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Polyphonic Keyboard Accompaniment in the Early Baroque: An Alternative to Basso

Author(s): Gregory S. Johnston
Source: Early Music, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 51-60+63-64
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL:
Accessed: 22-02-2018 16:58 UTC

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Gregory S. Johnston

Polyphonic keyboard accompaniment in the early

Baroque: an alternative to basso continuo

ganist and as Schadaeus's collaborator, prepared a

B ASSO continuo
belongs and the style
were conjoined earlyperiod
in thistocentury
which it supplementary volume containing a figured bass
when Hugo Riemann coined the term General- part for the motets. A fourth volume with figured
bafizeitalter, the Thoroughbass Era.1 Basso continuo bass was prepared by Vincentius in 1617, and in 1625
has indeed become integral to our conception of he saw fit to prepare and publish at Wtirzburg a fig-
Baroque style, and with few exceptions pervades ured bass part for Orlande de Lassus's Magnum opus
modern-day performances of Baroque music. It musicum.4 In his prefacing remarks to the work, Vin-
would seem, however, that in establishing neat styl- centius notes that the practice of adding basso con-
istic boundaries for the Baroque as the Thorough- tinuo to polyphonic music in this manner had be-
bass Period, scholars have largely neglected, and on come common throughout Italy and Germany.5
occasion suppressed, an alternative and concurrent While the thought of recasting Palestrina and
method of accompaniment-namely, polyphonic Lasso in a Baroque mould may cause some conster-
accompaniment from intabulation or score. nation, similar feelings of ambivalence towards
In judging from most modern accounts of basso continuo existed in the 17th century. In the
Baroque music, the popularity of the basso continuo second volume of his Il transilvano (Venice, 1609),
was virtually instantaneous, its application univer- Girolamo Diruta directs his organ students towards
sal, its success unequivocal. Once established, basso the sedulous study of ricercares, canzonas, Masses,
continuo soon exceeded its original functional des- motets and madrigals with the hope that they might
ignation and became fashionably de rigueur, as thereby attain the highest level of expertise in playing
prima prattica works of the 16th century were re- the organ.6 Diruta recommends that organists copy
issued with redundant but stylish continuo parts. In polyphonic compositions into score and play as
1619, for example, an edition of four 16th-century many of the vocal parts as possible. His pupils were
Masses (three by Palestrina, one by Giovanni advised in particular against accompanying from a
Francesco Anerio) was published with figured figured bass, because figures, to his mind, were inca-
basses, and was warmly enough received that it was pable of reliably indicating in which part of a poly-
reprinted several times before the end of the cen- phonic texture the consonances and dissonances
tury.2 In Germany the Promptuarium musicum, a occur.7 In the Conclusioni del suono del Organo
three-volume anthology of ecclesiastical works writ- (Bologna, 1609), Adriano Banchieri concurs fully
ten in the prima prattica, was compiled by the Speyer with Diruta:
school rector Abraham Schadaeus and published at
Because it is easy to play it, many Organists nowadays are
Strasbourg between 1611 and 1613.3 Caspar Vincen- highly successful in concerted playing; but, in their great van-
tius, who at the time was active as Speyer's civic or- ity on the score of their sureness in playing with others, they

Gregory S. Johnston is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. He is currently
writing a book on Heinrich Schiltz's Musikalische Exequien in the context of funerary practices in
17th-century Germany.


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give little thought to exerting themselves in improvisation provide this same Bassus ad Organum, except in Viadana's
[Fantasia] and playing from score, whereas it is in this very fashion above mentioned [i.e. few-voiced concertato compo-
domain that many a good man has made himself immortal. sitions], when it is not to be dispensed with; I am still of the
So that, in short, we shall soon have two classes of players: on same opinion, but I leave every one free to add one whenever
the one hand Organists, that is to say, such as practise good he pleases.10
playing from Score and improvisation, and, on the other
hand, Bassists who, overcome by sheer laziness, are content To encourage organists to respect this stylistic
with simply playing the Bass [i.e. basso continuo] ...8 division and to apply the appropriate method of
The distinction made by Banchieri between the accompaniment, Staden refrains in the first volume
two classes of accompaniment is an important one. of his Kirchenmusic (Nuremberg, 1625) from adding
Generally speaking, basso continuo was vertically a continuo accompaniment to a number of compo-
conceived and used to supply a full harmonic frame- sitions in the collection, judging that those pieces
work for monodies and concerted works. The other would be less musical with it.11
type of accompaniment was linearly conceived and For German organists, the polyphonic alternative
comprised what was essentially a literal transcrip- to basso continuo was Deutsche Orgeltabulatur, or
tion-or as close to one as possible-of a poly- German letter tablature. As the latter name sug-
phonic composition. Italian keyboardists made use gests, all pitches in this notational system are in-
of two kinds of such transcriptions. The partitura or dicated by letter rather than by notes on a staff.
spartiti is a system whereby each voice part is notatedGerman letter tablature was particularly useful to
on a separate staff and which by nature is not always organists because it was economical (lined manu-
well-suited to idiomatic keyboard works. The other script paper was not needed) and allowed more
type is the intavolatura or intavolate, which in music on a page than did the two Italian formats.
essence is a modern keyboard score better suited to We today are most likely to think of letter tablature
the textural freedom of idiomatic keyboard writing. as an inefficient notational system-and in some
The importance of distinguishing between styles ways it certainly was-but German organists in the
of accompaniment is underscored by another ItalianBaroque, especially in the north, were remarkably
composer, Francesco Bianciardi, who observes in his slow to abandon the practice. On the contrary, let-
Breve regola per imparar a sonare sopra il Basso con ter tablature actually enjoyed an increase in popu-
ogni sorte d'Instrumento (Siena, 1607): larity for part of the 17th century.12 The best-known
examples of letter tablature being used at a rela-
It is therefore necessary to make a distinction between com-
positions, not all of which can be conveniently played from a tively late date are in the manuscript of J. S. Bach's
Bass; not, for instance, ancient fugal compositions, much Orgelbiichlein (1717-23); here the composer switches
less, however, certain modern ones, which we find adorned from modern staff notation to letter tablature out
with new inventions; in such instances, unless the intervals to
of convenience, in order to complete the last few
be used are noted above the Basses, and unless the player has
measures of a composition.13 Dietrich Buxtehude,
the art of counterpoint, or a most highly trained ear, he will
easily ruin the composition instead of assisting.9 on the other hand, was perfectly comfortable using
letter tablature for composing rather involved vocal
The concerns of the Italian composers were re- and instrumental works,14 and Andreas Werck-
flected no less in the writings of their German meister writing in 1698 preferred letter tablature
counterparts. The Nuremberg organist Johann to staff notation but wanted to make it easier to
Staden conforms with Bianciardi when he expresses use.15 Even Jacob Adlung in 1758 speaks respectfully
his own views on keyboard accompaniment in the of this notational anachronism in his Anleitung
Kurzer und einfiiltiger Bericht fir diejenigen, so im zu der musicalischen Gelahrtheit.16 Eighteenth-
Basso ad Organum unerfahren, was bey demselben century developments of musical style-among
zum Theil in Acht zu nehmen, a brief pedagogical them textural preference, harmonic vocabulary,
work appended to the second volume of his Kirchen- instrumental techniques-gradually led to the
music of 1626:
demise of letter tablature, though it received atten-
I have never, it is true, regarded it as a matter of necessity totion as late as 1782 in Johann Samuel Petri's


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Anleitung zur practischen Musik, vor neuange- the appropriate rhythmic values and then recon-
hende Sdnger und Instrumentspieler (Lauban, 1767; necting those notes with ties.2 As to the efficacy of
2/1782).17 these ties paired with the customary figures in Le
It is clear that composers in Italy and Germany nuove musiche, Caccini admits 'not being able ... to
during the first part of the 17th century were well write it out more clearly except in tablature'.21 This
aware of the currency of two basic approaches to same method is employed by Emilio de' Cavalieri in
keyboard accompaniment, and understood more- the Rappresentatione di Anima, e di Corpo in 16oo.
over that compositional style was the principal fac- But where Peri and Caccini sometimes fail to pro-
tor determining whether basso continuo or some vide figures at all, Cavalieri conscientiously seeks to
manner of score reduction was to be employed. Our render in his basses a rather specific accompaniment
modern approach to keyboard accompaniment for by indicating simple and compound intervals, so
music of the Baroque, at least in practice, has that triads in second inversion could be figured as
largely failed to reflect this dichotomy. On the one 64, 4,11a
143,11 'ee 3Clearly Cavalieri's figured
13 and even138
hand, we were perhaps misled by the proliferation bass is not intended just as a
of publications in the 17th and 18th centuries that of the harmony; it is meant
focused entirely on basso continuo, writings ini- specific pitches for the accom
tially required to explain how compositions in the lieri also uses the numeri and s
new style were to be realized in performance and to specify unaccented and a
needed subsequently to keep pace with changing tones,23 emphasizing counter
musical styles and tastes. Keyboard accompaniment mony. Even when compoun
based on score-reading or tablature, on the other used, performers were expect
hand, had already been in use for some 2oo years by carefully and to resolve the d
1600,18 so required no special attention at that time rect pitch.24
and because it was unexceptional has failed to catch Similar practices were employed in Germany.
the attention of scholars and performers working in Under the heading 'Concerning the ties above and
the source-dependent field of performance practice. below the notes and numbers' in the Kurzer und Ein-
It would seem that the traditional mode of accom- filtiger Bericht,25 Johann Staden adopts the Italians'
panying from score and tablature-like so many system of ties to indicate changing harmonies over a
other aspects of period performance practice-was sustained bass note. He also includes a supplemen-
so quietly routine in its day that there was no good tary heading, 'Concerning the dots beside the num-
reason for spending time on it in formal published bers or figures'.26 With this second system Staden
writings. Thus the general tendency today is to see sets 'dots next to the numbers or figures ... in order
basso continuo as a new development (which it was to give an indication of the duration of the minims,
not) that completely supplanted earlier, presumably semi-minims, etc., according to what note they
inferior kinds of accompaniment (which it did not),stand over', 27 which is merely a variant of the Italian
when, in fact, the origins of basso continuo are practice.
inextricably interwoven with older accompanying The most important and comprehensive source of
practices.19 information about early continuo practices in Ger-
In the earliest discussions of basso continuo, Ital- many is the Syntagma musicum of Michael Praeto-
ian and German musicians recognize the composi- rius. The principal discussion of thoroughbass, de-
tional significance and convenience of this mode of rived almost entirely from Italian sources, is found
accompaniment, but, in their treatment of it, have in chapter 6, 'De Basso Generali seu Continuo', of
difficulties dissociating themselves from the tradi- volume 3 (Wolfenbtittel, 1619).8 What Praetorius
tional score-reading and intabulations. In Italy, for has to say about basso continuo is revealing both in
instance, the early monodists Jacopo Peri and Giulio terms of his conception of the technique in general
Caccini indicate the harmonic rhythm over a sus- and, more specifically, in terms of how it was sup-
tained bass pedal by breaking up the bass note into posed to be realized in 17th-century musical practice.


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1 Engraving of Michael Praetorius from Musae Sioniae, i 2 Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii (Wolfenbuittel,
(Regensburg, 1605) 2/1619), p.131

Praetorius introduces his discourse with his defini- much a harmonic reduction of the composition as it
tion of the term: is an intabulation of the three-part polyphonic tex-
The bassus generalis or continuus is so named because it con- ture. With the exception of the rhythmic dimension,
tinues from the beginning [of a work] to the end and, as a the cadential raised third and the avoidance of com-
master part, contains within itself the entire motet or con- pound intervals, a strict performance of Praetorius's
figured bass would sound exactly the same as an
It seems from his discussion in the Syntagma that intabulation of the composition. Even though Prae-
Praetorius conceived of basso continuo as being torius does not use compound intervals in the fig-
somehow equatable to keyboard tablature, advising ured bass, except as an example later on in the Syn-
organists to compare the intabulation of a vocal tagma of how one could use them, he nevertheless
composition with its continuo part.30 For the benefit expects organists to play the notes at the correct
of the reader, Praetorius provides an untexted three- pitch level, as did Cavalieri and Viadana before
voice composition and its figured bass part (illus.2, him.31 Upon making this comparison, we can per-
transcribed in ex.xa). On the surface it is apparent haps better understand what Praetorius means in his
that the application of the numbers (numeri) and ac- definition of basso continuo when he says it 'con-
cidentals (signi) is consistent with a fairly standard, if tains within itself the entire motet or concerto'.
excessively detailed, figured bass. However, upon Praetorius is emphatic in prescribing detailed fig-
closer scrutiny of the figured bass vis-a-vis an in- urings of the bass, hoping thereby to prevent the per-
tabulation of the same work (ex.xb) it becomes ap- former from incorrectly realizing the intended har-
parent that Praetorius's continuo part is not so monies. To underscore this point, Praetorius quotes


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Ex.1 (a) Illus.2 transcribed and corrected; (b) the vocal score of illus.2 intabulated

OW Flo oo, 1j
6 5 8 7 5 7 6 5 8 7 6 5
5 6 6 56 6 5 4 3 6 5 4 3 3 4 4 3 3# 4 4 3#

.. . . . IGO 0

(b) chapter 6 Praetorius is quick to

ganist that basso continuo was
1TB l _ _ii _1 11 iT- iTFTH i II to satisfy dilatory organists to
de f e f g ffe dccb bagcccb aa gg
compositions34-precisely the
been levelled by Banchieri. He c
organists who are unable, or si
bag fedd e ffe f# gg f#gg play directly from the figured
basis for entering transcription
or letter tablature. Praetorius pr
still uncomfortable with Noten
G A BBcc FFGG c c d d ddGG
notation) acquaint themselves w
first setting works 'in their cu
extensively from book 3 of ture, and see
Bernardo for themselves
Strozzi's Affe- th
tuosi concerti ecclesiastici: with the basso continuo in every
And this [playing in accordance pendix
with to
thethe second inten-
composer's part of ch
tions] could not be brought about already
otherwise, or argued for the r
more easily,
than by this device of numbersfulness of by
or figures, basso continuo,
means of which advan
any little boy, even if he has familiarized himself with them
argument to convince the doub
only a little, will play the music just as correctly and without
merits. He shows by example th
discord as if he were playing from a complete Tablature. And
indeed I have heard sundry persons, simply
and found indispensa
by actual
experience that, by the aid andpoint, refers
employment of the readerin
the figures to the
question, they treated and played
Teil) the Motets
from his of
(which, as everyone well knows, are admirably constructed
gyrica (Wolfenbtittel, 1619). Pr
in accordance with the rules [of counterpoint], filled with
organists set the work in staff n
imitations, and, in short, interwoven and complicated with
beautiful ties and syncopations) inor, if manner
such necessary,
it 'Ger
seemed to the hearers quite as(Teutsche
though theyBuchstaben Tabulat
had all been set
out in complete Tablature, since they strictly
playing heard nothing that
from score or ta
sounded amiss in the playing.32
several chords lacking thirds.37
Even though Praetorius While
himself seems to writing
Praetorius's have im
embraced basso continuo with enthusiasm,
bivalence we see
in 17th-century Ge
him also trying repeatedly wholesale adoption
in the Syntagma of basso con
to soften
and most
the resistance of German organists authoritative
who appear moretestim
sceptical of the practice.33maintaining distinct
In his opening types
remarks to of a


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tinuo is actually intended only f
the motet "Ist nicht Ephraim [m
the end of the work, diligent or
our to transcribe [the vocal part
though the practice of accompan
bass appears to be well establish
1625, Schtitz writes in his prefa
benevolus lector in the Cantiones s

The publisher, thinking that this sligh

agreeable [to the public], wrested th
me; and he provided the opportunity
more add, at the end, one or two piec
tinuo. I would beg the organists who
sensitive ears, however, not to spare th
ITT 11
all the parts in score or so-called tabla
to accompany, in the usual manner, so
part, I should find it misguided and cl

More assertive still are Schti

years later, boldly stated on the
Geistliche Chormusik: 'Whereby
on the recommendation and at
publisher], not however out of n
found'.41 The actual preface to t
lengthy discourse on the import
posers learning to compose accor
strict counterpoint. Schtitz, lik
before him, insists that only
13 D
stricter, regulated style of comp
a4mt4) )9- M br cLc
ginning organist be able to lay t
3 Engraving of Heinrich Schtitz aged 42 (1627-8)
tion upon which to base his effo
style. As for the nature of the a
from Heinrich Schtitz.38 The titles to
suited and prefaces
the motets toof
the Gei
published collections areSchttz
most writes
helpful because
Schtitz uses them as a platform from which to pro-
Since some, amongst organists, have
mote his musical aesthetic. They reveal to us much
tion to join in in this slight work of
about the interpretation of Schtitz's
posed withoutmusic
basso and, by
continuo, and a
extension, the music of his contemporaries.
transcribing The
such into tablature or sc
the diligence
four volumes of greatest relevance toand
theeffort, hereupon app
make him regret it, but rather that t
study are the Psalmen Davids (1619), Cantiones sacrae
also achieve all the more its desired effe
(1625), Geistliche Chormusik (1648) and Zwdlf
geistliche Gesiinge (1657) in that fourth
the use of collection,
organ tab- the Z
lature-or perhaps more Gesiinge,43
accurately which
the explicit
followed in 16
eschewal of thoroughbass-enters significantly
for publication by theinto
aged Schti
Schtitz's conception and performance
proteg6 Christoph
of the works.
Kittel, court
Even though
In each of these volumes Schtitz Kittel
makes his wrote the pr
on accompanying clear to the (illus.4),44
musical public inthe
gen-voice of
throughout. Kittel informs
eral and to organists in particular. He states in the the
preface to the Psalmen Davids in the
that 'the basso collection


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4 Christoph Kittel's preface in the cantus partbook of Schfitz's Zwdlfgeistliche Gesidnge (1657)

vocally or instrumentally, with or without organ the independent lines. By extension the rhetoric of
accompaniment. He adds: affective melodic writing may be enfeebled by the
continuo's early completion of the full harmony, an-
Hence the basso continuo, to be used only at pleasure
thereby and not out of necessity, is also attached and pub-
ticipating important pitches before they are sung.46
lished together on the recommendation of the publisher; and To accompany these works from a figured bass must
organists, who perchance propose to join in with their also subvert the effectiveness of transitions between
organ[s], are kindly reminded to transcribe if not all of this polyphonic and homophonic sections, because the
slight work nevertheless some pieces from it (above all, how-
polyphony will most often be tainted by the perva-
ever, the Mass and the Magnificat) into their customary tab-
lature or score, and to play from it.45
sive homophony of the accompaniment.47 Within
the polyphonic sections themselves, the presence of
What was it about basso continuo that rankled in basso continuo would also compromise consider-
Schtitz? What was it about certain continuo accom- ably the effectiveness of subtle textural changes
paniments that, to him, not only failed to 'achieve in the scoring. Moreover, differences between
the desired effect' but in fact sounded 'misguidedharmonic rhythm and the activity of the vocal lines,
in the presence of a continuo accompaniment, will
and clumsy'? First of all, continuo enforces a percep-
result in a constant level of dissonance that would
tion of a musical texture that is primarily vertical;
the eye and ear of the accompanist, and conse-not exist-or would at least be compositionally con-
trolled-if the work were accompanied from tabla-
quently that of the listener, are compelled to see and
hear harmonically rather than contrapuntally, toture or score. F. T. Arnold prefaces his authoritative
focus on a progression or succession of harmoniesThe art of accompaniment from a thoroughbass by
rather than attending to the polyphonic interplay ofstating his view that 'a chordal accompaniment on


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a keyed instrument ... presents a clear, though un- aggregate d-d'-g'-a'-b'-c"-d". (An additional e' is
obtrusive, picture of the harmony, and forms a back- also heard for half the beat.) While brisk tempos,
ground to the filigree-work of the moving parts'.48 short rhythmic durations, and differentiated dy-
This may hold true for a good deal of Baroque namics and timbres may serve to sublimate such
music, but what Arnold implies through harmonic clashes, they are clashes nonetheless and
metaphor-i.e. that sounds can somehow exist on evidently were perceived as such by Schtitz and some
exclusive planes-is misleading. In fact, the har- of his contemporaries.
monies rendered by the keyboardist move at a pace Two other features should be taken into consid-
sometimes gratingly different from that of the vocal
eration in view of Praetorius's discussion of basso
parts. An instance of this from Schtitz's 'Ist nicht continuo in the Syntagma musicum. First, Praeto-
Ephraim mein teurer Sohn' of the Psalmen Davids of rius advocates the use of an instrument to reinforce
1619 is shown in ex.2. Schtitz's figured bass-a 6-4 the bass line.49 But consider what this does to the
chord with d in the bass-does nothing to inform balance in a work of equal-voiced polyphony; the
the player of the active harmonic and melodic move- lowest voice is shown in relief not only by the
ment taking place above it in the vocal parts. Conse- noticeable increase in numbers-the left hand of
the keyboardist and the added bass instrument-
quently, instead of the tension growing gradually be-
fore the resolution of the harmony in the next but also by the multiple timbral colourings that
measure, there is a premature harmonic crush on the these instruments bring to the bass line.50 In short,
third beat of the measure comprising the pitch it is no longer equal-voiced polyphony. In addition
to the so-called Fundament-Instrumenta, Praetorius
Ex.2 Schfitz, 'Ist nicht Ephraim mein teurer Sohn', also endorses the active participation of Ornament-
Psalmen Davids, extract Instrumenta, such as the lute, theorbo, harp, chitar-
rone, lirone, violin and cornetto.51 The players of
these 'continuo' instruments, according to Praeto-
mug, spricht der rius, are expected to use only the figured bass to
improvise 'new passagi and counterpoints, and thus
virtually compose entirely new parts or lines'.52
mug, spricht der
While it is precisely this kind of accompaniment
that Schtitz prescribes in the Historia der Aufer-
stehung Jesu Christi of 1623, in a 'worst possible' sce-
mug, spricht der
nario, one can well imagine what could become of
a - - - . . . -- - . . the delicate shadings and subtle rhetoric in Schtitz's
muS, spricht der Cantiones sacrae or Geistliche Chormusik.
Having looked now at the two manners of
accompaniment that co-existed in the first part of
mug, spricht
the Baroque, there are several interrelated issues
that should be raised. To what extent should
mug, spricht der
accompaniment from tablature or score inform
modern performances of 17th-century choral
music? First of all, it is impossible to say how many
muS, spricht der composers of polyphonic music, besides Schitz,
o a had to make concessions to fashion-conscious pub-
lishers. Schitz at least seems to have been secure
muS, spricht der enough in his position at Dresden to express repeat-
edly his chagrin at the thought of performers

4 (3# 4) (#)3
accompanying certain of his works from figured
bass. But how many other composers at this time


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silently had to give in to publishers' demands as a My objective in this article has not been to argue
precondition of seeing their music in print; or pro- one-sidedly in favour of one mode of accompani-
vided figured basses of their own accord for purely ment over another, or to oversimplify the extremely
commercial reasons; or, without their consent or complicated relationship between types of accom-
foreknowledge, had figured basses appended to paniment. Rather I have attempted to redress, in
their music by the likes of Vincentius? It is also part, the balance that is evident in discussions of
important to consider how these works would then accompaniment in 17th-century sources but is
be treated by performers. Considering the tradition sorely lacking in modern commentaries and perfor-
and prevalence of accompanying from tablature in mances. The tendency, past and present, has been
Baroque Germany, Praetorius's solicitous pitch to to use historical sources to trace innovative changes
German organists on the merits of basso continuo, or developments of basso continuo. In order to nar-
and Schitz's observation that 'better' musicians row the focus in their studies of continuo, scholars
would prefer accompaniment from tablature
have (a
largely excluded from their discussion any sig-
challenge to the ego of any self-respecting organist),
nificant mention of accompaniment friom intabula-
it is entirely likely that many works composed tionsinand scores-or have only nodded in its direc-
the style of equal-voiced polyphony wouldtionhave
before moving on to the more dynamic subject
been accompanied from an intabulation or ofscore,
basso continuo. This fundamental problem com-
whether or not they had been published originally
pounds with each successive step, however, as these
with figured basses. exclusionary secondary sources are then credited as
As a case in point, one might examine a surviving
comprehensive distillations of the primary sources.
As references
intabulation made in 1645 by Johannes Simbrack? of to Baroque keyboard accompaniment
the first two items of Heinrich Schtitz's Musikalische
become more general-as they must, for example,
Exequien (swv279, 280).53 When the Exequienin music history textbooks-tablature and score-
reading either cease to exist altogether or are
published in 1636 Schtitz included with it a figured
bass for each of the three movements. Schtitz re- mentioned fleetingly as an introduction to basso
marked in the prefacing ordinance, however, that continuo. By acknowledging intabulations and
the instrumental accompaniment is essential only toscore-reading as legitimate methods of accompani-
the first and third movements. Simbrack? respondedment for polyphony from the first half of the 17th
accordingly in his intabulation by including basso century, we may well be rewarded by hearing this
continuo only in the first movement and omitting itmusic, to recall Schitz, 'achieve all the more its
altogether from the second. desired effect'.

Earlier versions of this article were read (New York, 1947), p.11). The Harvard 1619). According to Robert Eitner,
at the Fifth Biennial Conference on Dictionary of Music and, more recently, this collection was reissued in 1626,
Baroque Music at the University of The New Harvard Dictionary ofMusic 1635, 1639, 1662 and 1689. R. Eitner,
Durham in July 1992, and at 'Was der find the Baroque synonymous with 'Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi', Bio-
Generalbass Sey?: Ein Symposium der the 'thoroughbass period'. See The graphisch-Bibliographisches Quellen-
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis' in Basel Harvard Dictionary ofMusic, ed. W. Lexikon, vii (Graz, 2/1959), p.297.
(Switzerland), March 1993. Apel (Cambridge, MA, 2/1969), s.v.
'Baroque music'; and The New Harvard 3 0. Riemer, 'Schadaeus, Abraham',
New Grove.
Dictionary, ed. D. Randel (Cambridge,
1 H. Riemann, 'Das General-Basszeit- MA, 1986), s.v. 'Thorough-bass, figured
bass'. 4 RISM L1o33. In magni illius magni
alter: Die Monodie des 17. Jahr-
Boiariae ducis symphoniarchae Orlandi
hunderts und die Weltherrschaft
de Lasso Magnum opus musicum Bassus
der Italiener', Handbuch derMusik- 2 Messe a 4 voci: Le tre prime del ad organum nova methodo dispositus;
geschichte, ii/2, ed. A. Einstein (Leipzig, Palestina [sic] cio&, Iste Confessor, Sine studio et opera Gasparis Vincentii
2/1912; R/New York, 1972). M. F. Nomine, & di Papa Marcello, ridotta
(Wtirzburg, 1625).
Bukofzer subsequently calls it the a quattro da Giov. Franc. Anerio, &
'thorough-bass era' (Music in the quarta della Battaglia dell'istesso G. Fr. 5 A. L. Kirwan, 'Vincentius, Caspar',
Baroque era from Monteverdi to Bach Anerio. Con il Bc. per sonare (Rome, New Grove. A reprint of Vincentius's


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All use subject to
preface may be found in 'Mittheil- auf Violen und andern Instrumenten 17 J. Wolf, Handbuch der Notations-
ungen', Monatshefte fir Musik- gericht Mit einem Basso ad Organum kunde, ii: Tonschriften der Neuzeit: Tab-
geschichte, iv/1o (1872), pp.209-10. (Nuremberg, 1626). The complete ulaturen, Partitur, Generalbaf3 und
Bericht is reproduced in the Allgemeine Reformversuche (Leipzig, 1919;
6 Girolamo Diruta, Seconda parte del
Musikalische Zeitung, xii (1877), R/Hildesheim, 1963), P.35.
Transilvano dialogo diviso in quattro
cols.99-103, 119-23. English trans.
libri (Venice, 1609), Lib. 4, p.16. O. 18 For discussions of the history of
quoted in Arnold, The art of accom-
Kinkeldey, Orgel und Klavier in der keyboard partitura and tablature in
paniment from a thorough-bass, p.1ol.
Musik des 16. Jahrhunderts: Ein Beitrag Germany, see Apel, The notation of
zur Geschichte der Instrumentalmusik
11 F. Oberdorffer, 'GeneralbaB', Die polyphonic music, pp.16-47; and Wolf,
(Leipzig, 1910; R/Hildesheim, 1968), Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart Handbuch der Notationskunde, ii,
p.211. (Kassel, 1955), iv, cols. 1715-16. PP.3-35.

7 Diruta, Seconda parte del 19 See M. Schneider, Die Anfidnge des

12 W. Apel, The notation of polyphonic
Transilvano: 'Non si puo dar regola Basso Continuo und Seiner Bezifferung
music, 9oo-16oo (Cambridge, 5/1953),
sicura, atteso che non si puo sapere (Leipzig, 1918); and T. Borgir, The per-
senza vedere le consonanze, che fanno p.37.
formance of basso continuo in Italian
l'altre parte sopra quel Basso generale: 13 A facsimile reprint of Bach's chorale Baroque music (Ann Arbor, 1987),
e di qui viene che si commettono tanti prelude 'Wir Christen Letit' from the pp.11-20.
errori di dissonanze: ... Si che non vi
Orgelbaiichlein may be found in Apel,
date a questa poltonaria, partite li 20 Peri and Caccini use this method
The notation of polyphonic music, p.39.
canti, e suonate tutte le parti, che fareteSee also R. Hill, 'Tablature versus staff in their respective settings of Euridice,
bel sentire ...' ('One can give no reli- and Caccini also discusses it in the
notation: or, Why did the young J. S.
able rules, because one cannot know, foreword to Le nuove musiche (Flo-
Bach compose in tablature?', Church,
without seeing the composition, what stage, and studio: music and its contexts rence, 1601). For a richly annotated
the other voices are doing over the translation of Caccini's foreword, see
in seventeenth-century Germany,
basso generale, and therefore one will G. Caccini, Le nuove musiche, ed. H. W.
ed. P. Walker (Ann Arbor, 1990),
commit many incorrect dissonances ...PP.349-59. Hitchcock, Recent Researches in the
If one does not give in to this laziness, Music of the Baroque Era, x (Madison,
set the voices in score and play all 14 For facsimile reprints of Buxte- 1970). Caccini's foreword is also trans-
the parts, and then it will sound hude's use of tablature see Dietrich lated in O. Strunk, Source readings in
beautiful ...') Cited in A. Compagne, Buxtehude, Werke, vi, ed. G. Harms music history: the Baroque era (New
'Die Anfinge des Generalbasses oder: and H. Trede (Hamburg, 1935), York, 1965), pp.17-32.
Die Praxis des Begleitens im Italieni- pp.8-12. Also see C. Lasell, 'Vocal
schen Frtih-Barock', Basler Jahrbuch 21 '... non si potendo fuori della
polyphony in the Lineburg Tablatures:
ntauolatura per quanto io conosco
fir historische Musikpraxis, xix a double repertory of solo organ
descriuerlo con pii' facilith ...' Giulio
(1995), p.18. literature and accompanimental
Caccini, Le nuove musiche, Monuments
Absetzungen', Church, stage, and of Music and Music Literature in Fac-
8 Quoted in F. T. Arnold, The art of
studio, ed. Walker, pp.231-78.
accompaniment from a thorough-bass simile, 1st ser., music, xxix (New York,
as practised in the XVIIth and XVIIIth 15 Ironically, Werckmeister, writing in 1973), n.p. English translation quoted
centuries (London, 1931), p.81. 1698, uses German letter tablature in from Hitchcock's edition, p.56. The

9 Quoted in Arnold, The art of accom- presenting his discussion of basso con- type of tablature referred to in this
paniment from a thorough-bass, p.8o. tinuo, in Die nothwendigsten Anmerck- instance is the two-staved keyboard
ungen und Regeln, wie der Bassus con-
o10 'Denselben Bassum ad Organum tinuus oder General-Bass wol kbnne
22 Arnold, The art of accompaniment
habe ich zwar niemals ffir eine Noth- tractiret werden (Aschersleben, 1698,
durft erkannt zu setzen, als nur in from a thorough-bass, p.49.
gemelter Viadanischer Manier, da er 23 Arnold, The art of accompaniment
nicht zu entbehren; der Meinung ich 16 On the topic of letter tablature, from a thorough-bass, p.59.
noch verbleibe, jedoch lasse ich einem Adlung says, 'Sie ist schwer; doch
jeden sein Belieben, solchen zu setzen k6nnte nebsten der italianischen mein 24 Viadana comments on the impor-
wo er hin will.' J. Staden, Kurzer und Vater sie so fertig, als ein andrer die tance of matching pitches in the pre-
einfidltiger Bericht fOr diejenigen, so im Noten.' ('Tablature is difficult; face to his Cento concerti ecclesiastici
Basso ad Organum unerfahren, was nonetheless, my father could read it, (Venice, 1602): 'Let the organist be
bey demselben zum Theil in Acht zu as well as staff notation, as easily as warned always to make the cadences in
nehmen, appendix to Kirchen-Music, another can read the latter.') J. Adlung, their proper position: that is to say, if a
Ander Theil, Geistlicher Gesang und Anleitung zu der musicalischen concerto for one bass voice alone is

Psalmen auf die firnembsten Fest im Gelahrtheit (Erfurt, 1758; R/Kassel, being sung, to make a bass cadence; if
Jahr und sonsten zu gebrauchen; von 1, 1953), 186-7n. English trans. in Hill, it be for a tenor, to make a tenor
2, 3, 4, 5, 6 und 7 Stimmen: Dabei etliche 'Tablature versus staff notation', p.351. cadence; [etc.]' Quoted in Strunk,


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All use subject to
Source readings in music history: the cessful attempts' ('verglfickte Ver- Discant pro Organo to help young
Baroque era, p.62, based on the transla- suche'). Abraham provides a rather organists in his Puercinium (Wolfen-
tion and commentary in Arnold, The detailed discussion of Praetorius and btittel, 1621). In the 12th ordinance of
art of accompaniment from a thorough- basso continuo in chapter 1, 'Der the Nota ad musicum he advises inex-
bass, pp.11-15. See also H. Haack, Generalbag-Notationsmittel oder perienced organists first to transcribe
Anfiange des Generalbass-Satzes: die Stilelement?', pp.29-4o. the bass and accompanying melody
'Cento Concerti Ecclesiastici' (1602) von into letter tablature, and then likewise
31 Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii,
Lodovico Viadana, ii (Titzing, 1974), to intabulate the signi and numeri. See
pp.xiv-xv; and M. Praetorius, Syn- M. Praetorius, Puercinium 1621, ed. F.
tagma musicum, iii (Wolfenbiittel, 32 English trans. quoted in Arnold, Blume, Gesamtausgabe der Musikali-
2/1619; R/Kassel, 1958), pp.131-2. The art of accompaniment from a thor- schen Werke von Michael Praetorius,
ough-bass, p.95. 'Welches dann anderer xix (Wolfenbtittel, 1938), p.viii.
25 Staden, Kurzer und einfiiltiger
gestalt vnd leichterer nicht geschehen
Bericht, cols. 119-20. 'Von den B6gen 36 Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii,
tiber und unter den Noten und k6nnen / als durch dig mittel der
Numern oder Zahlen / durch welche
auch ein jedweder kleiner Knab / wenn 37 M. Praetorius, Polyhymnia
26 Staden, Kurzer und einfiiltiger er sich dieselben nur ein wenig bekant Caduceatrix et Panegyrica 1619, ed. W.
Bericht, col. 120. 'Von den Punkten gemacht / den Gesang so recht vnd Gurlitt, Gesamtausgabe der Musikali-
neben den Numeris oder Zahlen'. gut ohne dissonantien schlagen vnd schen Werke von Michael Praetorius,
tractiren wird / als wenn er aus der
xviil/1-2 (Wolfenbtittel, 1928), pp.91-2.
27 Staden, Kurzer und einfiiltiger vollkommenen Tabulatur schlige. The excerpt that Praetorius refers to
Bericht, col.120: 'Die Punkten neben 'Wie ich dann etliche gehdrt / auch in comprises the first ten bars of Part 2.
den Numeris oder Zahlen werden
effectu probiret, daB sie die Motetten des In bars 5 and 7, the third is omitted
nicht vergebens gesetzt, sondern geben Palestrini (welche / wie jederman wol
from the chords formed by the written
ein Anzeigung der Mensur, der Mini- weig / gar trefflich nach den Regulen voices. There is additional harmonic
men und Semiminimen &c. nachdem
formiret, fugiret, vnd in Summa mit ambiguity in the succession of first-
sie iber einer Noten stehen.' sch6nen Ligaturen vnnd Syncopation- inversion chords; the root of the
28 The Italian writers that Praetorius ibus vermenget vnd intriciret seynd) chords would be added by the con-
draws on are Lodovico Grossi da mit htilff vnd zuthun solcher Signatur tinuo group.
der Numerorum dergestalt tractiret vnd
Viadana, Bernardo Strozzi, Agostino
Agazzari, Adriano Banchieri and geschlagen haben / dag sie den Zuh6r- 38 The role of tablature in the music of
ern nicht anders vorkommen / als Heinrich Schtitz is referred to periodi-
Bastiano Miseroca.
wenn sie alle in der vollkommenen cally in Schtitz studies and is covered
29 'Der Bassus generalis seu Continuus Tabulatur gesetzet weren / dieweil sie most extensively in G. Kirchner, Der
wird daher also genennet / weil er sichkeine dissonantien im schlagen geh6ret Generalbass bei Heinrich Schiltz (Kassel,
vom anfang biE zum ende continuiret,haben.' Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, 1960), pp.13-19. Quoting heavily from
vnnd als eine General Stimme / die iii, pp.129-30. Schitz's prefaces, Kirchner's discussion
gantze Motet oder Concert in sich of tablature with regard to Schitz is, at
33 Appended to the Wolfenbtittel copy best, perfunctory. Although basso con-
begreiffet.' Praetorius, Syntagma
of Johann Andreas Herbst's Musica
musicum, iii, p.144 (recte p.124). tinuo is discussed in detail, mention
poetica (Nuremberg, 1642) (Herzog
of tablature is studiously avoided in
30 See n.35 below. It is worth noting August Bibliothek: 2.3.10 Musica) is W. Ehmann, 'Heinrich Schitz: Die
that Praetorius himself, at this time, ina 25-page manuscript by Friedrich
Psalmen Davids, 1619, in der Auffihu-
1619, had rather little experience with Emanuel Praetorius (fl.1655-95) en- rungspraxis', Musik und Kirche, xxvi
basso continuo. His first published titled Exempla auf den Bassum Con-
(1956), pp.145-71. A work which unfor-
attempt at using basso continuo-in tinuum (n.d.). This Praetorius shows
tunately seems to have made virtually
fact a basso seguente (Orgelbass)-is progressions and cadential formulae no impression on modem perfor-
found in seven pieces in the ninth part presented as figured basses but then
mances of this repertory is J. N. Keller's
of his Musae Sioniae of 1607. In his realized exclusively in German letter
intabulation of Schfitz's Geistliche
study of Praetorius's use of basso con-tablature. Chormusik (Kassel, 1975). In the one
tinuo, Lars Ulrich Abraham suggests review of it mentioned in Music index,
34 Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii,
that Praetorius did this as a commer-
Keller's intabulation was barely
cial consideration. See L. U. Abraham, p.144 (recte p.124).
acknowledged by Christiane Berns-
Der Generalbass im Schaffen des 35 '... in ihre gew6hnliche Buchstaben dorff-Engelbrecht in Musik und Kirche
Michael Praetorius und seine Harmoni- Tabulatur ... vnd sich darinnen not-
xlvil2 (1976), pp.78-9.
schen Voraussetzungen (Berlin, 1961), durfftig ersehen / wie es allerseits mit
p.30. According to Abraham (p.31), dem General-BaB vberein komme ...' 39 '... der Basso continovo ist eigent-
Hugo Riemann was also unimpressed Syntagma musicum, iii, p.146 (recte lich nur fir die Psalmen geminet / von
with Praetorius's early efforts to use p.126). Praetorius provides the figured der Motet an: Ist nicht Ephraim / biB
basso continuo, calling them 'unsuc- bass together with an accompanying zum BeschluB deB operis werden sich


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fleissige Organisten mit absetzen in 1657, ed. K. Ameln, Neue Ausgabe this instrument all the time in the way
die Partitur zu bemuhen ...' H. Schitz, simtlicher Werke, vii (Kassel, 1988). outlined above ... I am resolved to do
Psalmen Davids 1619, ed. W. Ehmann, Also see H. Schtitz, Zw6lfgeistliche this [i.e. '... make a copy of the basso
Neue Ausgabe simtlicher Werke, Gesange, ed. G. Graulich, Stuttgarter continuo part for the use of the Vio-
xxiii-xxv (Kassel, 1971-81). The four Schtitz-Ausgabe, xv (Neuhausen- lone ...'], not only with the present
works referred to by Schtitz are: 'Ist Stuttgart, 1971). slight work but also in future-God
nicht Ephraim mein teurer Sohn' willing-with other publications soon
44 Kittel also contributed to the
(swv4o; Jeremiah 31.20); 'Nun lob to follow [Kleine geistliche Konzerte, i
collection one of his own works,
mein Seel den Herren' (swv41; Ps. 103); (Dresden, 1636)?].' H. Schfitz, 'Special
'0 stisser Jesu Christ'. index of the musical items contained
'Die mit Tranen saen' (swv42; Ps. 126);
'Nicht uns, Herr, sondern deinen 45 'Daher auch der Bassus Continuus in this slight work together with the
Namen gib Ehre' (swv43; Ps. 115). nicht aus noht / sondern nur nach ordinances for the gracious reader',
But see Kirchner, Der Generalbass bei beliebung dabey zugebrauchen / auff Musikalische Exequien, op.7, ed. G.
Heinrich Schiatz, p.17. Kirchner men- Graulich, trans. D. McCulloch,
Gutachten des Buchhindlers / auf-
tions only the first three of the four. Stuttgarter Schtitz-Ausgabe, viii
gesetzet / und zugleich mit heraus
(Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1973), p.xl; facs.
gegeben worden ist / und die Herren
40 'Bibliopola, opusculum hoc gratius repr. p.lxii. But see Borgir, The perfor-
Organisten / welche etwa mit ihrer
fore ratus, Bassum istum Generalem mance of basso continuo in Italian
Orgel einzustimmen gedencken /
mihi extorsit, & ut porr6 unam atq; Baroque music, pp.5-20. In the opening
derowegen freundlich erinnert werden
alteram cantilenam propri? ad Basin comments to this work Borgir asserts
/ wo nicht das gantze Wercklein iedoch
accommodatam in calce adjicerem, etzliche Stticke daraus / bevorab aber
that 'the automatic inclusion of bass-
ansam praebuit. Vos autem Organicos, line instruments in 17th-century music
die Meg und das Magnificat / in ihre
qui auribus delicatioribus satisfacien-
gew6hnliche Tabulatur oder Partitur is based on the flimsiest evidence ...'
dum judicatis, rogatos volo, ne grave-
mini voces omnes in Partituram seu zu ibersetzen / und daraus mit einzu- (p.5) and summarizes the ensuing
discussion by stating that the 'review
spielen.' Facsimile reprint in Schtitz,
Tabulaturam, uti vocant, vestram of the birth of the basso continuo
Zwblf Geistliche Gesange, Neue Ausgabe
transcribere. Siquidem in hoc genere practice and its roots in sixteenth-
simtlicher Werke, p.xiii; and
Bassum solum pro solido fundamento century music fails to provide any
Stuttgarter Schtitz-Ausgabe, p.xliv.
vobis struere, vanum atq; inconcinnum argument for doubling the bass line'
mihi visum fuit'. H. Schtitz, Preface to 46 H. H. Eggebrecht, 'Arten des (p.19).
Cantiones sacrae 1625, ed. G. Grote, Generalbasses im frthen und
Neue Ausgabe simtlicher Werke, viii mittleren 17. Jahrhundert', Archiv fir 50 This is supported by Schtitz's third
(Kassel, 1960). Compositions in the Musikwissenschaft, xiv (1957), p.80. point in his memoranda for the vio-
Cantiones sacrae which stylistically Eggebrecht identifies this as a problem lone. He suggests that 'wann etwa eine
require continuo accompaniment in monodic compositions. alleine auch zwey / oder mehr Vocal
and were later added by Schfitz are Bass stimmen concertiren, daf so dann
nos.18, 32-5. 47 As Viadana suggests in his fifth rule der Violon auch still schweige / weil
in the Cento concerti, the keyboard ohne deg der Vocal Bass das fundament
41 Geistliche Chormusik ... Worbey der player realizing a figured bass would ffiret vnd der Violon mit ebenmissigen
Bassus Generalis, auff Gutachten und double the vocal parts for works that Chorden oder Vnisonien eine vnange-
Begehren / nicht aber aus Nothwendig- begin imitatively. It seems that after neme harmonei verursachet ...' ('...
keit / zugleich auch zu befinden ist. the exposition of a work, however, all when one or more bass voices sing
remaining sections-homophonic and alone to the organ, then the Violone
42 'Da auch iemand von den Organ-
polyphonic-may be accompanied should not join them, because the
isten etwa in dieses mein ohne Bassum
chordally. vocal bass will perform the harmonic
Continuum eigentlich auffgesetztes
foundation and the Violone playing
Wercklein / wohl und genaw mit ein- 48 Arnold, The art of accompaniment
the same chords or unisons brings
zuschlagen Beliebung haben / und from a thorough-bass, p.vii.
about an unpleasant effect on the
solches in die Tabulatur oder Partitur
49 The instruments best suited for ear ...'): Schtitz, Musikalische Exequien,
abzusetzen sich nicht verdriessen
doubling the bass line, according to p.lxii; p.xl (trans.).
lassen wird: lebe ich der Hoffnung /
Praetorius, are the bass viol, bassoon,
daB der hierauff gewandte FleiB und 51 Praetorius, Syntagma musicum, iii,
dulcian, trombone and, interestingly, a
Bemhfiung ihn nicht allein nicht voice with an added text. See Praeto- pp.146-9.
gerewen / sondern auch diese Art der
Music desto mehr ihren gewtinschten rius, Syntagma musicum, iii, p.145. The 52 '... newer Passaggien, Contrapunct;
violone or great bass viol (Grosse Bass- vnd also fast gantz newe Parteien oder
Effect erreichen werde.' H. Schtitz, Pre-
geige), according to Schtitz in 1636, is Stimmen ...', Praetorius, Syntagma
face to Geistliche Chormusik 1648, ed.
'the most pleasing and best instrument musicum, iii, p.146.
W. Kamlah, Neue Ausgabe simtlicher
... attested not only by its effect but is
Werke, v (Kassel, 1935/1965), p.vii.
confirmed by the example of the most 53 Facsimile reprint in Schttz,
famous Musicians in Europe, who use Musikalische Exequien, p.hx.
43 H. Schtitz, Zwalfgeistliche Gesihnge


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