A History of Western Music

By Donald Jay Grout; Claude V. Palisca | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12

MUSIC IN THE EARLY
EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

The French philosopher Noël Antoine Pluche described two kinds of music that he had heard in Paris around 1740: la musique barroque (baroque music) and la musique chantante (songful music) 1. His was one of the earliest applications of the word "baroque" to music (see also page 251). Because of the term's association with misshapen pearls, it became fashionable to dismiss as baroque objects of nature or art that were deviant or bizarre. To Pluche the instrumental music that shocked the listener with its unusual boldness and speed—the Italian sonatas and concertos that could be heard in Paris at the Concert spirituel—was baroque. But Pluche greatly admired the songful music, which sounded natural in the human voice and moved people, without having to resort to excessive artfulness.

The term baroque

Paris at this time was a musical crossroads where the public could enjoy the latest from Italian as well as native composers. Parisians heard the sentimental, neatly phrased, flowing, simply accompanied vocal melodies of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)—Pluche's musique chantante. Listeners also savored the highly charged, virtuosic, difficult, brilliant music of Vivaldi, and the intense, restless music of Rameau, with its wry dissonances, rich harmonies, and complex rhythms—Pluche's musique barroque. And they knew the music of Pluche's favorite composer, Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville (1711-1772), who combined a little of both styles. These contrasts are typical of the decades between 1720 and 1750, when Bach and Handel were writing their most important works and, like Vivaldi or Rameau, were touched by the stylistic turmoil of the time. In their late works, particularly, these

Paris

____________________
1.
Noël Antoine Pluche, Spectacle de la nature (Paris: Veuve Estienne, 1732-50). Vol. 7, in which this occurred, was first published in 1746.

-373-

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