• Avelino Vazquez

The Expansion of the Italian Music

There is no doubt of the decisive influence that Italy had in the history of music, and of all the arts in general throughout our continent. Already since the dawn of the fourteenth century its poets, musicians, painters and architects were at the forefront of the European cultural upheaval, particularly what we now call Western Europe. Names like Giotto, Brunelleschi, Dante or Bocaccio speak for themselves ... Similar to the development of the perspective in painting, the sonnet and the hendecasyllabic verse, the study of the catenary for the construction of domes that supported themselves, humanism and their contribution to high culture and a more personal and "modern" artistic expression ... are some examples of the innovations introduced by them.

The truth is that issues such as the eminently urban and commercial character of the centre and north of Italy, its political structure based on independent city-states and its natural tendency to compete with each other, greatly facilitated experimentation and artistic dissemination. It is not strange then that the Renaissance arose precisely there, where all these socio-economic realities were more favourable, besides, of course, that the memory of classical culture was more present in cities surrounded by ruins that evoked their glorious past.

The seventeenth century was no less favourable precisely, in fact, and focusing on music, the Italian expansion was unstoppable since the beginning of the century with the innovations introduced by Monteverdi and his companies: the invention of the opera, of the moody, of Harmony based on chords, greater freedom in the use of dissonance, policoralism, basso continuo ... in short, the list is infinite.

Although it was in the mid-seventeenth century that his hegemony was already evident, of such calibre that even in France, where an absolutely antagonistic style dominated, Louis XIV's chapel master Jean Baptiste Lully was nothing but a naturalized Florentine. It was precisely Lully who definitely established the string orchestra based on the violin, an instrument that in Italy had reached a level of development and virtuosity incomparable with that of other nations.

Perhaps one could speak of Arcangelo Corelli as the composer who definitively fixed the modern Italian style, rather than being the first, for the fame that his publications reached throughout Europe. In France, the same Couperin composed a series of sonatas inspired entirely by him, even came to publish them with an Italianate acronym, in England you can also trace the trace of Corelli in Purcell’s trio-sonatas, composed in a more conventional "accordion" style unlike his religious works moulded with horizontal polyphony and ancient flavour. And what about Handel and his "Gross Concertos" that remind us so much of those of the Roman master ... or Telemann and Bach who received so much influence from him. Even in Spain, so musically delayed in the 17th century, it began to imitate its style as early as the 18th century.

In this style, in contrast to its French rival, is characterized by the open melody, the frequent modulations, a harmonious and unambiguous structure, the taste for the sequences, the progressive thinning of the counterpoint, preeminent melodicism, and profuse and unwritten ornamentation, which tended to distort both the melodic and the harmonic structure.

Of this decisive stylistic contribution, and of its fight with that of its main French rival, they suggested the foundations that would support not only the baroque aesthetics but also the classical one until the end of the XVIII century, with the German composers trying to merge the best elements of both

Written by Avelino Vazquez - Harpsichordist and piano teacher at WKMT

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