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Breaking Form through Sound: Instrumental Aesthetics, Tempte , and Temporality in the

French Baroque Cantata


Author(s): Michele Cabrini
Source: The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Summer 2009), pp. 327-378
Published by: University of California Press
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Breaking Form through


Sound: Instrumental
Aesthetics, Tempte, and
Temporality in the French
Baroque Cantata
M ichele C abrini

It would be dangerous . . . if painting had the same force to move our


passions as music; excellent painters would be able to produce considerable disorder.1
Flibien

327

n a passage from his fifth Entretien, seventeenthcentury art historian Andr Flibien (161995) provides a vivid description
of Nicolas Poussins Lorage (fig. 1), one of two pendants commissioned by
This work was supported (in part) by a grant from The City University of New York PSC-CUNY Research Award Program. Previous versions of this essay were presented at the Twelfth Annual Conference
of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music, La Jolla, California
(2004), and at the Eleventh Conference of the Dutch-Flemish Society for Music Theory, Leuven, Belgium (2009). I am grateful to Professor Wendy Heller and Professor Maria Purciello for their valuable
comments on earlier versions of the essay; to the anonymous readers of the Journal of Musicology for their observations and suggestions; to my wife Dr. Marie Louise von Glinski for reading several
drafts; and to Octavio Vzquez for his help with the music examples.
1 Andr Flibien, Entretiens sur les vies et sur les ouvrages des plus excellens peintres anciens
et modernes (London: Mortier, 1705), 4:47. Trans. Thomas Puttfarken, Roger de Piless Theory
of Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 33.

The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 26, Issue 3, pp. 327378, ISSN 0277-9269, electronic ISSN 1533-8347.
2009 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests
for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Presss
Rights and Permissions website, http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintInfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/
jm.2009.26.3.327.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
figure 1.Nicolas Poussin (15941665), Landscape with a Tree Hit by
Lightning (1651), Oil on Canvas, 99 132 cm (Muse des
Beaux-Arts, Rouen, France). Photograph: Erich Lessing/
Art Resource, NY.

328

the Parisian merchant Jean Pointel, and painted, according to Flibien,


in 1651:2
We were occupied with these observations when we heard a loud noise
from the direction of the chteau, as if something had rolled down
from the mountain. One could not have imagined that such a noise
came from the air, since the sky was quite serene, and there were no
signs of bad weather. However, once the same noise started again more
forcefully after a while, we judged that it came from elsewhere than the
road, and looked everywhere to discover its cause. Having approached
2 There is an extensive bibliography on these two paintings. See Clovis Whitfield,
Nicolas Poussins Orage and Temps Calme, The Burlington Magazine 119 (1977):
412; Denise Allen and David Jaff, Poussins A Calm and A Storm, Apollo 147 (1998):
2834. See also Jan Bialostocki, Une ide de Lonard ralise par Poussin, Revue des
Arts 4 (1954): 13036; Louis Marin, Sublime Poussin, trans. Catherine Porter (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1999), 66103, 12040; Oskar Btschmann, Nicolas Poussin:
Dialectics of Painting, trans. Marko Daniel (London: Reaktion Books, 1990); and Sheila
McTighe, Nicolas Poussins Landscape Allegories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1996).

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cabrini
the large terrace that is almost at the rivers edge, we spotted from the
direction of Meudon a very thick cloud, which, spreading like a black
sail, was approaching us; and with its shape and darkness it threatened
us with a storm that was not far away. Indeed, having advanced so as to
better judge which side it was on, we saw that lightning flashes were already coming from the large cloud, and that the rain was beginning to
fall in some distant corners; the air was so dark that it was impossible
to see anything else. As we were watching the cloud burst open on one
side, admiring the various effects that the lightning flashes made visible in the part of the earth that was covered in darkness, and the way
bodies are lit in such moments, we saw that the sky changed suddenly
and thatthe clouds gathering from all sidesit became overcast in
an instant.3

Flibien and his interlocutor Pymandre are surprised by a sudden storm


after a lengthy discussion of aesthetics and techniques of painting.4
Flibiens timing of the passage is chosen carefully, and the sequence of
events feels much like a dramatic scena. After opening the scenario with
the description of a leisurely walk through a bucolic landscape, then
continuing with a pedantic lesson between master and pupil about technical aspects of painting, Flibien takes advantage of the storms dramatic weight and transforms Poussins painting into a powerful ekphrasis, making the painting visible to the reader through vivid language.5
Much of Flibiens discourse aims at capturing the storms sudden
and disruptive force. Yet there are two basic temporal dimensions at
play in Flibiens ekphrasis: on the one hand the storms violent abruptness, which shocks and grabs the attention of our characters, on the
other the unfolding of the numerous events in time. These two temporal aspects are particularly apparent in Flibiens syntax. Immediately after portraying the thunderclap that begins the storm sequence, Flibien
continues by describing the various visual elements of the tempest one
by one: the lightning flashes, the clouds, the rain drops beginning to

329

Flibien, Entretiens, 3:4243. All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
Ibid., 3:145.
5 Ekphrasis has been defined by W. J. T. Mitchell, Ekphrasis and the Other, South
Atlantic Quarterly 91 (1992): 695, as the verbal representation of visual representation.
James A. W. Heffernan, Ekphrasis and Representation, New Literary History 22 (1991):
299, calls it the verbal representation of graphic representation. Concerning painting,
Ruth Webb defines ekphrasis as an extended description of a rhetorical nature. She
continues: An ekphrasis generally attempted to convey the visual impression and the
emotional responses evoked by the painting or building, not to leave a detailed, factual
account. In an ekphrasis of a painting the author did not confine himself to the specific
moment represented but was free to discuss the general narrative context, referring both
forwards and backwards in time. Ruth Webb, Ekphrasis, in Grove Art Online, Oxford
Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T025773 (accessed December 2, 2008).
4

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
fall in the distance and the progressive darkening of the sky. Then, in a
deliberately long sentence, he attempts to capture the temporal simultaneity of all the effects of the storm, creating a remarkably pictorial
moment. While we were watching, the clouds . . . the lightning . . . the
darkness, says Flibien, in an instant . . . the clouds gathering from all
sidesit became overcast. As Louis Marin nicely puts it, Flibiens tempest is both a sudden instant and . . . a process, an all at once and the
duration of a change.6 The storm then marches on as Flibiens discourse shifts to describe its most chilling and destructive effects, which
escalate, much like a symphonic crescendo of sound, to the extent that
master and pupil decide to seek shelter. Our characters final decision
marks the end of the storm sequence:
A furious wind blew at the same time, stirring up whirlwinds of dust
and so disturbing the air that one could scarcely see neither the sky
nor the earth. In this darkness, one could only perceive the river with
its white foam, as if intent on shielding itself against the winds that agitated its waters. The tallest trees yielded to the violence of the squall,
their tops leaning to the ground; and one could hear those trees that
resisted the most cracking and shattering loudly. Such an abrupt
change in the air forced us to retire promptly in the chteau. When
we arrived there, we went to the windows in order to observe more
comfortably the rain that was then dropping with extraordinary violence and to notice at the same time the disorder that such a furious
tempest caused in the trees and in the landscape. The thunder rumbled continuously around us, and every so often it caused the air to
echo with terrifying sounds.7

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Flibiens ekphrastic prose captures both the synchronic and the


diachronic aspects of the eventthe uncannily vivid depiction of the details on the one hand and their carefully calibrated sequence on the
other. Flibien begins the sequence with a single event, the sound of
thunder, then proceeds to describe the visual details of the stormthe
conditions of the sky, the lightning, the menacing clouds, the effects
of light on the bodies; subsequently, he describes the storms most palpable effects, its frightening soundsthe cracking sound of the trees,
the howling of the wind, the sound of thunder and the crashing of the
rain. The switch from sight to sound intensifies the event greatly; at this
juncture, Flibiens decision to seek shelter is an effective stratagem
that puts a lid on the storm, as it were, de facto marking the end of the
dramatic scena. Indeed, only through the window of the castle can the
storm be watched in relative safety, controlled and reduced to a framed
6
7

Marin, Sublime Poussin, 129.


Flibien, Entretiens, 3:43.

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cabrini
viewa live painting. Only in the intimacy of the castle, with the sound
of the storm safely cast away in the distance as if muffled, can Flibien
and Pymandre begin their leisurely discussion of the lives of famous
painters.8
During the same time that Flibiens Entretien was receiving much
attention, as evidenced by numerous new eighteenth-century editions,9
French composers were experimenting with the tempest topos. Music,
much like literary prose, moves through time. Just as Flibien captured
the storms seemingly unstoppable momentum through a sequence of
events that feels breathlessly continuous, composers likewise negotiated
the storms temporal process by representing its sudden eruption and
build-up over time to the extent of breaking traditional formal frames.
Several examples of storms can be found in the French repertory of the
tragdie en musique beginning in the late seventeenth century and continuing through much of the eighteenth, during which time the tempte became one of the audiences favorite instrumental topoi.10 French
composers employed parameters such as the preservation of a single
key and the continuity of thematic material from one movement to the
next to create an unbroken sequence of events. Much of this need for
continuity and coherence derived from the French love for and adherence to the laws of verisimilitude above all else, according to which the
storm needed to be treated as a real event, and to be represented with
its characteristic momentum. Storms provided the opportunity for the

331

Ibid., 3:4560.
Flibiens Entretiens was first published in ten volumes between 1666 and 1688 and
later translated into English (1705), German (1711), and Italian (1755). New French
editions appeared in 1705 and 1725. See Alexandra Skliar-Piguet, Flibien, Andr, in
Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/
grove/art/T027796 (accessed December 4, 2008).
10 The literature on the tempte in French opera is extensive. See Caroline Wood,
Orchestra and Spectacle in the tragdie en musique 16731715: Oracle, sommeil and
tempte, Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 108 (198182): 2546; idem, Music
and Drama in the Tragdie en Musique (New York: Garland, 1996); Jrme de la Gorce,
Temptes et tremblements de terre dans lopra franais sous le rgne de Louis XIV, in
Le mouvement en musique lpoque baroque, ed. Herv Lacombe (Metz: ditions Serpenoise,
1996), 17188; Edmond Lematre, Le premier opra-ballet et la premire tempte:
deux originalits de loeuvre de Pascal Colasse, Dix-Septime Sicle 139 (1983): 24355;
Sylvie Bouissou, Le Phnomne de la catastrophe naturelle dans lopra franais, Revista de Musicologia 16 (1993): 300416; idem, Mcanismes dramatiques de la tempte
et de lorage dans lopra franais lge baroque, in Dun opra lautre: Hommage
Jean Mongrdien, ed. Jean Gribenski, Marie-Claire Mussat, and Herbert Schneider (Paris:
Presses de lUniversit de Paris-Sorbonne, 1996), 21730; idem, Limpact social de la catastrophe naturelle dans lopra franais, in Sillages musicologiques: Hommage Yves Grard,
ed. Philippe Blay and Raphalle Legrand (Paris: Editions du Conservatoire Nationale
Suprieur de Musique de Paris, 1997), 20125. See also Sylvie Bouissou, Jean-Philippe
Rameau: Les Borades ou la tragdie oublie (Paris: Klincksieck, 1992), 17386, in which she
discusses Rameauss dramaturgical strategy for the storm in this opera.
9

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
orchestra to play a leading role in representing the varying stages of the
eventits inception, its momentous build-up, and its abatement.11
This was a profoundly different solution from the Italian aria di
tempesta, in which the storm was treated as a poetic simile or a metaphor
for the inner turbulence of the singing character rather than as a true
event, and was thus contained within the explosively virtuosic boundaries of the aria. Compared to the aria di tempesta, where the virtuosic
competition between the voice and the orchestra was the key to the creation of the overall topos, in France it was the orchestra alone that was
both responsible for the creation of the same and for guiding the dramatic trajectory of the events, subordinating the voices to its powerful
sound rather than creating opportunities for interaction.12 A renowned
passage by Charles de Brosses, a Frenchman traveling in Italy at the end
of the 1730s, reveals the conceptual differences between the French
and the Italians regarding the tempest topos. De Brosses points out the
faults of verisimilitude of opera seria concerning the dramatic legitimacy
of the aria di tempesta, while at the same time condoning them on account of the astounding quality of Italian music:
The Italians wish to have arias of all possible kinds, offering all the different images which music can represent. They have very noisy ones,
full of music and harmony, meant for brilliant voices . . . Arias of [this]
kind present images of a turbulent sea, an impetuous wind, an overflowing river, flashing lightning . . . etc. These figures, so well suited to
music, do not fit naturally into the tragedy. They must therefore be introduced by comparisons based on the relationship that may exist between the physical images and the state of mind in which the poet has
placed his character. I know that such comparisons are quite out of
place coming from a man who is agitated by passion and who therefore should express himself in a lively yet natural manner; but music,
which plays the leading role, decrees it must be so. A simpler manner
would probably give the character but two words and no image; and

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11 On the increasing dramatic importance of the orchestra in the tragdie en musique


of the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth century, see Leslie Ellen Brown, Departures
from Lullian Convention in the tragdie lyrique of the prramiste Era, Recherches sur la musique franaise classique 22 (1984): 5978. See also Edmond Lematre, Lorchestre dans le
thtre lyrique franais chez les continuateurs de Lully (16871715), parts 12, Recherches sur la musique franaise classique 24 (1986): 10727; 26 (1988): 83131.
12 On the use of the tempest topos by Italian composers, see the excellent article by
Cesare Fertonani, Vo solcando un mar crudele: Per una tipologia dell aria di tempesta
nella prima met del settecento, Musica e storia 5 (1997): 67110. Significantly, the
only example mentioned by Fertonani (p. 75) that includes an actual stormthe aria
Dinnalzar i flutti al ciel, in Act III, scene 3 of Ottone, re di Germania (1723) by HaymHandelis not by an Italian composer. See also Luca Zoppelli, Tempeste e stravaganze:
Fattori estetici e ricettivi in margine alla datazione dei concerti a programma, Nuovi
studi vivaldiani: Edizione e cronologia critica delle opere, ed. Antonio Fanna and Giovanni
Morelli (Florence: Olschki, 1988), 80110.

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cabrini
this music is so beautiful, so astonishing, it paints objects with such art
and truth, that one willingly forgives it even graver faults, such as keeping a character onstage to have him sing a very long aria at the very
moment when danger is pressing upon him to flee. Display arias of
this kind are almost always accompanied by wind instruments (oboes,
trumpets, and horns), which have a splendid effect, especially in airs
depicting tempests at sea; a hundred string and wind instruments together could accompany without harming the vocal part.13

At the end of the passage, de Brosses reveals his French fondness for instrumental effects by emphasizing the importance of the orchestra.
By around 1724, composer and music collector Sbastien de Brossard noted that the tempest topos in France had migrated to the cantata
and the motet, demonstrating that other types of vocal genres could no
longer remain immune to its popularity.14 The dramaturgical aspects of
the tempest topos in the tragdie en musique have been thoroughly examined by Sylvie Bouissou;15 yet the dramaturgical challenges composers
negotiated when transferring the tempest to non-operatic genres, particularly the French baroque cantata, have not received the attention
they deserve.16 The cantata posed a unique dramatic challenge to the
type of temporal continuity elicited by storm scenes. Imported from
Italy to France at the turn of the eighteenth-century,17 the cantata employed a dramatic mold typical of the opera seriaalternating between
recitatives and da capo ariaswhich, unlike the supple French operatic

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13 Frdric dAgay, ed., Lettres dItalie du Prsident de Brosses, 2 vols. (Paris: Mercure
de France, 1986) 2: 289316. Trans. Piero Weiss, Opera: A History in Documents (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2002), 8687.
14 Sbastien de Brossard, Catalogue des livres de musique thorique et pratique . . . qui sont
dans le cabinet de sieur Sb. de Brossard (1724), Bibliothque Nationale de France, ms. rs.
Vm8 20, 243, as cited in James R. Anthony, French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau, rev. edn. (Portland: Amadeus Press, 1997), 156.
15 See Bouissou, Mcanismes dramatiques de la tempte, 21730, and idem, Les
Borades, 17386.
16 On this aspect see Michele Cabrini, Expressive Polarity: The Aesthetics of tempte
and sommeil in the French Baroque Cantata (PhD diss., Princeton University, 2005).
17 On the origins of the French cantata and the Parisian social scene in which it
burgeoned, see David Tunley, The Eighteenth-Century French Cantata, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 126, and Gene E. Vollen, The French Cantata: A Survey and Thematic
Catalog (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982), 1138. For a list of Philidors Concerts
franais that include cantata performances see Tunley, Eighteenth-Century French Cantata,
25359. On the Concert Spirituel, which also featured cantata performances, see Daniel
Heartz, The Concert Spirituel in the Tuileries Palace, Early Music 21 (1993): 24148,
and Constant Pierre, Histoire du Concert Spirituel 17251790 (Paris: Socit Franaise de
Musicologie, 1975). On the literary aspects of the French cantata, see David Tunley, An
Embarkment for Cythera: Literary and Social Aspects of the French Cantata, Recherches
sur la musique franaise classique 7 (1967): 10324; Jrme Dorival, La cantate franaise au
xviiie sicle (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999), 2125; and Vollen, French Cantata, 5774.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy

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model, tended to separate the flow of time into distinct units. Whereas
the recitative featured the elapsing of dramatic time, arias featured circular time at a virtual standstill, resulting in an alternation between
forward action and static, drawn-out emotional outbursts. Cantata composers challenged this design by creating continuity through the use
of two primary meanskey and thematic material in instrumental passagesas a way to bind the entire storm into a continuous scene and
to blur the distinction between recitatives and arias. Much like storm
scenes in tragdies en musique, in the French cantata, too, the expression
of the storms dramatic trajectoryits inception, forward momentum,
and abatementbecomes the guiding principle.18 Yet given the cantatas deep-rooted recitative-aria design, the principle is striking. It shows
that composers adapted the dramatic mold inherited from the Italians
to fit a French aesthetic that favored continuity under the influence of
the tragdie en musiques supple organization.19 By presenting an event
whose duration transcends the boundary between recitative and aria,
composers suggest that the reverberating force of the tempest could
not be contained by traditional formal means.
The desire to break away from the cantatas normative design
points to a profound difference in poetic conception of the tempest
topos between the French and the Italians. Italian poets employed the
storm as a metaphor for the characters inner turmoil, an abstract image, which, I contend, was a type of poetic conceit that fit within the
societal parlor game of wit and ingenuity recently proposed by Roger
Freitas as the artistic milieu of the Italian cantata.20 In the wake of
the arie di tempesta from opera seria, Italian cantata composers chose to
contain the power of the storm within the confines of the aria, highlighting single key wordstempesta, nocchiero, procelle, onde, mare, porto
and so onwith expressive virtuosity, and establishing the mood with
18 There are five cantatas with tempests in which composers blur the boundaries of
recitative and aria by means of instrumental music for the sake of dramatic continuity:
Nicolas Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (Book III, 1703), Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Jonas
(Book I, 1708), Jean-Baptiste Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (Book III, 1712), Michel Pignolet
de Montclair, Lenlvement dOrithie (Book II, 1717), and Franois Brou, Orithie (1738).
19 The deliberate blurring of formal frames as a means to create the illusion of
continuity had been at the heart of Lullian aesthetics already for decades. One of the best
explanations of the tragdie en musiques supple design, musical language, and dramatic
organization can be found in Lois Rosow, Lully, in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed.
Stanley Sadie, Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.
com/subscriber/article/grove/music/O004014pg1 (accessed December 7, 2008). See
also idem, Lullys Musical Architecture: Act IV of Perse, Journal of Seventeenth-Century
Music 10 (2004), in particular par. 1.2, http://www.sscm-jscm.org/v10/no1/rosow.html;
and idem, The Articulation of Lullys Dramatic Dialogue, in Lully Studies, ed. John
Hajdu Heyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 8499.
20 See Roger Freitas, Singing and Playing: the Italian Cantata and the Rage for
Wit, Music and Letters 82 (2001): 50942.

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cabrini
an equally virtuosic instrumental accompaniment.21 Conversely, French
cantata composers took interest in developing the dramatic situation
itselfthe sceneby representing the storm as a real event with its
typical driving thrust even within the confines of a genre that was not
bound by the laws of verisimilitude as opera. This concern for dramatic
unity and coherence reflects the plan that Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, the
poetic inventor of the French cantata, had in mind when he first began
experimenting with the genre at the turn of the eighteenth century:
As I had no other model than the Italians, to whom it often occurs, as
well as to us Frenchmen, to sacrifice reason to accommodate the musicians, I perceived, after having made some of them . . . that I produced nothing of value so long as I would content myself with piling
up some poetic phrases without plan or liaison. It was this that made
the thought come to me of giving a form to these small poems, to reduce them to an exact allegory, whose recitatives made the body, and
whose airs the soul or the application.22

For others, it was the French cantatas unity and coherence that distinguished it from the poetic inconsistencies of the Italians. Writing in
1744 and no longer sharing Rousseaus diplomacy, Desfontaines voiced
his preference explicitly:

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What a difference between an Italian cantata and a French cantata! In


the former, there is no common sense, no esprit, no wit: it is nothing but
an assemblage of harmonious words. The latter is a small, well-ordered
poem, its reading so pleasing that the best opera appears insipid and
21 Poetic images of storm or sea can be found in several Italian cantatas, although
none of them feature an actual storm. This is confirmed in Robert Holzer, Music and Poetry in Seventeenth-Century Rome: Settings of the Canzonetta and Cantata Texts of Francesco Balducci, Domenico Benigni, Francesco Melosio, and Antonio Abati (PhD diss.:
University of Pennsylvania, 1990), esp. pp. 11920, 14445, 18485, 21314, 21920,
5089, 57475, 64041, 89499. Storm metaphors and poetic similes are so common
in the Italian cantata of this period that they scarcely call for separate mention, and an
extensive list would be beyond the scope of this study. There are approximately forty examples in Carolyn Gianturco, ed., The Italian Cantata in the Seventeenth Century: Facsimiles of
Manuscripts and Prints of Works by Leading Composers Including an Edition of the Poetic Texts, 16
vols. (New York and London: Garland, 1986). Gianfranco Folena, La cantata e Vivaldi,
in Antonio Vivaldi: Teatro musicale cultura e societ (Florence: Olschki, 1982), 145, also notices that Vivaldi sets the image of the tempest with obsessive frequency in his cantatas,
the texts of which can be found in ibid., 15187. See also Michael Talbot, The Chamber
Cantatas of Antonio Vivaldi (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2006), esp. pp. 138, 15460,
17479. See also Juliane Riepe and Carlo Vitali, Aspetti della cantata veneziana intorno
al 1730, I Quaderni della civica scuola di musica 1920 (1990): 12425, 132. For storm
images in Handels cantatas, see Ellen T. Harris, Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the
Chamber Cantatas (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 297366.
22 Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, preface to Loeuvres de S.r Rousseau (Rotterdam, 1712), 56,
translation adapted from Vollen, French Cantata, 63. Rousseaus preface is also reproduced
in J. Bachelier, preface to Recueil de cantates (1728; reprint, Geneva: Minkoff, 1992), 5r-v.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
tedious, and where the musician can employ all the resources of his art,
and reunite the serious, the touching, and the animated through the
recitative, the airs, and the ariettes.23

Twenty years later, the Jesuit priest Joseph de la Porte confirmed this
French fixation with unity by going as far as equating the unity of action
in cantatas with that of the theater: It [the cantata] is a sort of action,
as in the tragedies, the unity of which infinitely satisfies the mind
[esprit].24

Operatic Storms, Du Bos, and the Changing Views


on Instrumental Music

336

From the death of Jean-Baptiste Lully (1687) until Jean-Philippe


Rameaus operatic debut with Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), composers of
tragdie en musique began to experiment with sound by greatly expanding the orchestras capacity for dramatic effects and including it more
fully in the drama.25 Tempests, sleep scenes, earthquakes, battles, infernal furies, oracle scenes, and other orchestral topoi began to pervade the operatic stage.26 Within this wide panorama of topoi, the tempest constitutes one of the most remarkable and spectacular examples:
arguably one of the most violent scenarios, the tempest typically occurs
as the result of divine rage, featuring Neptune or other divinities seeking vengeance against a specific character. Operatic tempests not only
afforded opportunities for musical depictions and instrumental effects
that displayed the increasing virtuosity of the orchestra, but they also
played an important role in the dramatic structure of an opera. Storms
fell under the dramatic rubric of natural catastrophes and could be
employed as the perfect coup de thtre to create a sudden reversal
of fortune.27 Their shocking unexpectedness and their extravagant
23 [Pierre-Franois Guyot Desfontaines et al.], Jugemens sur quelques ouvrages nouveaux
(Avignon: P. Girou, 17441746; repr., Geneva: Slatkine, 1967), 1: 273. I thank Professor
Jrme Dorival for pointing me to the source of this quotation.
24 [Joseph de La Porte], Ecole de littrature, tire de nos meilleurs crivains (Paris: Babuty,
176465), 2:24849.
25 On this aspect see Brown, Departures from Lullian Convention, and Lematre,
Lorchestre dans le thtre lyrique.
26 See Wood, Orchestra and Spectacle and la Gorce, Temptes et tremblements
de terre.
27 On this aspect see the several valuable articles by Sylvie Bouissou, Mcanismes
dramatiques de la tempte, 21730; idem, Limpact social de la catastrophe naturelle,
20125; and idem, Le Phnomne de la catastrophe naturelle, 300416. Basing her
work on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century dramatic definitions of catastrophe, which
are synonymous with sudden reversals of situation and tragic denouements, Bouissou
finds three basic manifestations of the tempest topos in the tragdie en musique: a simple
manifestation, in which the appearance of the tempest is brief and accidental without any

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lavishness, both acoustic and visual, fueled the very ingredient that
French audiences found so enthralling about operale merveilleux.28
In tempest scenes, it was the initial shocking sound of instrumental music portraying the storm that warranted the attention of the audience. Chief among several eighteenth-century tempests is that from
Marin Maraiss Alcyone, premiered in 1706, whose overwhelming sound
became widely known and revered, and which contributed to the popularity of the topos throughout much of the eighteenth century. Maraiss
tempest had indeed become so famous that the February 1707 issue
of the Mercure galant mentions a particular performance of the tempte
alone,29 and Louis XIV, who apparently had not heard it at the opera, requested it as an overture to a ball after dinner on February 17,
1711.30 Caroline Wood informs us that somebody even copied the
three-part version of the partition rduite in a manuscript collection of
trio sonatas by Corelli and of viol pieces by Marais himself.31 Its acoustic
magnitude and sheer lengthalmost one hundred measures of instrumental music, punctuated now and then by choral interventions
inspired historian Titon du Tillet to make an unusually detailed remark:
One cannot help speaking of the tempest in this opera, so vaunted by
all the Connoisseurs and which has such an astounding effect. Marais
planned to have the bass performed not only by bassoons and ordinary basses de violon, but also by loosely strung drums that rolled continually, forming a muffled, lugubrious sound, which joined with the

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notable consequence; a dramatic manifestation, in which the amplitude of the tempest is


expressed through several movements, but without long term consequence on the characters; and, finally, a dramaturgical manifestation, in which the tempest and its consequent
development bears direct consequence on the final destiny of the characters.
28 In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French discourse about opera, the
merveilleux features prominently as the key ingredient that distinguished opera from spoken tragedy. Cahusac labeled the merveilleux as the essence of French opera. Louis de
Cahusac, Enchantement, in Encyclopdie ou Dictionnaire raisonn des sciences, des arts, et
des mtiers, ed. Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond dAlembert (Paris: Briasson, David, Le
Breton, Durand, 175180), 619. Elsewhere, he called it the cornerstone of the edifice.
Louis de Cahusac, La Danse ancienne et moderne, 3 vols. (The Hague: Chez Jean Neaulme,
1754), 3:64, trans. Caroline Wood and Graham Sadler, eds., French Baroque Opera: A Reader
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 45. On the history of the concept of merveilleux and its fundamental importance in French opera, see Catherine Kintzler, Potique de lOpra franais de
Corneille Rousseau (Paris: Minerve, 1991). The unexpected nature of catastrophes such
as the tempest was particularly suited to introduce what Kintzler calls poeticized horror.
See Kintzler, Potique de lOpra franais, 28485. On the merveilleux, see also Jrme de La
Gorce, Lopra sous le rgne de Louis XIV: le merveilleux ou les puissances surnaturelles, 16711715 (PhD diss., University of Paris IV, 1978).
29 Cited in Wood, Orchestra and Spectacle, 42.
30 Norbert Dufourcq, ed., La musique la cour de Louis XIV et de Louis XV daprs les
Mmoirs de Sourches et Luynes 16811758 (Paris: Picard, 1970), 36.
31 The manuscript is in the Bibliothque Nationale de France, Vm7 1107 (1762).
Cited in Wood, Orchestra and Spectacle, 42.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
high pitched, piercing notes coming from the high part of the top
string of the violins and from the oboes, together made one feel all
the fury and all the horror of a rough sea.32

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His description is evocative: the striking use of nouns and adjectives


horror, fury, rough, astounding, muffled, lugubrious, piercing
captures the shock, almost re-creating the sound of Maraiss orchestra.
To the informed readerone who had heard and seen Maraiss tempest at the operaDu Tillets description would have rekindled the experience; to the neophyte, it would have sounded sufficiently suggestive
to evoke the intended effect.
The kind of visceral reaction described by Du Tillet to the sound of
the orchestra coincides with a new aesthetic reappraisal of instrumental music in France. Though the proverbially sceptical attitude of the
French toward instrumental music, elegantly summed up by Fontenelles
celebrated witticism sonate, que me veux-tu? still echoed strongly at the
beginning of the eighteenth century,33 new ideas were slowly beginning
to take hold. Jean-Baptiste Du Bos, critic and aesthetician, was a particularly strong partisan of and an important contributor to the reevaluation
of instrumental music as an expressive medium. In his Rflexions critiques
sur la posie et sur la peinture (first published in 1719), one of the most
influential aesthetic treatises of the eighteenth century, Du Bos discusses
the role of instrumental music in opera, citing the celebrated tempest
scene by Marais. While still adhering to a sacrosanct French tenetthe
notion of instrumental music legitimized as mimesisDu Bos advances
the idea that symphonies suitable to the subject have the power to affect
our moods almost as powerfully as the verses of Corneille or Racine,34
32 Evrard Titon du Tillet, Le Parnasse franois (Paris: Coignard, 1732), 626, trans.
Anthony, French Baroque Music, 156.
33 For aspects on the notion of imitation and the attitude of the French toward
instrumental music, see Maria Rika Maniates, Sonate, que me veux-tu?: The Enigma of
French Musical Aesthetics in the 18th Century, Current Musicology 9 (1969): 11740, and
Edward Higginbottom, Sonate, que me veux-tu?: Classical French Music and the Theory
of Imitation, in French Music and the Fitzwilliam, ed. Christopher Hogwood (Cambridge:
Fitzwilliam Museum, 1975), 1222. See also John Neubauer, The Emancipation of Music from Language: Departure from Mimesis in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1986), and Georges Snyders, Le got musical en France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe
sicles (Paris: Vrin, 1968). Jules Ecorcheville, De Lully Rameau, 16901730: lesthtique musicale (1906; repr., Geneva: Slatkine, 1970) is dated but still useful.
34 Jean-Baptiste (lAbb) Du Bos, Critical Reflections on Poetry, Painting and Music,
trans. Thomas Nugent (London: Nourse, 1748), 1:366; originally published as Rflexions
critiques sur la posie et sur la peinture (1719; repr., Geneva: Slatkine, 1967). On Du Bos, see
the excellent study by Camille Guyon-Lecoq, La vertu des passions: lesthtique et la morale au
miroir de la tragdie lyrique (16731733) (Paris: Champion, 2002), particularly pp. 47685;
Enrico Fubini, Empirismo e classicismo: saggio sul Dubos (Turin: Giappichelli, 1965); and
Rosalie Sadowsky, Jean-Baptiste Abb Dubos: the Influence of Cartesian and neo-Aristotelian Ideas on Music Theory and Practice (PhD diss., Yale Univerisity, 1959).

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and that such pieces contribute vastly to engage us to the action of the
opera, in which we may say they act a part. In discussing Maraiss tempest, Du Bos argues:
the imitation of the noise of a tempest, which is just going to sink a
personage in whose favor the poet has deeply engaged us, affects us
exactly as we should be moved with the blustering of a tempest just
ready to plunge into the waves a person for whom we had a sincere affection, were this a real tempest, and we near enough to hear it.35

Although Du Bos himself admits the limitations of the imitation


theory,36 he nonetheless expresses greater confidence in the instrumental medium than his French contemporaries.37 He recognizes the expressive power of instrumental music to engage the imagination,
strengthen verisimilitude, and move the audience independently from
vocal music, and he does not favor the latter over the former.38

The French Quest for Instrumental Color to Dispel Boredom


The French cantata was not immune to the growing interest in
instrumental music. Indeed, more so than their Italian counterparts,
French composers were fond of adopting several instrumental topoi for
dramatic verisimilitude or effect. As in the tragdie en musique, composers employed instrumental music to represent tempests, slumber
scenes, earthquakes, battles, oracle scenes, pastoral musettes, birdcalls,
and other topoi, even within the cantatas inherently condensed orchestral resources.39 Whereas most French cantatas require either voice and
continuo, or voice, obbligato instruments, and continuo, several are

339

35

Du Bos, Critical Reflections, 1:368 and 364.


[T]he impression arising from an imitation is much weaker than that of the
thing imitated. Ibid., 364.
37 On the dominant French aesthetic position on instrumental music, see Maniates,
The Enigma of French Musical Aesthetics, Higginbottom, Sonate, que me veux-tu? and
Neubauer, The Emancipation of Music from Language.
38 See Du Bos, Critical Reflections, 1:36372. Paul Guyer, The Origins of Modern
Aesthetics: 171135, in The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics, ed. Peter Kivy (Oxford: Blackwell,
2004), 29, rightly notes that Dubos does not reject purely instrumental music in favor
of vocal music on the ground that only the latter but not the former can represent human passions; instead he argues that non-verbal music or the non-verbal aspects of music
imitate the inarticulate expressions of human emotion rather than the verbal expressions
of human emotion; but in both cases, whether it imitates natural signs or artificial signs,
music works by engaging the imagination and arousing the represented passions in its
audience.
39 For a treatment of the tempte and the sommeil topoi in the French cantata, see
Cabrini, Expressive Polarity. For a taxonomy of dramatic interactions between the voice
and the instrumental accompaniment in the French cantata repertory, see idem, Upstaging the Voice: Diegetic Sound and Instrumental Interventions in the French Baroque
Cantata, Early Music 37 (forthcoming).
36

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for a large group of instrumentalists. Indeed, Graham Sadler has recently called attention to the instrumental nature of the French cantata
by discussing a group of pieces he labels orchestral, arguing persuasively for their performance with large forces, and suggesting that the
current categorization of the genre as either with instruments (avec
symphonie) or with continuo only (sans symphonie) is overly simple.40
His study sheds light on a fundamentally distinguishing aspect of the
French cantatainstrumentation and instrumental color as a powerful
means of expression and dramatic display, understood as the extension
of orchestral practices in use at the Paris Opra to the intimate realm of
the chamber concert.
Sadlers findings about instrumental color are not only confined
to those larger pieces he terms orchestral but can also be found in
several cantatas that employ specific instrumental topoi for a chamber
ensemble. Julie Anne Sadie, for example, points out eight examples of
tempest scenes in French cantatas published between 1703 and 1732,
all calling for two distinct bass parts. Tempests often called for extra
bass parts even beyond those specified by the composer, as suggested
by cantata partbooks copied for one of the queens concerts in 1729,
which included four basses continues; sometimes they also called for
the addition of a double bass or a bassoon to enhance the overall effect.
Sadie contends that textural contrast characterizes much of the French
cantata repertory, as suggested by the great variety of instrumental combinations found in this music.41
Composers might have employed instrumental topoi within a quintessentially vocal genre with a double purpose. First, accounts by Brossard,
Jacquet de la Guerre, and Bachelier, which argue for brevity, variety,
and vivid imagery in the French cantata, suggest that composers may
have employed instrumental topoi like the tempest to provide the variety and appeal necessary to maintain the audiences attention. Bachelier argued that the successful cantata needed to be brief, taut, vivid,

40 See Graham Sadler, The Orchestral French cantata (17061730): Performance,


Edition and Classification of a Neglected Repertory, in Aspects of the Secular Cantata in
Late Baroque Italy, ed. Michael Talbot (Aldershot: Ashgate, in press). I am grateful to Professor Sadler for allowing me to read his article prior to its publication.
41 See Julie Anne Sadie, The Bass Viol in French Baroque Chamber Music (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1980), 3942 and 7895. The cantatas including two separate
bass parts are: Anonymous, La France (n.d.), Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703), Morin, Le
naufrage dUlisse (1712), Clrambault, Landre et Hro (1713) and his La Muse de lOpra
(1716), Le Maire, LEt (1724), Bouvard, Landre et Hro (1729), and Cappus, Sml ou la
naissance de Bacchus (1732). See also Mary Cyr, Basses and basse continue in the Orchestra
of the Paris Opra 17001764, Early Music 10 (1982): 15570; and Sylvette Milliot, Rflexions et recherches sur la viole de gambe et le violoncelle en France, Recherches sur la
musique franaise classique 4 (1964): 181240.

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and full of sense, [altogether] in a few words.42 Jacquet de la Guerre
hoped that the variety between items, including symphonies appropriate
to the subject, might help prevent boredom in some of her unusually
long cantatas.43 For Brossard, it was a combination of concision, variety
of expression, appeal to the imagination, relative ease of execution, and
absence of operatic frills and expenses that contributed to the cantatas
success and dissemination in the past twelve to fifteen years . . . in all
the concerts in Paris and the Provinces.44 According to Brossard, the
cantata was perfectly suited for French audiences:
It would be difficult to find anything that appeals more to the natural
French spirit. For it must be frankly admitted that the French are
42 See Lettre anonyme, Mr. de la Grange, sur son Recueil dOeuvres mles, cited in
Bachelier, preface to Recueil de cantates, 11v. He also argues that certain works, such as
those by Mr. de la Grange, were shunned for their eternal length, and that the public
in The Hague was so bored by the length of one of Bourgeoiss cantatas that it was interrupted before the end of the last aria. Ibid., 11r-v.
43 She argues: As the cantatas that I present to the public are a little long, I thought
I would limit myself to three. I have accompanied them with symphonies appropriate to the
subject, and I hope the manner in which one will find them varied will prevent them from
causing boredom. Jacquet de la Guerre, Avertissement to her book of secular cantatas, as
cited in David Tunley, ed., The Eighteenth-Century French Cantata: A Seventeen-Volume Facsimile Set of the Most Widely Cultivated and Performed Music in Early Eighteenth-Century France, vol.
13 (New York: Garland, 1990), 203. Significantly, in this group of cantatas, the symphonie
presents typical French operatic topoitempests, slumber scenes, various types of ominous bruits, and pastoral sounds such as the musette and bird calls. For more on Jacquet de
la Guerres secular cantatas, see Adrian Rose, lisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre and
the Secular cantate franoise, Early Music 13 (1985): 52941. Similarly, Montclair felt the
need to excuse the extreme length of his cantata Pyrame et Thisb, hoping that the musical
variety and the lack or repetition would offset its size. See Michel Pignolet de Montclair,
Cantates une et deux voix, vol. 2 (Paris: Foucault, 1713), 71, trans. James R. Anthony
and Diran Akmajian, preface to Michel Pignolet de Montclair, Cantatas for One and Two
Voices, (Madison, Wisconsin: A-R editions, 1978), xii.
44 Sbastien de Brossard, Dissertation sur cette espce de concert quon nomme
cantate, n.d., MS autograph ms fr na 5269, Bibliothque Nationale de France, fols. 75
77v, as cited in Sbastien de Brossard, Cantates franaises et italiennes, ed. Jrme Dorival,
trans. Mary Criswick (Versailles: Editions du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles,
1997), xliii. The presumable dating of Brossards Dissertation around 1708 or 1715
(see Jean Duron, Loeuvre de Sbastien de Brossard: catalogue thmatique [Versailles: Editions
de Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, 1995], 376, and Dorival, introduction to
Cantates franaises et italiennes, by Brossard, v]) places the success and dissemination of the
cantata in France at about the turn of the eighteenth century, perhaps already beginning
in the 1690s. The cantatas popularity is confirmed by the myriad of cantata books published at the beginning of the eighteenth century. See Tunley, Eighteenth-Century French
Cantata,126; and Vollen, French Cantata, 1137. Brossard would have come into contact
with the French cantata through circulating publications of cantata books, which were
particularly popular during the first thirty years of the eighteenth century. After living in
Caen, Brossard was in Paris between 1678 and 1687 and was then active in two provincial
citiesStrasbourg and Meauxbetween 1687 and his death in 1730. He thus experienced the musical life of the French provinces personally. See Yolande de Brossard, Sbastien de Brossard: Thoricien et compositeur, encyclopdiste et matre de chapelle, 16551730 (Paris:
Picard, 1987).

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naturally impatient and find it hard to concentrate for any length of
time on a single object, and they extend this air of freedom which distinguishes them from other nationalities to their pleasures. The least
difficulty suffices to discourage them, and any entertainment that disturbs or confuses them, or even that entails too great an expenditure,
is more likely to cause aversion rather than pleasure. Cantatas, on the
other hand, usually last no longer than is necessary to provide entertainment without boredom. There is a certain freedom, which dominates the words as much as the music of cantatas, and which tickles
our nations fancy. The variety of expressions and movements, which
constitutes its soul and essence, by guiding the imagination, in a manner of speaking, through a succession of different subjects and in different ways, does not fail to please and never disappoints.45

This concern for maintaining the audiences attention through


brevity and liveliness squares with Du Boss similar concern for ennui.46
For Du Bos,
the hurry and agitation, in which our passions keep us, even in solitude, is of so brisk a nature that any other situation is languid and
heavy, when compared to this motion. Thus we are led by instinct, in
pursuit of objects capable of exciting our passions, notwithstanding
those objects make impressions on us, which are frequently attended
by nights and days of pain and calamity: but man in general would be
exposed to greater misery, were he exempt from passions, than the
very passions themselves can make him suffer.47

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Du Bos lists all sorts of frightful spectacles, including public executions, combats with gladiators, and bullfights, arguing that they have
the power to lure crowds determined to pursue excitement and avoid
tedium and indolence at all costs. Not surprisingly, Du Bos mentions
the tempest as one of the favorite crowd-pleasing frightful spectacles,
and his engaged description of the storm from Maraiss Alcyone48 confirms that he viewed the tempest topos as one of the awe-inspiring means
to escape ennui within the safe confines of the theatre.
The second purpose behind the profusion of instrumental topoi in
the cantata may be connected with the sharp criticism of the cantata in
the earlier part of the century, in particular that of the Mercure galant,
the official journal sanctioned by the court, which grouped the cantata

45 Brossard, Dissertation, fols. 7577v, translation adapted from Mary Criswick, in


Brossard, Cantates franaises et italiennes, xliii.
46 Guyer, Origins of Modern Aesthetics, 26.
47 Du Bos, Critical Reflections, 1:9.
48 Ibid., 1:1019, 1:11, and 1:364.

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together with the unwelcome wave of transalpine instrumental music.
Cantatas and sonatas, said the Mercure galant in 1713,
spring up under our very feet, a musician no longer arrives without a
sonata or cantata in his pocket, and there are none who do not wish to
write a work and have it engraved and beat the Italians at their own
game; poets can scarcely keep pace with them, and indeed there are
even some texts that have suffered more than once the torture of Italianate music, so that here we are suffocated by cantatas.49

The following year, the same journal argued similarly in a letter that reveals the publics initial inability to contend with the unstoppable craze
for Italian music, in which the cantata played a major role:
To what, Madame, can this peculiarity [bisarretie] be attributed, if not
to the change of taste, and to what can this change of taste be attributed if not to this same Italy which has caused the downfall of the
Thtre Franois? This arrogant rival [Italy] was not content that we had
relinquished to her the glory of the epic poem, she still envied us the
glory of succeeding better than she with the dramatic poem, an advantage that we have over all the nations; and by her cantatas and sonatas,
with which she has inundated all of Paris, she has made us weary of
that rich simplicity which is the true character of our language and of
our genius.50

343

Continuing this trend, the Dictionnaire de Trvoux called the cantata a


foreign [genre] fanciful and capricious [fantasque et capricieuse] that will
find it difficult to become naturalized [and] obtain a long sojourn
among us;51 and Serr de Rieux confirmed the initial resistance of
Parisian audiences by describing Jean-Baptiste Morins attempt this way:
He dared to be the first to demonstrate the cantata. What a formidable
task! What temerity! At this novelty Paris was scandalized.52
49 L.T.M. de (La Tour), Dissertation sur le bon got et la musique italienne et de la
musique franoise, et sur ses operas, Mercure galant, November 1713, 362, trans. Tunley,
Eighteenth-Century French Cantata, 13.
50 Lettre de Mademoiselle xx une Dame de ses amies, sur le goust d prsent,
Mercure galant, November 1714, 200201, translation adapted from Vollen, French Cantata, 7. The text is also cited in Catherine Cessac, La cantate: avatar de lopra?, in De la
rhtorique des passions lexpression du sentiment: actes du colloque des 14, 15 et 16 mai 2002,
ed. Frdric Dassas and Barthlmy Jobert (Paris: Cit de la musique, 2003), 90.
51 Dictionnaire universel franois et latin [commonly called Dictionnaire de Trvoux]
(Paris: Chez Delaulne, 1721), 1:1401.
52 Jean de Serr de Rieux, Les Dons des enfans de Latone: la Musique et la Chasse du cerf,
pomes ddis au Roy (Paris: Prault, 1734), 11617, trans. Tunley, Eighteenth-Century French
Cantata, 51. Tunley sees this criticism as part of the general discontent about the betrayal
of the cause of French rhetoric as the ultimate means of expression. He cites Grimarests
concern for the same, which, appearing in 1707, could very well have been aimed at

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Cantate, que me veux-tu? could very well have been the new motto
in the early part of the eighteenth century. Considering such animosity toward a genre initially perceived as foreign, the profusion of instrumental topoi may be understood as a strategy by cantata composers to assert their French stylistic identity by way of incorporating the
orchestral practices of the Opra, while still working within an Italian
framework;53 and to rekindle the audiences experience of the best
orchestral moments of the tragdie en musique within the intimate venue
of the private concert. This is particularly evident in large-scale cantatas that can be understood as celebrations of the tragdie en musique
through a distillation of its most celebrated orchestral topoi. This is the
case in Louis-Nicolas Clrambaults La Muse de lOpra (1716), in which
the narrator, much like a beholder walking through a painting gallery, presents an uninterrupted parade of operatic tableaux, including
a bruit de chasse, a bruit infernal, bird calls, a tempte, and a sommeil; or
Antoine Dornels Les caractres de la musique (1721), which alternates
similarly between pastoral topoi and disruptive bruits.54 Yet even in smallscale cantatas, instrumental topoi were widely used, particularly in works
based on mythological subjects drawn from French operatic libretti that
had found wide public approval: Dido, Medea, Circe, Cephalus and
Procris, Ulysses, Semele, Hippolytus and Aricie, Andromeda, and Ariadne, among others.55
It would take some historical distance before literary critics would
eventually praise the cantata as well as the importance of the composers role: only in the second half of the eighteenth century, by which
time the genre had not only passed its peak of popularity but had also
fallen out of fashion in France, can one find testimonies such as those
by Jean-Baptiste Gossart and Joseph de la Porte.56 Echoing Brossards
cantata composers: I do not understand how some composers, and gifted ones at that,
have taken in recent times a fancy to composing Italian music to French words, rolling
the syllables without reason and without feeling. This is the way to banish from our vocal
music that expression which alone enables one to touch the heart. Grimarest argues that
these composers were only concerned with introducing diversity into their music, at
the expense of true expression. Jean-Lonor de Grimarest, Trait du rcitatif (Paris: Ribou,
1707), 211, trans. Tunley, Eighteenth-Century French Cantata, 51.
53 This is yet another manifestation of the so-called runion des gots, the stylistic
union of French and Italian music that cantata composers invoked to justify their artistic freedom in an effort to please the public and boost sales. See the prefaces by Stuck,
Morin, and Campra, among others, which can be found in translation in Vollen, French
Cantata, 1114, and in Tunley, Eighteenth-Century French Cantata, 47, 88, 101.
54 For a discussion of these pieces, see Cabrini, Expressive Polarity, 2428.
55 On this aspect, see Cessac, La cantate: avatar de lopra?, 9295. For a list of
titles, which include the most common myths, see the Appendix.
56 The possible reasons for the cantatas decline in Franceits lack of visual elements, chorus, dance, and other spectacular effects so dear to the French operagoer;
the increased use of operatic scenes in public concerts documented by Jean-Jacques

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cabrini
earlier intuition regarding the cantatas ability to strike the imagination
within a condensed span of time, Gossart wrote in 1761:
This poem . . . in a very short space, brings together the qualities of all
genres, the supernatural of epic, the favorite passions of tragedy, the
enthusiasm of Pindaric ode, the graciousness of Anacreontic ode, and
the harmony of music. It speaks in turn to the imagination and to the
heart: to the imagination in recitatives, to the heart in arias in which
they [the recitatives] are intermingled.57

And a few years later (1764) Joseph de la Porte conceded that the
charm that our most excellent musicians have conferred to this type
of poetry [the cantata] further enhances its merit [en relevent encore le
prix].58

The Domino Effect


In operatic storm scenes, composers and librettists often chose
complex, large-scale scenarios comprising several movements and
scenes; this strategy effectively portrayed the storms relentless momentum.59 Through this plan, they could legitimize the role of instrumental music as essential in imitating the storms irreversible dynamism,

345

Rousseau; and the rise of the middle class, who demanded more spectacular shows in
lieu of the wit and elegance of courtly musicare discussed in Tunley, Eighteenth-Century
French Cantata, 1314, 16870; Vollen, French Cantata, 3637; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau,
Dictionnaire de musique (Paris: Chez la Veuve Duchesne, 1768), 73. See also Cessac, La
cantate: avatar de lopra? 9697.
57 [Jean-Baptiste Gossart], Discours sur la posie lyrique (Paris: Brocas, 1761), xii, as
cited in Dorival, La cantate franaise, 13. Translation adapted from Jean-Paul C. Montagnier, Charles-Hubert Gervaiss Psich burlesque and the Birth of the Comic Cantate francaise, Journal of Musicology 17 (1999): 52021.
58 [La Porte], cole de littrature, 2:248.
59 Bouissou distinguishes between two types of structure in the tempest toposa
simple structure, in which the tempest is anecdotal or without development, and a complex one, in which the storm is developed through several movements (symphonie, chorus, air, etc). She argues that the latter conforms better to storms and tempests, which,
on account of their amplitude, require a development. See Bouissou, Mcanismes
dramatiques de la tempte, 217. See also Wood, Orchestra and Spectacle, 4046.
This type of structure can be seen in Lully, Alceste (1674), act 1, scene 8; Collasse, Thetis
et Ple (1689), act 2, scenes 79; Gervais, Meduse (1697), act 3, scenes 34 (for a discussion see Jean-Paul C. Montagnier, Charles-Hubert Gervais: Un musicien au service du Rgent
et de Louis XIV [Paris: CNRS, 2001], 5657, 61); Campra, Hsione (1700), act 4, scene 3;
Marais, Alcyone (1706), act 4, scenes 35; Toussaint Bertin de la Dou, Diomde (1710),
act 2, scene 5; Campra, Idomene (1712), act 3, scenes 78; Matho, Arion (1714) act 3,
scene 4; Salomon, Thono, (1715), act 3, scene 7; Rameau, Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), act
4, scene 3; Rameau, Plate (1745), act 1, scenes 56; Rameau, Zas (1748), act 2, scene 4;
Rameau, Les Borades (1763), act 3, scene 4; entracte; act 4, scenes 12. See also Bouissou, Phnomne de la catastrophe naturelle; and idem, Limpact social de la catastrophe naturelle, 2058.

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346

thereby rendering the scenario both verisimilar and merveilleux. In


these scenes, the initial symphony imitating the onset of the storm
functions as an acoustic shock, both for the characters involved (who
can actually hear it) and by extension for the audience. Often, such
music caused a strong emotional reaction in the character, as in act 4,
scene 4 from Maraiss Alcyone, where the protagonist experiences a sudden storm during a brutal nightmare. This precipitates a dramatic outcome: Alcyone, visibly perturbed, breaks into a monologue that concludes the act. The visceral reaction to storm music described by Titon
du Tillet is achieved through a signature texture that portrays the
sonic fury of these types of cataclysmic events60 through the low register of the orchestratwo separate bass lines playing repeated notes in
distinct rhythmic layers (eighths and sixteenths)jerky rhythms, and
rapid scales in the upper parts notated in extremely short rhythmic values, referred to as tirades.61 The occasional use of woodwinds playing
in unusually high ranges together with the sound of a low drum added
to the overall effect.
This concern for a musical language that relies primarily on rhythmic energy, melodic activity, and timbrea French baroque version
of Monteverdis concitato, as it weresquares with what the French believed with regard to rhythm, tempo, and meter (what they labeled
mouvement) as quintessential parameters in the expression of the emotions.62 Even Jean-Philippe Rameau, a profound believer in harmony
as the ultimate expressive feature, conceded that meter [mesure] is so
powerful in music that it suffices to excite in us all the different passions we have just attributed to the other elements of this art. Rameau
found in it a primal quality of immediacy absent in harmony. Meter,
he said, comes naturally to everyone: it forces us, as if against our will,
to follow its movement.63 In his Erreurs sur la musique dans lEncyclopdie,
Rameau argued that meter is also the first effect that strikes us in
music . . . and it is only after a certain number of years . . . of listening
to music more or less frequently and paying more or less attention to
it, that harmony finally begins to gain the upper hand.64 Elsewhere,
60 Much of the same musical language was used to portray similarly disruptive
eventsstorms, earthquakes, thunders, infernal noises and so on. See la Gorce, Temptes
et tremblements de terre, 185.
61 For an in-depth discussion, see Wood, Music and Drama, 33437, or the same authors Orchestra and Spectacle, 2546. See also Lematre, Le premier opra, 24355.
62 On this aspect, see Cabrini Expressive Polarity, 78104.
63 Jean Philippe Rameau, Treatise on Harmony, trans. Philip Gossett (New York: Dover, 1971), 164.
64 Jean-Philippe Rameau, Erreurs sur la musique dans lEncyclopdie (1755), in
Complete Theoretical Writings, ed. Erwin Jacobi (n.p.: American Institute of Musicology,
1969), 5:209.

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cabrini
Rameau applied this notion more specifically to physical phenomena
such as tempests: The expression of physical phenomena lies in meter
and tempo, while that of the pathetic, on the contrary, lies in harmony
and in [vocal] inflections,65 a position he restates in a letter to the
Abb Franois Arnaud:
It must be admitted that . . . the expression of sentiments demands
a changing of key, while the [musical] painting of images, and the
imitation of the different noises does not need it, and that [in the
latter] the sole melody assisted by the tempo and by the actor is
enough.66

Du Bos also valued rhythm as an expressive parameter, arguing


that it gives life, as it were, to a musical composition and throws a
new likeness into the imitation.67 Indeed, for Du Bos it was the greater
understanding of the French of rhythm as an expressive or imitative vehicle that made their music superior to that of the Italians:
Foreigners seem to agree, that we understand the movement and
measure better than the Italians, and consequently that we succeed
better in that part of music which by the ancients was called rhythmus. In fact, the ablest violins in Italy would execute but poorly one
of Lullys gavottes, much less any of his characterized symphonies.
Tho the Italians make a very great study of measure, yet, methinks,
they do not understand the rhythmus as well as we, so as to employ
it justly in the expression, or to adapt it properly to the subject of
imitation.68

347

The rhythmic energy produced by storm music typically needs several movements to dissipate, creating in the process what I call the
domino effect: the initial storm causes a reaction that takes its course
over several movements, in which the storm continues, while the chorus and the characters react to the situation. One great example can be
seen in Collasses Thetis et Ple (1689), in which the tempest continues
over five different numbers and three scenes:69

65 Jean-Philippe Rameau, preface to Observations sur notre instinct pour la musique (1754), in Complete Theoretical Writings, ed. Erwin Jacobi (n.p.: American Institute
of Musicology, 1968), 3:261.
66 Letter to Abb Franois Arnaud (undated, ca. end of 1756 or beginning of
1757). The letter is reproduced in Complete Theoretical Writings, ed. Erwin Jacobi (n.p.:
American Institute of Musicology, 1972), 6:335.
67 Du Bos, Critical Reflections, 1:36162.
68 Ibid., 1:37576.
69 See Lematre, Le premier opra-ballet, 24355.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
Act 2, scene 7
Descriptive sym- 19 mm.
phony (Tempte)
Chorus of
20 mm.
People, Quel
bruit soudain
Act 2, scene 8
Accompanied
recitative, De
quels chants
odieux
Act 2, scene 9
Instrumental
Prelude
Accompanied
recitative, Me
croit-il donc
soumis

348

Five-part orchestra

C major

Four-part choir plus six-part


orchestra including two bass parts

C major

11 mm.

Dialogue between Neptune and


Jupiter; repeated sixteenths, mostly
in the continuo; occasional
orchestral interventions with rapid
scales in the violins

C major

7 mm.

five-part orchestra

54 mm.

Dialogue between Neptune and


Mercury; repeated sixteenths in the
continuo with occasional orchestral
punctuations; towards the end, the
orchestral punctuations disappear,
and the texture shifts to throbbing
eighths in the continuo to signal
that the storm abates

C minor
G minor
G minor

The key structureCollasse maintains C as a tonal center throughout


most of the sceneand the intensity of the rhythmic texture, which includes the typical signature of temptes, square with Rameaus explanation of this type of scene, according to which a slow harmonic rhythm
combined with the frenzied activity of the instrumental parts was
enough to achieve the desired effect.
The domino effect can be observed in several French cantatas in
which composers blur the boundaries of recitative and aria by means
of instrumental music for the sake of dramatic continuity.70 The dramaturgical strategies composers employed to represent a storm scene
are remarkably similar to those found in the operatic repertory, reinforcing the notion that storm scenes from the tragdie en musique did
influence those in the French cantata.71 Typically, either the storm

70 Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (Book III, 1703), Jacquet de la Guerre, Jonas (Book
I, 1708), Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (Book III, 1712), Montclair, Lenlvement dOrithie
(Book II, 1717), and Brou, Orithie (1738). For a full list of French cantatas that feature a
storm, see the Appendix.
71 See Bouissou, Mcanismes dramatiques de la tempte, 21730.

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cabrini
occurs unexpectedly,72 or it is prepared by some sort of invocation by a
divinity.73 Once the storm has been set into motion, it either loses momentum by abating,74 or, much more often, it is appeased by a movement that counteracts its momentum: a slumber scene, a dance, or
other type of soothing musicthe calm after the storm, as it were.75
Only in one cantata does a storm arise after a soothing slumber,76 and
in the majority of cases the storm movement stands alone without precipitating any reaction.77 While adopting the tempest topos from the
stage, cantata composers re-contextualize it within the exclusively aural
milieu of the cantata. Cantata texts operate much like stage directions
in aural form, affording the necessary visual clues for the listeners to
imagine the scenario, and shaping the way in which they perceive the
function of the instrumental music.78 Rather than merely intensifying
the action visible on the stage, as in opera, in the cantata the instrumental music becomes the accomplice of the narrator in helping the
listener recreate the coordinates of the action.79 Indeed, as we shall see
in the following examples, instrumental music is as responsible as the
72 This occurs in cantatas 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 20, 22, 24, 30, 32,
and 38 listed in the Appendix.
73 This occurs in cantatas 19, 21, 33, and 35. Because of the concise size of the cantata, sometimes the invocation constitutes the tempest movement itself, without actually
unleashing a real storm: see cantatas 4, 7, 23, 25, 31, and 43.
74 Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (Book III, 1703).
75 This is the case in cantatas 3, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, and 19.
76 Courbois, Ariane (1710).
77 This use of the tempest can be found in the majority of the pieces listed in the
Appendix, except those noted above, in which the tempest creates a domino effect.
78 In contrast to operatic libretti, cantata texts narrate much of the details that
would otherwise be apparent to the operatic audience from the action on stage and the
stage directions. The descriptive emphasis and attention to detail of cantata poetry verges,
in some cases, on the rhetorical figure of the hypotyposis, which Du Marsais, a French authority on rhetorical ornaments of style, describes as a Greek word which means image,
picture. It is when in descriptions one depicts the things of which one speaks, as if what
one is telling were at the present time before ones eyes; one exhibits, so to speak, what
one is merely relating. Du Marsais finds a fitting example of hypotyposis in the famous rcit
of Thramene from Act V, scene 6 of Jean Racines Phdre (1677), in which she describes
the death of Hippolytus by the monster in vivid detail over seventy-two verses. See Csar
Chesneau Du Marsais, Des tropes ou des diffrens sens dans lesquels on peut prendre un mme mot
dans une mme langue (Paris: chez la Veuve de Jean-Batiste Brocas, 1730), 12223, trans.
Dene Barnett, The Art of Gesture: The Practices and Principles of 18th Century Acting (Heidelberg: Winter, 1987), 21618. For more on the descriptive emphasis of the cantatas text,
see Cabrini, Expressive Polarity, 6778.
79 On this aspect, see Cabrini, Expressive Polarity, 18. Dorival also notes that
the cantata presupposes a complicity between listener and singer, and the latter makes
visible through the ear the images chiselled by the composer; he calls the listener to
witness, he trains him to refine his own senses, to make him feel the coherence of a
musical discourse tied to a narrative and its amorous or tragic glosses. Dorival, La
cantate franaise, 82.

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350

voice for what Sbastien de Brossard considered the cantatas essence


guiding the listeners imagination through a succession of different moments in the narrative.
Three prominent French cantata composers who employ the
domino effectNicolas Bernier (16651734), Elisabeth Jacquet de
la Guerre (16651729), and Jean-Baptiste Morin (16771745)used
various compositional strategies to achieve the same goal of temporal continuity.80 Bernier and Jacquet de la Guerre treat the temporary
stasis of the aria as the inner storm of the character, whereas Morin
manipulates time by varying the degrees of narrative distance of the
narrator through his rapport with the instrumental accompaniment.
Moreover, Bernier demonstrates a penchant for an Italianate style,
whereas Jacquet de la Guerre reveals a keen allegiance to the French
style. What emerges is a shared aesthetic and compositional strategy
employed to portray an event whose relentless power transcends the
temporal boundaries between recitative and aria. Despite their stylistic
differences, they all achieve continuity through an effective technique:
the use of similar or identical instrumental music that runs continuously throughout arias and recitatives to represent the storms inescapable impetus.
Let us begin with Nicolas Berniers Hipolite et Aricie (1703), with
a text by an anonymous poet, composed for high voice, violin, bass
viol, and continuo, which represents the earliest known example of a
French cantata with an extended tempest. The work shows Berniers
Italian training under the aegis of Caldara through a penchant for Italianate features, particularly vocal virtuosity and a goal-oriented use of
keys.81 Hipolite et Aricie features a compression of the classical legend
80 On Campra see Maurice Barthlemy, Andr Campra (16601744): tude bio
graphique et musicologique, revised ed. (Arles: Actes Sud, 1995). On Bernier see Philip
Nelson, Nicolas Bernier: a Rsum of his Works, Recherches sur la musique franaise classique 1 (1960): 9398, and idem, Nicolas Bernier (16651734): A Bibliographic Study,
in Studies in Musicology: Essays in the History, Style, and Bibliography of Music in Memory of
Glen Haydon, ed. James Pruett (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969),
10917. On Jacquet de la Guerre, see Catherine Cessac, lizabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, une
femme compositeur sous le rgne de Louis XIV (Arles: Actes Sud, 1995), and Edith Borroff, An
Introduction to Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (New York: Institute of Mediaeval Studies,
1966). For information on Montclair, see Anthony and Akmajian, preface to Montclair,
Cantatas for One or Two Voices; Sylvette Milliot, Le testament de Michel Pignolet de Montclair, Recherches sur la musique franaise classique 8 (1968): 13140; and Julie Anne Sadie,
Montclair, the Viol Players Composer, Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America 15
(1978): 4150. On Jean-Baptiste Morin, see Marion Austin Hall, The Solo Cantatas of
Jean Baptiste Morin (DMA diss., University of Illinois, 1967); and Franois Turellier, Le
compositeur orlanais Jean-Baptiste Morin, Bulletin de la Socite Archologique et Historique
de lOrlanais 115 (1997): 316.
81 Bernier studied in Italy with Antonio Caldara. See Philip Nelson, Nicolas
Bernier, Recherches sur la musique franaise classique 18 (1978): 5087, and idem, Nicolas

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cabrini
that narrates the ill-fated love between Aricie and Hippolytus, son of
the Athenian king Theseus and object of the incestuous desires of his
stepmother Phaedra, Theseuss spouse.82 The cantata focuses on the
incident of Hippolytuss death, in which a violent tempest erupts and a
dreadful monster arises from the sea to kill Hippolytus, leaving Aricie
bereft.
The layout of Hipolite et Aricie betrays the dramatic linearity of this
storm scene (bracketed in fig. 2a): Bernier unfolds the sequence of
events over the course of three numbers: the onset of the storm, its
build-up and duration through Aricies aria, and, ultimately, the monsters appearance and the consequent death of Hippolytus. The poetic
layout facilitates the plan: the narrator introduces and concludes the
main action, while Aricie speaks in the first person and experiences the
entire storm sequence directly. Bernier emphasizes this layout through
the use of specific keys. He highlights the narrators intervention as
bookends to the main action using A minor and E minor in a palindrome-like arrangementA-E; E-A. Conversely, he marks each event in
the storm sequence with a specific key area: he charges the tension in
the instrumental storm through a long-range dominant-to-tonic modulation (G to C), loading the gun for the C major of the following aria;
then he marks the appearance of the monster and Hippolytuss death
with F major and D minor respectively. Indeed, from a formalist perspective, Berniers choice of keys does embody the type of goal-oriented
aesthetic so typical of Italian music of this period.83 Yet in the true spirit
of les gouts runis, Berniers choice of keys also reflects French theoretical thought with regard to affect: according to Charpentier, C major was
gay and militant and F major furious and quick-tempered, whereas
for Rameau F major was suitable to represent tempests and furies;84
and for Jean Rousseau, Charpentier and Charles Masson alike, D minor was deemed appropriate to represent serious subjects owing to its
gravity.85
Another factor demonstrates Berniers concern for dramaturgy:
text manipulation. The storm scene begins by the seashore, near a sacred temple erected to the Queen of the Heavens, where Aricie, who

351

Bernier (16651734): A Bibliographic Study, 10917. See also Metro J. Voloshin, The
Secular Cantatas of Nicholas Bernier (PhD diss., University of Kentucky, 1984).
82 Most likely, the seventeenth-century French source that Bernier would have been
aware of is Jean Racines Phdre (1677), which is a re-elaboration of this classical myth
after Euripides and Seneca.
83 See Susan McClary, What was Tonality? chap. 3 in Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 63108.
84 See Rita Steblin, A History of Key Characteristics in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth
Centuries, 2nd ed. (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2002), 39.
85 Ibid.

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352

2. Air

Aricie

3. Tempest

Ex. 1d

C Major
III

A Major
I

4. Air

A Major
I
Ex. 2b

Ex. 2a

Narrator

A Major
I

3. Tempest

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Sailors

G minor
i

Narrator

G minor
i

Ex. 3a, 3b

2. Air

1. Storm + Recit

(mod.)

Narrator

Ex.3c, 3d, 3e

B Major
III

Narrator

3. Recit (storm continues)

c. Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (1712)

A minor
i

Narrator

1. Prelude 2. Recit

Ex. 1e, 1f

F Major
VI

F Major
V/III

D minor
iv

(mod.)

Narrator

D minor
v

Nymphs

5. Air

A minor
i

Narrator

8. Air

E minor
v

Narrator

6. Recit

G minor
i

Narrator

6. Recit

A minor
i

Narrator

9. Recit

Hippolytuss death; calm ensues

7. Brief Recit

action continues

Narrator (view of Calypsos island)

4. Recit

Ex. 2c

A Major
I

Jonas

6. Accomp. Recit

Aricie addresses Neptune

5. Accomp. Recit

5. Brief Recit

Aricie: emotional reaction

4. Air

b. Jacquet de La Guerre, Jonas (1708)

Ex. 1a,1b, 1c

A minor E minor G Major C Major


i
v
V/III
III

Narrator Aricie

1. Recit

a. Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703)

G minor
i

Narrator

7. Air

A minor
i

Narrator

10. Air

A minor
i

Narrator

7. Air

figure 2. (a) Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703); (b) Jacquet de La Guerre, Jonas (1708); (c) Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse
(1712)

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cabrini
yearns for Hippolytus, is awaiting the return of her lover. Bernier reverses the order of the events as presented by Bachelier in his Recueil
des cantates,86 the most important eighteenth-century anthology of cantata texts, and opens up the scenario on a tranquil seashore (absent
in Bachelier), against which the disruptive uproar of the storm can be
juxtaposed dramatically:
Appearance of the storm in Bacheliers Recueil
Recitative (Aricie)
Mais, que vois-je? Quentends-je?
& Quel[s] affreux orage[s]
Troublent les airs et soulvent les flots.
Ses superbes coursiers ennemis
du repos,
Annoncent lobjet qui mengage.

But, what do I see? What do


I hear? And what horrible
thunderstorm[s]
Trouble the skies and lift the waves?
His superb chargers, enemies
of repose,
Deliver the object of my desire.

Appearance of the storm in Berniers score


Recitative (Aricie)
spectacle enchanteur! Dj sur le
rivage,
Des superbes coursiers ennemis du
repos,
Amnent lobjet qui mengage.
[tempest music begins]
Mais, que vois-je? Quentends-je?
& Quel terrible orage
Trouble les airs et soulve les flots?

O enchanting spectacle! Already


on the shore,
Superb chargers, enemies of
repose,
Deliver the object of my desire.

353

But what do I see? What do I


hear? And what horrible
thunderstorm
Troubles the skies and lifts
the waves?

Berniers sequence of events is dramatically more effective, and his arrangement recalls Flibiens opening passage in which a sudden storm
catches the main character by surprise, bursting in forcefully into what
seemed at first a calm scenario. Also, Berniers choice to place Aricies
rhetorical questionsBut what do I see? What do I hear?towards
the end of the recitative allows him to delay the storm to the end of the
scene, setting it up as the dramatic catapult for the sequence of events
that follows.
Much of the musical material that binds the storm scene together
into a continuous whole consists of instrumental music. Bernier paints
86

See Bachelier, Recueil des cantates, 246.

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the initial storm through the typical signature of operatic temptes, a texture created by repeated eighths and sixteenths played by two separate
bass lines, and rapid scales in the violins (mvt. 3, ex. 1a). The acoustic illusion of the storms momentum then continues into the next two
numbers relying primarily on instrumental music. This is perhaps most
evident in the aria that follows the instrumental storm, Quel bruit, quels
clats, much of whose sixteenth-note material derives from the instrumental storm and keeps propelling the action forward (mvt. 4, ex. 1d).
The choice of a motto-aria beginning, which calls attention to Aricies immediate reaction, together with the connection of the end of the storm
to the beginning of the aria in the same keyC majorset the movements in apposition as cause and effect, providing a sense of forward
thrust. To confirm this principle, the domino effect continues beyond
the aria into the next recitative, where a sea monster appears and kills
Hippolytus. Once again, instrumental music provides the means through
which the tempestuous events continue: fast rapid scales in the violin and
an incessant repeated-note motive in the continuo, both of which derive
from and echo the original storm in its seemingly irreversible dynamism
(mvt. 5, ex. 1e). Finally, the storm concludes with yet another instrumental gesturethrobbing eighth notes (marked trs lentement in the
score) to signal its abatement, a technique borrowed from contemporary
French opera (mvt. 5, ex. 1f, mm. 14-16).87
And yet, in spite of the continuous thread provided by the instrumental music, time runs at different speeds throughout the storm
scene. The sixteen measures of agitated music that paint the storm,
for examplemodulating steadily in a rising sequential motion traveling from G to C major (dominant to tonic)serve as the catalyst for
overturning Aricies illusory picture of a happy future together with
Hippolytus and cause a reaction shown by the transformation of her vocal behavior. Indeed, after clearly enouncing her rhetorical questions,
Mais, que vois-je? quentends-je? and reaching a high G on airs,
Aricie eventually surrenders to a disorderly melisma on soulve (mvt.
3, ex. 1b). Then Bernier delivers a virtual slam-dunk into the tonic
cadence, ending the movement with the orchestra (mvt. 3, ex. 1c).88
87 This texture was often used to portray the abatement of a storm, an act typically
performed by divine intervention. In act 2, scene 9 of Thetis et Ple (1689), for example,
Pascal Collasse uses throbbing eighth-notes to portray Neptune calling off the tempest.
Andr Campra also used the same procedure in act 2, scene 1 of Idomne (1712), where
Neptune once again brings a storm to an end.
88 I borrow this expression from McClary, What was Tonality? 75. McClary employs it for the conclusion of Griseldas aria Figlio! Tiranno! from Alessandro Scarlattis
Griselda (1721), which, though not a storm per se, shows the same type of instrumental
language employed by Bernier (rapid sweeping scales and repeated sixteenths) to portray
Griseldas inner turmoil.

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cabrini
example 1a. Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703), mvt. 3, mm. 69

(men - ga) -

ge

Mesur vite Notes gales

Violon


Mesur vite Notes gales

Viole

Mesur

Clavecin

(7)

(8)

355

(9)

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
example 1b. Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703), mvt. 3, mm. 1317

13

Mais,

que vois

je?

tends

je?


(16)

Airs

et sou -

ge

quen

Et

(15)

ra

(14)

356

quel

terri - ble

O -

trou

ble

les

le

ve les (flots)

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cabrini
example 1c. Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703), mvt. 3, mm. 2123


( )


21

22

6
5

357

This creates the necessary forward thrust to jump-start Aricies fullfledged reaction, her aria Quel bruit, quels clats (mvt. 4, ex.1d):
Quel bruit, quels clats de tonnerre!
Le ciel verse la fois les Ondes et
les feux,
Les vents qui se livrent la guerre
Font redire aux chos leurs
sifflements affreux.

What noise, what roar of thunder!


The sky overturns at once the
waves and the fires,
The winds, engaging in a battle,
Let the echoes repeat their
dreadful whistling.

Once she begins her aria, however, time assumes a different quality.
Compared to the analogous reaction to the storm in a tragdie lyrique,
typically embodied by the public utterance of the chorus, the aria Quel
bruit, quels clats is a private and introspective reaction designed to
unveil the emotions of the singing character. This is reflected in the
unfolding of Aricies aria, which involves a drastic change of temporal
gear, turning time into a circular experience through repetitionboth
musical and textualand the da capo form, which evokes a sense of
frozen time. Much of the behavior of Aricies voice in Quel bruit, quels
clats is consistent with these parameters. The musical and textual
repetitions she performs as she describes the same scene over and over

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
example 1d. Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703), mvt. 4, mm. 111

Air
Vif

4
8

Violon

4
8

4
8

Quel

bruit quels - clats

de ton - ner

re!

358

Basse Continue


Reprise

Quel

bruit

quels - clats

Reprise


de ton - (ner - re!)

Reprise

again evoke a sense of landscape that lies motionless within her internal
experience, as if she were contemplating the events through the control of a framed view. Indeed, Aricies experience of the storm recalls
that of the characters from Flibiens scenario, in which they escape
the wrath of the storm by watching it through a window and reducing
it to a framed Sturm im Glas.89 Aricies storm at this point is internal
rather than external: her dazzling virtuosity and musical repetitions
both Italian traits scorned by French critics owing to their presumed
89 I am borrowing the expression Sturm im Glas from Riepe and Vitali, Aspetti della
cantata veneziana, 132.

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cabrini
example 1e. Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703), mvt. 5, mm.15

Violon

Mesur Gravement

Sou - ve - rain

Gravement Notes gales

pire

mis!

te?

mons - tre

il

a - vance,

il

sort

de

ton

eux,

Il

ble tir -

fu - ri

quel cou - pa

un

Mer

ri

la

de

Basse Continue

me - nace

Em -

Je

fre

359

Hi

po - (li - te)

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
example 1f. Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (1703), mvt. 5, mm. 1316

13

(rou - )

le

360

Hi - po - li

au fonds

15

des fo - rets.

te

tu

Trs lentement

Trs lentement

meurs

ton

me

fu - gi - (ti - ve)

nonsense90account for her reaction to a personal and traumatic experience. Her voice turns to behaving like a virtuosic instrument, and
Bernier expresses her seemingly endless and out-of-control response
through the very styleItalian virtuositythat the French perceived as
most irrational, disorderly, and excessive.91 So motionless is the sense
90 There are several examples showing the condescending attitude of the French towards this aspect of Italian music. One occurs in Le Cerf de la Vivilles Comparaison de la
musique italienne et de la musique franoise, vol. 1 (1705), where the countess admits that she
is tired of hearing them [the Italians] repeat the same words so many times, composing
an air as long as a tale on four short lines. Later, the chevalier replies: when they [the
Italians] have repeated the last two lines of the air once or twice, you believe it is finished.
But you are mistaken. On the last syllable of the last word, which often adds nothing to
the sense, but where there will be some a or o sound appropriate for their playful passages, they put in an ornament of five or six measures, taking advantage of it by repeating
the last line three or four times with new energy. There is enough for another quarter
of an hour. As cited in Mary B. Ellison, The Comparaison de la musique italienne et de la
musique franoise of Le Cerf de La Viville: An Annotated Translation of the First Four Dialogues (PhD diss., University of Miami, 1973), 9899.
91 For aspects of French reception of Italian music during this period, see Georgia Cowart, Of Women, Sex and Folly: Opera under the Old Regime, Cambridge Opera
Journal 6 (1994): 20520. For a more complete account see Georgia Cowart, The Origins
of Modern Musical Criticism: French and Italian Music 16001750 (Ann Arbor: UMI Press,
1981). To French music critics Italian music signified sensuality, irrationality, voluptuousness, complexity and skill; conversely, French music signified just the oppositerationality, intellect, simplicity and naturalness.

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cabrini
of time in her aria that the following number, a measured recitative
in which the monster slays Hippolytus, provides the needed shock to
catapult Aricie (and the listener) back into dramatic time through a
sudden key change (F major) and a return to the bass activity of temptes
(mvt. 5, ex. 1e).
Another approach to preserving the storms linear trajectory was
to maintain the same key and the same instrumental accompaniment
throughout several numbers. In Jonas, published in 1708 for high voice,
violins, and continuo, and based on the Old Testament story of Jonah
and the whale, Jacquet de la Guerre treats keys and instrumental music
with an unprecedented degree of cohesion. She organizes Jonas according to a harmonic aesthetic often employed by Lully as a large-scale
unifying principle: the alternation of parallel major and minor keys for
the sake of variety and dramatic contrast.92 She sets up the three movements that constitute the storm properthe instrumental tempest, the
aria, and the accompanied recitative with Jonahs plea (bracketed in
fig. 2b)in the key of A major; conversely, she sets most other numbers
in A minor. In contrast to Berniers goal-oriented harmonic approach,
Jacquet de la Guerre demonstrates a strong allegiance to a French aesthetic, one that favors continuity through unity of key.93 Her choice also

361

92 Greer Garden has shown that the tragdie en musique had a profound impact on
the way composers shaped the large-scale tonal design of their cantatas. Garden points
out that Michel de Saint Lambert was among the first continental theorists to clearly
explain the difference between keywhat he calls tonand mode. According to SaintLambert, ton was a tonic upon which one could build a piece that was in either the major
or the minor mode, and this is exactly the type of harmonic thinking displayed in several
cantatas by Andr Campra, Jean-Baptiste Morin, and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. See
Michel de Saint Lambert, A New Treatise on Accompaniment, trans. John S. Powell (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 4749; originally published as Nouveau trait de
laccompagnement du clavecin (Paris: Ballard, 1707). See Greer Garden, A Link Between
Opera and Cantata in France: Tonal Design in the Music of Andr Campra, Early Music
(1993): 397412. See also Walter Atcherson, Key and Mode in Seventeenth-Century
Music Theory Books, Journal of Music Theory 17 (1973): 20432; and Gregory Barnett,
Tonal Organization in Seventeenth-Century Music Theory, in The Cambridge History of
Western Music Theory, ed. Thomas Christensen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2002), 40755.
93 In his Comparaison Le Cerf noted that: Italians cannot write two bars of song
without changing key, yet Lully writes the whole scene without doing so. When I see those
beautiful scenes in Armide or Thse roll on wonderfully with an air of fullness and ease in
the same key, I cannot help exclaiming: how could that single key contain so many lovely
things? There goes a genius who works miracles; from a single key hed extract enough
to write the whole Opera. Jean Laurent Le Cerf de La Viville, Comparaison de la musique
italienne et de la musique franaise (17056; repr., Geneva: Minkoff, 1972), 2:136, trans.
Garden, A Link, 398. Although Le Cerfs argument must be understood in the context
of his scathing views against Italian music and Italianism in France, on the whole he was
not completely incorrect about Lully. Lully did indeed construct whole operatic scenes
around one tonal center, and in his music key changes are usually so brief that they
seem barely perceptible within the whole. Le Cerfs most despised opponent, Francois
Raguenet, whose public siding with Italian music and mockery for the French inspired

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy

362

reflects the poetic layout of Jonas, which, unlike Hipolite et Aricie, is characterized by an ever-present narrator who impersonates the different
characters as opposed to allowing them to speak directly. By alternating
parallel major and minor keys, Jacquet de la Guerre highlights the onesidedness of the story as told by a single character.
Together with unity of key, the instrumental music provides the
other thread that keeps the storm scene unified, pushing dramatic time
forward with relentless momentum. Jacquet de la Guerre goes a step
further than Bernier in ensuring continuity by employing the same
instrumental music throughout the three storm numbers (compare
mvts. 3, 4, and 6, exs. 2a, 2b, and 2c). She encapsulates the two most
prominent gestures typical of tempest musicfast scalar runs and repeated noteswithin a single melodic line, showing a keen sense of
economy of means that eschews the instrumental color of Berniers
separate bass lines. The choice of maintaining this music essentially
unchanged throughout several movements recalls similar techniques
found in French operatic storms such as the one in Thtis et Pele, where
instrumental music creates the acoustic illusion of continuity. The connection to French opera is also apparent in Jacquet de la Guerres use
of instrumental texture. In Thtis et Ple, Collasse decreases the instrumental forces from the full, five-part French orchestra of the opening
storm and the following chorus to a single continuo texture with occasional orchestral interjections for the two recitatives involving only
Neptune, Jupiter, and Mercury. Similarly, Jacquet de la Guerre reduces
the instrumental accompaniment from the treble-and-bass texture of
the opening storm (mvt. 3, ex. 2a) and the aria (mvt. 4, ex. 2b) to the
single continuo line of Jonahs plea (mvt. 6, ex. 2c). In Jonas, however,
this reduction of the instrumental forces stands metaphorically for an
imaginary reduction of the vocal onesa chorus giving way to Jonahs
single utterancereplacing with instrumental means alone what would
otherwise be impossible to achieve by a single voice.
Yet Jacquet de la Guerre goes even further than key unity and instrumental homogeneity to smooth out the disparity between the aria
and Jonahs accompanied recitative. Considering that text fragmentation and repetition accounts for much of the perceived difference in
the temporal flow between an aria and a recitative, Jacquet de la Guerre
Le Cerfs Comparaison, considered this very aspect as a signature of French music. In
describing a typical French air, Raguenet said that In the airs they compose the French
always look for what is sweet, easy and flowing, and what follows on readily; everything is
in the same key, or if they change it sometimes, they do it with preparations and softenings which render the air as natural and as continuous as if there were no change at all.
Franois Raguenet, Parallle des Italiens et des Franais en ce qui regarde la musique et les opras
(1702; repr., Genve: Minkoff, 1976), 3031, trans. Garden, A Link, 399.

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cabrini
example 2a. Jacquet de la Guerre, Jonas (1708), mvt. 3, mm. 19

Tempte

363

here levels their dramatic identity by favoring a sober, syllabic vocal style
that is unusually similar in both numbers, resulting in textual intelligibility over vocal virtuosity.94
Other composers took temporality to a new level by calling attention to the narrative process itself, highlighting the experience of the
narrator as he recalls a story in the past and brings it before the eyes of
the audience in the present. This is the case in Jean-Baptiste Morins
94 See for example the choruses that follow the tempest in act 2, scenes 7, 8 and 9
of Pascal Collasse, Thetis et Pele (1689); in act 4, scene 4 of Marin Marais, Alcyone (1706);
in act 2, scene 1 of Andr Campra, Idomene (1712); and in act 4, scene 3 of Jean-Philippe
Rameau, Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), among several others.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
example 2b. Jacquet de la Guerre, Jonas (1708), mvt. 4, mm. 18

Air
Vivement

Violons

Basse Continue

364

6
5

lu

me,

LAir

la Fou - dre

gron

sal -

Accompagnement

de.

Les Vents

+
lut

- tent con- tre les

6
5

Flots;

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Quel

(trou - ble)

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cabrini
example 2c. Jacquet de la Guerre, Jonas (1708), mvt. 6, mm. 19

Piqu

Basse Continue 5

6
5




Vous

por - tez,

cri - me,

dit

Jo

la

pei

je pe- ris - se

ne de

mon

Que

nas,

seul,

Que

je pe- ris - se

6
5

seul

pour

le

365

Dans ces gouf

com - mun

re - pos.

fres

ou -

(verts)

Le naufrage dUlisse (1712), which tells the tale of Ulyssess shipwreck


and opens with a storm. In it, the composer employs a refined dramatic
interaction between the singer and the instrumental music to highlight
the varying levels of narrative distance in the narrators voicethe extent to which he plays a part in the story. This is what Grard Genette,
the father of narratology, labeled as either heterodiegetic (when the

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
example 3a. Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (1712), mvt. 1, mm 15

24 Fort

Vite

24

Fort


2
4
Basse de Viole, ou de Violon

366

6
5

narrator is situated outside the narration) or homodiegetic (when the


narrator is situated inside the narrative world).95
Still upholding an aesthetic of continuity achieved by unity of key
(see fig. 2c), rapid tempi, and thematic material, Jean-Baptiste Morin
nevertheless treats the storm topos in a radically different way from
Bernier and Jacquet de la Guerre. Morin opens the cantata with a prelude (mvt. 1, ex. 3a), then allows the same music to interrupt the narrators statements in the opening recitative (ex. 3b). This treatment is unsettling because it challenges the acoustic boundary between opening
prelude and opening recitative. Morin manipulates this boundary for
dramatic effect: he juxtaposes the disparity in timbre and volume between bare vocal moments and explosive interjections of the storm music, whose instrumentationa violin line and two separate bass parts,
including a bass violconjures up the ominous sound of an operatic
tempte.
Morins juxtaposition of instrumental music and recitative fragments highlights the temporal process of narrative. As far as I am aware,
95 See H. Porter Abbott, Story, Plot, and Narration, in The Cambridge Companion
to Narrative, ed. David Herman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 42. See
also H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 68.

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cabrini
example 3b. Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (1712), mvt. 1, mm.1327


13 2

24

24

Ce H - ros

19

cher;

22

Ciel

quils

6
5

tou

du - ne voix

6
5

ne peu - vent

( )
+

Tan - dis que ses Guer - riers

g- mis -

Pa - rais- sait un fer - me Ro-

san - te,


Im - por - tu

24

24

cher.

24

367

nent le

25

6
5

du - ne on - de me - na - an - te,

en - tou - r

6
5

16

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
this is the only such instance in a French cantata that opens with a
storm.96 Similar examples found in the contemporary French operatic
repertorythe opra-ballets by Campra in particularshow that the short
instrumental fragments between recitatives were normally woven together into a full-fledged instrumental piece, typically a dance, a march,
or some other kind of divertissement music.97 What makes Morins example unique is that the exact opposite occurs: first he displays the event
through the storm music, then he breaks the same music into fragments
that appear in the narrators recitative, a process that reverses the logical
temporal progression. Yet the technique here reflects the narrative process, which typically reconstitutes a past event in the present:
[Prelude: Storm]

368

Sur un vaisseau bris quun


effroyable orage
Emportait travers de mille
cueils affreux,
Le sage roi dIthaque opposait son
courage
Au funeste courroux du Destin
rigoureux.

On a shattered ship that a horrible


storm
Swept away through a thousand
dreadful reefs,
The wise King of Ithaca set his
courage
Against the fatal wrath of his
harsh destiny.

[Storm fragment resumes]


Ce Hros entour dune onde
menaante
Paraissait un ferme Rocher;
Tandis que ses Guerriers dune
voix gmissante,
Importunent le Ciel quils ne
peuvent toucher.

This hero, surrounded by a threatening


wave,
Seemed like a firm rock;
While his warriors in a whimpering
voice
Begged the Heavens, which could
not be touched.

[Storm fragment ends recitative]

96 The other two French cantatas that open with a violent storm are Ene et Didon
(Book II, 1714) by Andr Campra, and Didon (Book I, 1723) by Franois Colin de Blamont. In both cases, the composers choose to wait until the end of the storm music to allow
the narrator to begin the story. Morins technique of alternating the opening prelude
with the narrators utterances can also be found in three cantatas by Bernier: Le triomphe
de lAmour (Book I, 1703), where the opening prelude imitates a choir punctuating the
narrators utterances as he describes a multitude of voices praising Cupid; Lenlvement de
Proserpine (Book II, 1703), where the opening prelude alternates with the narrators utterances as he describes the world quaking while the Titans try to escape the underworld
in vain; and Mede (Book IV, 1703), where the music of the opening prelude punctuates
the opening recitative to evoke Medeas capricious moods, and where, later in the piece,
rapid scales in the violins punctuate Medeas furious speech.
97 See James R. Anthony, Thematic Repetition in the Opera-Ballets of Andr Campra, Musical Quarterly 52 (1966): 217.

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cabrini
Instrumental music and recitative never overlap in the opening of Le
naufrage dUlisse: never does the storm actually become present, because
it lives only within the narrators experiential realm. This recalls operatic techniques found in recitatifs accompagns entailing past narratives in
which the symphonie frames the narrative as a temporally distinct
event. Similarly to its operatic counterparts, the instrumental music
here is heard before it is given a verbal description, thus emulating the
narrative process, in which the thoughts lie within the narrators experiential perception before they are translated into language.98
Yet from a theatrical standpoint, the delay between the onset of
the opening storm and the narrators first verbal appearance achieves
a profound effect, intensifying the drama by manipulating the audiences perception of the scenario. This recalls a practice in French opera uncovered by Antonia Banducci in prompt notes controlling the
entrance of a character or action during instrumental preludes or ritournelles.99 Indeed, Morins choice to delay the first utterance of the narrator until the end of the thirty-five-measure prelude recalls act 5, scene 1
of Campras Tancrde, where a prompt note delays the entrance of the
crusaders until the end of the victory music, postponing the revelation
of the battles outcome to princess Herminie, who had been waiting
anxiously for it.100 Likewise, Morins opening storm music keeps the audience speculating about the action until the entrance of the narrator,
whose words then shape the meaning and the function of this music
retrospectively.
In the final number of the storm sequence, Morin employs instrumental sound to manipulate the narrators involvement in the story.
The narrator returns in an accompanied recitative to tell the audience
that the plea for forgiveness by Ulyssess warriors (heard in an aria)
was in vain and that the storm is causing their shipwreck. Here Morin
reverts to juxtaposing the storm music with the narrators utterance,
but shifts between meters and tempi to paint a neat separation of dramatic spacesthe dynamic mimesis of the storm by the propelling
force of the 68 marked vite (mvt. 3, ex. 3c) on the one hand, and on
the other, the narrators framed view of the storm, as if he were witnessing the drama from relative safety (which recalls Flibiens retreat
in the castle), by a cautious C marked lentement (ex. 3d). Unlike the

369

98 See Geoffrey Vernon Burgess, Ritual in the Tragdie en musique from Lullys
Cadmus et Hermione (1673) to Rameaus Zoroastre (1749) (PhD diss., Cornell University,
1998), 1:191 and 1:195.
99 See Antonia Banducci, Staging a Tragdie en Musique: A 1748 Promptbook of
Campras Tancrde, Early Music 21 (1993): 18090, and idem, Staging and its Dramatic
Effect in French Baroque Opera: Evidence From Prompt Notes, Eighteenth-Century Music 1
(2004): 528.
100 Banducci, Staging a Tragdie en Musique, 186.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
example 3c. Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (1712), mvt. 3, mm. 14




Vite
68

6
8
6
5

( )
6
5

example 3d. Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (1712), mvt. 3, mm. 1314


370

13

Lentement

Mais


15 +

lon

in - u - ti

de

les

voeux!

Fort

Lentement

ont vain

Vivement

d - j

les vents

et


6
5

(eu)

opening storm sequence, the sound of the cataclysm here lurks more
vividly in his imagination as suggested by the sixteenths accompanying his voice: the recollection of the action becomes more vivid in his
mind, and his dramatic role changes from detached storyteller to emotional participant, as confirmed by his newly acquired virtuosity on the
word foudre (thunderbolt) (ex. 3e). This is a remarkable narrative
moment, the kind that classicist Philip Hardie calls a transgression of
the boundary between the world of the viewer and the world of the

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cabrini
example 3e. Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (1712), mvt. 3, mm. 2425

24

Fort

Au

bruit

de la Fou



6
5

dre

qui

gron

de

artwork,101 resulting in a union of realities between beholder and


image.102 Much like Flibiens passage describing Poussin, Morin here
creates an ekphrasis through which the listener can enter the scene vicariously through the narrators eyes.

Outlook and Conclusions


In conclusion, I would like to open up our ekphrastic window and
offer a brief outlook into the ways in which French aesthetic influenced
later composers. The urge to transcend formal boundaries in the tempest topos is the most conspicuous element of influence, as shown in
several eighteenth-century operatic examples by both French and Francophile composers alike. In his late opera Les Borades (1763), Rameau
produces a storm of gigantic dimension whose force breaks the strongest of formal boundariesthe division between acts. Rameau connects
all the distinct phases of the storm, which runs uninterruptedly from
act 3, scene 4 through an entracte into act 4, scene 1, by alternating
parallel major and minor keys (C major/C minor) and by maintaining similar thematic material in the instrumental music.103 The storm
scene in Glucks Iphignie en Tauride (1779) likewise runs through several numbers all linked to the instrumental storm at the beginning of
the opera;104 similarly, the storm from Niccol Piccinnis Iphignie en
Tauride (1781) arises at the end of act 1 and continues without break

371

101 Philip Hardie, Ovids Poetics of Illusion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2002), 147.
102 The phrase is that of Ja
s Elsner, Art and the Roman Viewer: the Transformation of Art
from the Pagan World to Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 33.
103 For a detailed analysis of the tempest, see Bouissou, Les Borades, 17386.
104 For a description of the scene, see Jeremy Hayes, Iphignie en Tauride (i),
in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie, Grove Music Online, Oxford Music
Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/O902326
(accessed December 14, 2008).

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
into the beginning of act 2.105 Mozart, too, subscribed to this type of
dramaturgy. In the storm scene from act 1, scenes 67 from his Frenchinspired Idomeneo (1781), Mozart links Electras aria Tutte nel cor vi
sento to the ensuing storm by modulating unexpectedly at measure 77
from D minor (the key of the aria) to C minor (the key of the storm)
and by continuing directly into the storm movement without interruption.106 Likewise, in the second storm scene at the end of act 2, Mozarts
concern for linking Idomeneos vocal utterance (Eccoti in me, barbaro Nume, il reo! nestled between nos. 17 and 18) to the surrounding tempest resulted in his choice of an accompanied recitative for the
sake of dramatic continuity and verisimilitude, as outlined in a letter to
his father:
In the last scene of Act 2 Idomeneo has an aria or rather a sort of cavatina between the choruses. Here it will be better to have a mere recitative, well supported by the instruments. For in this scene which will be
the finest in the whole opera . . . there will be so much noise and confusion on the stage that an aria at this particular point would cut a
poor figureand moreover there is the thunderstorm, which is not
likely to subside during Herr Raaffs aria, is it?107

372

105 For a description of the scene, see Mary Hunter, Iphignie en Tauride (ii),
in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie, Grove Music Online, Oxford Music
Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/O902327
(accessed December 14, 2008).
106 The libretto of Idomeneo is based on Antoine Danchets Idomene, written for Campras opera. See Julian Rushton, Idomeneo, re di Creta, in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera,
ed. Stanley Sadie, Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.
com/subscriber/article/grove/music/O902313 (accessed December 14, 2008), and Julian Rushton, ed., W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993),
11. For a detailed analysis of this scene, see Craig Ayrey, Elettras First Aria and the
Storm Scene, chap. 11 in W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo, ed. Julian Rushton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 13752.
107 Mozart to his father, Munich, 15 November 1780, cited in Cliff Eisen et al., Mozart, in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/
subscriber/article/grove/music/40258pg3 (accessed November 25, 2008). For a discussion of this scene, see Rushton, ed., W. A. Mozart: Idomeneo, 1516. If one is willing to take
a more daring historical leap, one could consider Berliozs Les Troyens (1863, acts 35
performed as Les Troyens Carthage; 1890, complete) as the last monument of the French
tempte tradition. Though the storm is concentrated in a single movement (act 4, Chasse
royale et orage), two elements connect it to the French storm tradition: a) the prominent
role of the orchestra in establishing imagery, (D. Kern Holoman, Troyens, Les, in
The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie, Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/O003352 [accessed March 10, 2009]); b) the structure of the movement, whose utter freedom reflects
its fully romantic milieu, a seamless whole with a riding momentum, as Ian Kemp aptly
puts it, in which in perpetually new ways textures gather substance and thin out, become
dense and then airy, sharp-edged and contoured, arresting and relaxing, all the time
controlling the weight of those accumulating waves of the movement which are the real
shape of the piece. Ian Kemp, Commentary and Analysis: (a) Chasse royale et orage (No.

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The composers quest for dramaturgical continuity as well as their
interest in inscribing storm scenes within a dramatic narrative transcended the boundaries of genre. Indeed, one of the most remarkable
aspects is how easily the tempest topos migrated to instrumental music.
Steven Zohn has called attention to the influence of French music on
Telemann, as well as his indebtedness to French aesthetic views concerning instrumental music.108 Echoing Du Bos, Telemann argued that
the pleasure we feel from the most moving sounds of instrumental
music arises in part from certain ideas that we attach to the same, from
emotion, and from our imagination, through which these sounds are
expressed.109 Zohn demonstrates that several tempests and similar
topoiunderworld furies, combats, and other tempestuous divinities
found in his characteristic overture-suites are indebted to prramiste
storm scenes in tragedies such as Pascal Collasses Thtis et Ple (1689)
and, especially, Marin Maraiss Alcyone.110 The language employed by
Telemann is similar to that found in French tempest scenes, as Zohn
observes: tremolos and rapid note values, sweeping scalar gestures,
powerful unisons, and other musical effects calculated to deliver maximum visceral excitement.111 Moreover, the tempte found in Telemanns
Wasser-Ouverture TVWV 55:C3, which introduced the serenata Unschtzbarer Vorwurf erkenntlicher Sinnen, TVWV 24:1, is inserted within a type of
dramatic narrative that recalls operatic dramaturgy, as described by a
contemporary commentator:

373

Represented first in the ouverture to the serenata was the calm, surging, and agitation of the sea. Following were (1) sleeping Thetis in a
sarabande, (2) waking Thetis in a boure, (3) amorous Neptune in a
loure, (4) playful Naiads in a gavotte, (5) joking Tritons in a harlequinade, (6) storming Aeolus in a tempte, (7) pleasant Zephyr in a
menuet altern[ativement], (8) tides [Ebbe und Fluht] in a gigue, [and]
(9) merry mariners in a canarie.112

The overture here functions much like an instrumental synopsis of the


entire serenata by presenting the sea in a progressively rising motion
from calm to agitation. As such, it provides clues to the audience about
29), in Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens, ed. Ian Kemp (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1988), 151.
108 Steven Zohn, Music for a Mixed Taste: Style, Genre, and Meaning in Telemanns Instrumental Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
109 Georg Philipp Telemann, preface to his opera Calypso, TVWV 21:19 (1727), as
cited in ibid., 65.
110 Zohn, Music for a Mixed Taste, 81.
111 Ibid., 82.
112 Staats- und Belehrte Zeitung des hollsteinischen Correspondenten, 13 April 1723, as
cited in ibid., 86.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy

374

the ensuing story, which sees Aeolus disrupting the peaceful maritime
idyll with his tempest.
Latent in Telemanns overture is a paradigm of linear temporal
progression that can also be found in late-eighteenth-century instrumental music depicting storms, from the concerto to the characteristic
symphony. In Summer from Vivaldis The Four Seasons (op. 8, 1725),
the notion of storm governs much of the concertos linear trajectory;
Vivaldi creates a remarkably dramatic scenario by enticing the listener
with a deceiving sense of calm, stirring up the tension in the first two
movements only to unleash the storms full force in the last. Paul Everett puts it eloquently: The finales unprecedented representation of
destructive power is made all the more effective by what precedes it:
an immense tightening of tension throughout the first movement that
the weary lyricism of the slow movement cannot dissipate.113 Everett
contends that Vivaldis high degree of motivic integration among its
movementsin particular the recurrence of the tremolo four-note motive (the storms ominous voice) and key rapid figurations throughout all the movements, coupled with the use of the same tonal center
throughout (G minor) and the use of triple meter in the outer movements (indicative of cause and effect)strongly suggests a relentless
progression across its three movements from anticipation to realization
of a single event.114
Characteristic symphonies depicting storms behaved in much the
same way. Richard Will notes that scenes of disruption in this repertory
employed similar musical language, including rapid scales and arpeggios and unpredictable accents, together with a general quickening of
tempo and of the speed at which events take place. Regarding temporal
linearity, Will notes that
scenes of disruption . . . occasion the largest numbers of unconventional forms . . . [and] suggest a dramatic linearity seemingly impossible to capture in a form with repeat signs or recapitulation, such that
it is in battles, hunts, and storms, that characteristic symphonies come
113 Paul Everett, Vivaldi: The Four Seasons and Other Concertos, Op. 8 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1996), 83.
114 Everett, Vivaldi, 8283. Other elements in the first movement help brew the tension and build anticipation, loading the gun for the explosiveness of the last: the unusual
opening ritornello, characterized by a set of disarmingly slow gestures, metrically dislocated, which in its final appearance gets displaced by the tutti picturing the winds battle
(m. 155), in what Everett calls progressive ritornello form, which shows the lasting effects of the storm and its relentless progression; the voices of the cuckoo and other birds,
which sound like the a premonition of disaster; the sound of the augmented second;
and the descending chromatic lines of the pianto del villanello. Ibid., 8385. See also
Cesare Fertonani, Antonio Vivaldi: La simbologia musicale nei concerti a programma (Pordenone: Edizioni Studio Tesi, 1992), 7180.

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cabrini
closest to the image of a program music governed by the narrative
order of its subject rather than formal convention.115

Such scenes can be found in storm symphonies of the late eighteenthand early nineteenth century, such as Anton Wranitzkys Aphrodite
(1792), Louis Massonneaus La Tempte et la calme (1794), and
Beethovens Sixth Symphony (Pastoral, 1808), which typically exhibit
violent and formally unusual storms alongside festive or pastoral movements in rondo or sonata form. Indeed, the elements that render the
storm particularly effective in Beethovens Pastoral have to do with
linear temporality superseding conventional symphonic form: the formal ambiguity of the storm, which is neither a slow introduction dependent on a movement, nor a truly independent movement itself; the fact
that its harmonic status quo depends on what precedes it and what follows it; and the way in which the run-ons between the last three movements that constitute the storm sequencethe country dance, the
storm, and the final celebrationaffect the unfolding of dramatic time,
creating a single, unbroken narrative that stands in stark contrast to
the first two, where no such considerations play any role.116
The linear treatment of the tempest topos by French cantata composers shows that even a small chamber genre characterized by a dramatically discontinuous framework was not immune to a compositional
aesthetic that favored continuity above all. Such treatment places the
French cantata within this tradition, and confirms the universality of
the tempest topos and its transferability between several types of genre
ranging from vocal to instrumental music.

375

Hunter College

115 See Richard Will, The Characteristic Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Beethoven
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 2324. See also pp. 16477.
116 Ibid., 75, 161, 16263, and 171.

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
Appendix: French Cantatas with Temptes
Works available in David Tunley, ed., The Eighteenth-Century French Cantata: A Seventeen-Volume Facsimile Set of the Most Widely Cultivated and Performed Music in Early Eighteenth-Century France, 17 vols. (New York: Garland, 1990) are marked with a dagger. Cantatas marked with an asterisk
include a tempest that is the expression of the main characters rage
rather than a real meteorological event. Shorter cantatilles have not
been included in this list. For a list of print and manuscript sources, see
Gene E. Vollen, The French Cantata: A Survey and Thematic Catalog (Ann
Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982).

376

1. Nicolas Bernier, Hipolite et Aricie (Book III, 1703)


2. Thomas-Louis Bourgeois, Bore (Book I, 1708)*
3. Andr Campra, Les Femmes (Book I, 1708)*
4. Andr Campra, Didon (Book I, 1708)*
5. Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Jonas (Book I, 1708)
6. Jean-Baptiste Stuck, Sur la prise de Lrida (Book II, 1708)
7. Philippe Courbois, Ariane (1710)*
8. Jean-Baptiste Stuck, Hraclite et Dmocrite (Book III, 1711)*
9. Charles-Hubert Gervais, Tlmaque (Book I, 1712)
10. Jean-Baptiste Morin, Le naufrage dUlisse (Book III, 1712)
11. Louis-Nicolas Clrambault, Landre et Hro (Book II, 1713)
12. Andr Campra, Ene et Didon (Book II, 1714)
13. Thomas-Louis Bourgeois, Zphire et Flore (Book II, 1715)
14. Thomas-Louis Bourgeois, Phdre et Hypolitte (Book II, 1715)
15. Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Le sommeil dUlisse (after 1715)
16. Louis-Nicolas Clrambault, La Muse de lOpra ou les caractres liriques
(1716)
17. Andr Cardinal Destouches, Oenone (1716)*
18. Michel Pignolet de Montclair, LAmour vang (Book II, 1717)
19. Michel Pignolet de Montclair, Lenlvement dOrithie (Book II, 1717)
20. Jean-Joseph Mouret, Andromde et Perse (Book I, 1718)
21. Jean-Philippe Rameau, Thtis, (ca. 1715July 1718)117
22. Nicolas Racot de Grandval, Limpatient (Book I, 1720)
23. Franois Colin de Blamont, Circ (Book I, 1723)*
24. Franois Colin de Blamont, Didon (Book I, 1723)
25. Honor-Claude Gudon de Presles, Calipso (Book I, 1723)*
26. Louis Lemaire, Lt (Book I, 1724)
27. Alexandre Villeneuve, Le Voyage de Cythre (1727)*
117 Available in Jean-Philippe Rameau, Cantates, canons, airs, Opera Omnia, 3rd ser.,
vol. 1 (Kassel: Brenreiter, 2008).

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28. Franois Bouvard, LAmour aveugl par la Folie (1728)*
29. Andr Campra, Les caprices de lAmour (Book III, 1728)*
30. Michel Pignolet de Montclair, Ariane et Bacchus (Book III, 1728)
31. Franois Colin de Blamont, Circ (Book III, 1729)*
32. Franois Bouvard, Landre et Hro (1729)
33. Jean-Baptiste Cappus, Sml (1732)
34. Ren Drouard de Bousset, Le Naufrage de Pharaon (1735)
35. Franois Brou, Orithie (1738)
36. Ren de Barn Brassac, LHiver (Book I, 1741)
37. Ren de Barn Brassac, LAmour Vainqueur des Parques (Book I,
1741)
38. Pierre de La Garde, Ene et Didon (ca. 1751)
39. Nicolas Racot de Grandval, Rien du Tout (1755, posthumous)*
40. Nicolas Racot de Grandval, Landre et Hro (1755, posthumous)
41. Anonymous, Sappho (n.d.)
42. Louis Marchand, Alcione (n.d.)
43. Franois Rbel, LAmour et Psych (n.d.)

Abstract

377

Between Lullys death (1687) and Rameaus operatic debut (1733),


composers of the tragdie en musique experimented with instrumental
effects, greatly expanding the dramatic role of the orchestra. The profusion of these effects coincides with a new aesthetic reappraisal of
instrumental music in France, as can be observed in the writings of Du
Bos. The tempte constitutes one of the most remarkable examples. Its
sonic violence was too strong to end with the instrumental movement
that depicted it; indeed, composers often prolonged the storm scene
into a series of movements all connected by thematic material and key
to produce a verisimilar effect of the storms momentum, thereby creating what I term the domino effect. By the early eighteenth century,
the tempte had become such a well established and popular topos that it
began migrating to non-staged genres like the cantata.
The transference of the tempest topos from the tragdie lyrique to the
French baroque cantata entailed the breaking of formal frames. Unlike
the supple dramatic structure of French opera, the cantata adopted
the more rigid mold of the Italian opera seriathe recitative-aria unit
which separated the flow of time into active and static moments. Three
case studiesBerniers Hipolite et Aricie (1703), Jacquet de la Guerres
Jonas (1708), and Morins Le naufrage dUlisse (1712)demonstrate
how composers manipulated this mold to satisfy a French aesthetic
that valued temporal continuity for the sake of verisimilitude. All three
composers employ key and instrumental music to portray the storms

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t he jo u rn al o f m u sic o l ogy
forward momentum across recitatives and arias, relying primarily on
rhythmic energy and melodic activity to create continuity. Although
each composers musical response varies according to personal style,
what emerges is a shared aesthetic and compositional strategy employed
to portray an event whose relentless power transcends the temporal
boundaries between recitative and aria. This aesthetic of continuity and
linearity shown by French baroque composers influenced the treatment
of the tempest topos in the later eighteenth-century repertory, vocal and
instrumental alike, including opera, the concerto, the overture-suite,
and the characteristic symphony.
Keywords: domino effect, French cantata, instrumental aesthetics,
storm, verisimilitude

378

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