Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music

Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music

Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music

Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music


Musica Poetica provides an unprecedented examination of the development of Baroque musical thought. The initial chapters, which serve as an introduction to the concept and teachings of musical-rhetorical figures, explore Martin Luther's theology of music, the development of the Baroque concept of musica poetica, the idea of the affections in German Baroque music, and that music's use of the principles and devices of rhetoric. Dietrich Bartel then turns to more detailed considerations of the musical-rhetorical figures that were developed in Baroque treatises and publications. After brief biographical sketches of the major theorists, Bartel examines those theorists' interpretation and classification of the figures. The book concludes with a detailed presentation of the musical-rhetorical figures, in which each theorist's definitions are presented in the original language and in parallel English translations. Bartel's clear, detailed analysis of German Baroque musical-rhetorical figures, combined with his careful translations of interpretations of those figures from a wide range of sources, make this book an indispensable introduction and resource for all students of Baroque music.


Music has frequently been referred to as a universal language. As universal as organized pitch and rhythm might be, as common as some musical intervals and rhythmic patterns are to all cultures and civilizations, there are nonetheless a great many “dialects” of this language which not only distinguish one civilization from the next, but indeed distinguish different eras of the same culture from one another. The music of the Baroque era is just such a dialect, growing out of the language of Renaissance music, yet with a content fundamentally distinct from the aesthetics and semantics of Enlightenment or Romantic musical expression.

Throughout the twentieth century musicians and musicologists alike have concerned themselves with deciphering and interpreting the language of Baroque music. After generations of “enlightened” neglect and “romantic” misunderstanding, it became evident that objective insight into the Baroque musical idiom could only be gained if its grammar and its syntax—that is, its own unique compositional precepts and principles—were rediscovered and appreciated. This interest in authentic Baroque performance practice has revolutionized the interpretation of Baroque music, spawning countless performing groups and artists who further the cause of Baroque authenticity with Baroque bows, gut strings, and valveless horns, all tuned to appropriate Baroque pitch. Likewise, in the discipline of musicology, a great deal of scholarly energy has been invested into a myriad of historical and theoretical questions, resulting in a focus of increasing attention on the relationship between music and rhetoric during this period.

The call for a more systematic study of music and rhetoric, specifically regarding the musical-rhetorical figures, initially was issued by Schering in an article published shortly after the turn of the century. The seed thus planted brought forth abundant fruit in the following generation of primarily German musicologists, particularly in the

1. Arnold Schering, “Die Lehre von den musikalischen Figuren im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert,” Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch 21 (1908): 106.

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