French basso continuo performance technique: a study of the arpeggiated gesture in the prélude non mesuré (c1650-c1720)
Citation:Desmond Earley, 'French basso continuo performance technique: a study of the arpeggiated gesture in the prélude non mesuré (c1650-c1720)'
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To compensate for the evanescent nature of the harpsichord, improvised techniques evolved within Italian and French keyboard repertoire so as to avoid ‘leaving the instrument empty’.1 In France, these techniques consisted of arpeggiated gestures, ornaments, and broken texture and they became characteristic features of stylistic performance on the instrument. One of the most important of these was the improvised arpeggiated gesture. Keyboard continuo treatises published in France after 1689 contain few illustrated examples of this. However, a number of composers of Pièces de Clavecin (Harpsichord Pieces) attempted to capture its performance in the notation they employed in publications of their music. The most fruitful source of these gestures is the unmeasured prelude of the French harpsichord repertoire. The peculiar notation employed here shows the exact sequence of a variety of arpeggiated gestures. Although the notation derives from lute music and the style is heavily inﬂuenced by the Italian keyboard tradition, the French unmeasured prelude is signiﬁcant in that it illustrates the unique nature of arpeggiated gestures found in the compositions of a wide range of French composers. It thus provides a valuable source for the modern student of idiomatic continuo playing. This dissertation explores the French method of managing evanescence and examines a history of subtlety and sophistication in harpsichord performance.
Author: Earley, Desmond
Type of material:thesis
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