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Title: Beyond the Figures: A search for styles in harpsichord accompaniment 1600-1750
Contributor(s): Weston, Diana (author); Alter, Andrew (supervisor); Eakins, Rex  (supervisor); Stoessel, Jason  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2010
Copyright Date: 2009
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Abstract: Accompaniment of vocal and instrumental works throughout the baroque period (1600-1750) relied on the reading of a figured bass ('basso continuo'). One of the commonest accompanying instruments was the harpsichord. In order for the art of harpsichord continuo accompaniment to be learnt, many treatises were written which provided instruction on the construction and progression of the chords that form the basis of this flexible and semi-improvisatory skill. While contemporary treatises are invaluable assets to a revival of the art, they tell next to nothing of the way in which the chords should be played, how they should reflect the soloist's musical expression, nor how the style should be altered according to the work to be accompanied. Styles varied throughout the course of the baroque period, as well as according to the type of work (liturgical, secular, theatrical, ensemble, instrumental, vocal, etc.), nationality, and many other varying factors. In order to determine the most appropriate and musically satisfactory style that should be adopted for any one work, the thesis adopts a primarily indirect and holistic approach. By examining the social context, predominant influences (such as poetry or dance), contemporary written descriptions, as well as rare actual realizations, many aspects of continuo performance come to light. Looked at in this way, it can be appreciated that the accompaniment of an early baroque/late renaissance piece by Dowland will demand a light and thin texture and will differ enormously from the pearly fountains of almost continuous sound that a late Italian violin sonata by Tartini will require. As a resurrected art, harpsichord continuo accompaniment does not have a continuous aural tradition, and while many performers will understand stylistic changes must be made, there is no single instructional tool the accompanist can consult. The thesis seeks to redress this in part by examining the multi-factorial elements that constitute any one style bringing them together in a comprehensive manner.
Publication Type: Thesis Masters Research
Field of Research (FoR): 190409 Musicology and Ethnomusicology
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 950105 The Performing Arts (incl. Theatre and Dance)
Rights Statement: Copyright 2009 - Diana Weston
HERDC Category Description: T1 Thesis - Masters Degree by Research
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