation: any instrumunet or voice

Edition: Facsimile (2017) | Alessandro Vincenti, Venetia, 1624

1 volume, 35 pages | B&W

Clefs | Notation : C4

A practical handbook containing "cadences and madrigals to be played on any kind of instrument or even to be sung by the voice"

Key treatise detailing ornamentation and improvisation in Italy in the XVIIth century.

From Silvestro Ganassi's treatise in 1535 we have instruction and examples of how musicians of renaissance and early baroque decorated their music with improvised ornaments. Michael Praetorius spoke warmly of musicians' "sundry good and merry pranks with little runs/leaps". Until the last decade of the 16th century the emphasis is on divisions, also known as diminutions, passaggi (in Italian) or glosas (by Ortiz) - a way to decorate a simple cadence or interval with extra shorter notes. These start as simple passing notes, progress to step-wise additions and in the most complicated cases are rapid passages of equal valued notes - virtuosic flourishes. There are rules for designing them, to make sure that the original structure of the music is left intact. Towards the end of this period the divisions detailed in the treatises contain more dotted and other uneven rhythms and leaps of more than one step at a time. Starting with Archilei (1589), the treatises bring in a new set of expressive devices called graces alongside the divisions. These have a lot more rhythmic interest and are filled with affect as composers took much more interest in text portrayal. It starts with the trillo and cascate, and by the time we reach Francesco Rognoni (1620) we are also told about fashionable ornaments: portar la voce, accento, tremolo, gruppo, esclamatione and intonatio.

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