Programme Music in the Last Four Centuries: A Contribution to the History of Musical Expression

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

BOOK II.

ACHIEVEMENTS IN SMALL FORMS AND SERIOUS
STRIVINGS IN LARGER FORMS.

CHAPTER I.

THIRD PERIOD (FROM THE 17TH TO THE MIDDLE OF THE
18TH CENTURY): FRENCH LUTENISTS AND CLAVECINISTS--
DENNIS GAULTIER, CHAMBONNIÈRES, COUPERIN LE GRAND,
RAMEAU, ETC.

On entering the Third Period--that of French Musical Miniature Genre and Portrait Painting, as practised by the lutenists in the 17th century and by the clavecinists in the 17th and first half of the 18th century--we leave the time of isolated cases of programme music behind us. Another point about this period calls for notice. It was the French School of clavecinists, culminating in François Couperin, that achieved the first artistically satisfactory results in programme music. The source of what we may call the programmatic movement may be traced back to the earlier flourishing School of French lutenists. In their music we find already pieces with titles, partly mythological and partly idyllic. Of the sixty-two pieces, La Rhétorique des Dieux, by the 'illustrious' DENNIS GAULTIER (d. about 1660- 1670), contained in the splendid 'Hamilton Codex' now in Berlin, about one half have titles. Here are a few: Phaéton foudroyé,

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