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

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II

FOURTH PERIOD (18TH CENTURY) : MORE GENERAL STRIVING AFTER EXPRESSIVENESS IN INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC, AND SPREADING OF THE CULTIVATION OF PROGRAMME MUSIC-- RAMEAU, HANDEL, J. S. BACH, DOMENICO SCARLATTI, TELEMANN, VIVALDI, AND GEMINIANI, GREAT MASTERS OF THE FIRST HALF OF THE 18TH CENTURY.

Unlike the third, which is simple, the fourth is a complex period. We meet in it not only with miniature genre and portrait-painting in the style of the French Clavecin School, and isolated attempts at programme music on a larger scale and of a more ambitious nature, but we notice also a more general and more earnest striving after expressiveness throughout the whole domain of instrumental music, and a spreading of what, for brevity's sake, we will call the programmatic tendency in the narrow sense of the word. To study this aspect in the history of music, we have to direct our attention especially to three branches of the art: (a.) Overtures, entr'actes, and incidental music to plays, operas, oratorios, &c.; (b.) Melodrama (from 1770 onward); and (c.) Sonata and symphony, especially the latter, and more especially that with a programme, of the last quarter of the 18th century. We have already seen that the Italian opera composers of the 17th century used the overture and incidental instrumental music for illustrative (programmatic) purposes. Their successors, ALESSANDRO SCARLATTI and others, followed them

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