Vocal Ornaments in Durante`s "Arie devote" (1608)

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Vocal Ornaments in Durante`s "Arie devote" (1608)
Performance Practice Review
Volume 6
Number 1 Spring
Article 3
Vocal Ornaments in Durante's "Arie devote" (1608)
Donald Clyde Sanders
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Sanders, Donald Clyde (1993) "Vocal Ornaments in Durante's "Arie devote" (1608)," Performance Practice Review: Vol. 6: No. 1,
Article 3. DOI: 10.5642/perfpr.199306.01.03
Available at: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/ppr/vol6/iss1/3
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Baroque Ornamentation
Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608)
Donald C. Sanders
Giulio Caccini's Le nuove musiche and Lodovico Grossi da Viadana's Cento
concerti ecclesiastici, both published in 1602, were milestones in the early
history of secular and sacred song with basso continuo. Among the many
similar collections that followed, Ottavio Durante's Arie devote le quali
contengono in se la maniera di cantar con grazia, Vimitazione delle parole,
e il modo di scriver passaggi ed altri affetti (Rome, 1608) is especially
significant in sacred solo music.1 Unlike the Concerti of Viadana, which
resemble solo reductions of motets in the stile antico, the twenty arias of
Durante's collection were conceived as soloistic music. Durante deliberately
chose to emulate the music of Caccini, with its florid vocal lines and
expressive ornamentation. Thus, his arias represent an early movement
toward the incorporation of secular style into sacred solo vocal music.
'The collection was dedicated to Cardinal Montalto, a Roman patron and member of
the ecclesiastically powerful Peretti family. Little is known of Durante aside from the fact that
he was for a time maestro di capella at Viterbo Cathedral. The dedication of Arie devote
mentions that his father, Castore Durante (d. 1590), a well-known physician and botanist, had
served the Peretti family, including its most illustrious member Pope Sixtus V. In fact, the
elder Durante had dedicated // tesore delta sanitd, the most famous of his several scientific
treatises, to Sixtus.
Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608) 61
Durante's preface owes much to that of Caccini's Le nuove musiche. And he
refers the reader to that work for more on the new style:
There would be other advice, bul for the sake of brevity I leave it out,
leaving the remainder to the writing of S. Giulio Caccini. Because this
is a little stream that springs up from the fountain of his virtues.
The preface contains a documentation of Roman attitudes about sacred
music during the Counter-Reformation, and it provides significant additional
insight into early baroque performance as it applies to church music.
The first (and perhaps most predictable) section reaffirms the fundamental
premise of the seconda prattica: that music must be a servant of the text.
Durante advises composers that their principal intention should be to "adorn
the words with those qffetti2 that are in agreement with them" in order to
introduce the ideas into the souls of the listeners. The influence of the
Council of Trent is apparent in his derogatory comments about complex
counterpoint. He warns that the writing of fugae simply to accommodate
the words dresses them in an "improper and alien attire." This attitude is
understandable from one attached to the household of Sixtus V, a strong
protagonist of Tridentine reform.
A significant proportion of Durante's advice concerns the proper application
of ornamentation. He cautions against passaggi where they impede the
understanding of the words. By avoiding such excesses one can make the
music "singable and effortless." When this occurs it will be sung and heard
more willingly.
Like Caccini, Durante implies that ornamentation of the passaggio type was
becoming outmoded. It may be introduced especially "in imitation of the
words and their meaning." Many of the pieces, however, like certain of
those in Le nuove musiche, are replete with passaggi, but not to the
extremes of some solo madrigals, such as those of Luzzasco Luzzaschi.
Luzzaschi's lavish ornamentation was a written-out version of the late
sixteenth-century style of embellishment as prescribed in diminution
manuals like Girolamo dalla Casa's // vero modo di diminuir of 1584.
Like Cacinni, Durante uses the word affetto in two ways: in a general sense as a state
of emotion or passion and, specifically, as in this statement, as a device (usually an ornament)
that helps to express one of these emotions. The reference in the title to "passaggi and other
qffelli" seems to imply that the term is synonymous with ornament, thus encompassing both
the old-style passaggio (a florid division of the value of a long note) and the expressive
modem ornaments described by Caccini like the trillo and ribattuta di gala.
Donald C. Sanders
Durante intended that performers sing the written passaggi and be judicious
in adding more. He advised that not every passaggio can be approved as
being "in the good manner of singing." Some, he says, are more effective
when played on instruments. His general intent was to discourage the
improvisation of diminutions on every available long note. He also implied
that the keyboard player could add ornamentation in places where vocal
passaggi might obscure the text.
Durante warned that certain vowels became "odious" when embellished. A
passaggio on the i sound, for instance, resembles "neighing" and on the u
sound, "howling." If these are encountered on long syllables, where
ornamentation seems desirable, it is better to use "some accent or grace of
little notes that will not be unbecoming."3
The author indicates that in lengthy passaggi singers should "catch a breath
in tempo." This is advisable when "mere is a need to breathe when no pause
or breath is given."
Concerning the more modern ornaments Durante is less specific than
Caccini. This may be attributed to a desire for more restrained expression in
sacred music and to the expectation (expressed later) that the reader will
become acquainted with Caccini's writings. The ribattuta di gold is not
mentioned, even though many examples of such dotted figures are written
out in the music. As in Caccini the crescendo (crescimento) is treated as an
ornament. Durante instructs the singer to increase the voice little by little on
the same pitch on every dotted note! In that dotted 8th and 16th notes
abound, the author apparently expects the performer to judge which are of
sufficient length to accommodate a crescendo. He also indicates that the
swelling of the voice should occur only during the value of the dot.
Durante also states that when a note is connected to its own sharped
inflection, the singer needs to crescendo to the higher pitch, "from the tone
to the semitone." Here he implies an upward movement in pitch (a kind of
portamento) along with the crescendo. He advises that when this is done
well, it "excites [the listener] very much."
The trillo in this collection is realized, as in Caccini, as a tremolo (a form of
repeated note ornament). The normal trill, Caccini's groppo, is referred to
as a groppetto and is always written out. The groppetto consistently
This is Durante's only mention of (he accento—a term he fails to define. He may be
referring to the breaking up of a long nole by approaching it with an appoggiatura from below
as in the French port de voix or by sliding up to (he main pitch from a third below .
Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608) 63
involves the principal and upper note, usually followed by a closing turn.
Sometimes it begins on the upper, sometimes on the principal note.
The singer is instructed that notes with a t above must be trilled without
exception, even when the t is above a short note already part of a written-out
ornament. In several such instances the short note is only a thirty-second,
requiring perhaps some freedom of tempo.
The singer is instructed to open the mouth for "broad consonants" and to
narrow it for "closed" ones. "It is necessary," Durante advises, "to think of
singing as argument." Gestures of the face or body are inappropriate, but if
the performer feels compelled to make them, he must do so "with grace and
relevance to the sense of the words, but never to an extreme."4
Hugo Goldschmidt included Durante's preface in German a century ago in Die
italienische Gesangsmethode des XVII. Jahrhunderls und ihre Bedeuiung fur die Gegenwart
(Breslau: S. Scholtlander, 1892).
Donald C. Sanders
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Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608) 65
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Donald C. Sanders
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Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608) 69
Donald C. Sanders
Ottavio Durante, Preface to Arie devote
A Lettori
Nelle presenti Arie vi si puo facilmente comprendere la maniera
di cantar con gratia, limitation
delle parole, & il modo di scriver
passaggi; & altri affetti, & perche
i desiderosi di questa virtu possino essercitarsi, per facilmente
conseguirla, le mando in luce con
alcuni avvertimenti brevi, & utili
non meno a Compositori, che a
Cantori, parlando sempre per
quelli che ne hanno dibisogno.
Devono primieramente i Compositori considerar' bene quelche
hanno da comporre, sia mottetto,
madrigale, o qualsivoglia altra
cosa, e procurar di adornar con la
musica le parole con quelli affetti
che gli si convengono; servendosi
di toni appropriati accio con
questo mezzo siano i lor concetti
con piu efficacia introdotti negli
animi delli Ascoltanti, che
facendo altrimente coordinar
fuga o altra compositione, per
accomodarvi poi le parole,
verranno ad esser adornate, &
vestite di veste impropria, &
To the Readers
In the present arias one can easily understand the manner of
singing with grace, the imitation
of the words, and the way to
write passaggi and other affetti.
And so that those desirous of this
virtue can practice in order to
obtain it easily, I am bringing
them to light with several brief
pieces of advice, no less useful to
composers than to singers, always addressing those who have
need of them.
Composers must first consider
well what they have to compose,
either motet, madrigal, or whatsoever other thing and attempt to
adorn the words musically with
those affetti that are in agreement
with them, using appropriate
tones so that with this means their
ideas are introduced with more
efficacy into the souls of the listeners; because doing otherwise,
to construct an imitative or other
kind of composition in such a
way as to accomodate the words,
they will come to be adorned and
dressed in improper and an alien
Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608) 71
Havuta questa consideratione,
bisogna avvertire di osservare i
piedi de i versi, cioe di trattenersi
nelle sillabe lunghe, e sfuggir
nelle brevi, perche altriment; si
faranno de barbarismi.
Nel principio di qualsivoglia
grave, si deve principiar con
gravita, e senza passaggi, ma non
senza affetti, e i passaggi farli in
luoghi che non impedischino
l'intelligenza delle parole, e nelle
cadenze, avvertendo di farli
cader nelle sillabe lunghe, e nelle
vocali approvate, come a suo
luogho si dira, e la musica farla
cantabile, e piii facile che sia
possibile, perche, oltre che sara
piii bella, sara ancora piu volentieri cantata, e sentita.
With this in mind, one must pay
attention to observe the feet of
the verses; that is to stay on the
long syllables and to get off the
short ones; for otherwise they
will create barbarisms.
In the first part of any tender and
solemn composition it is necessary to begin with gravity and
without passaggi, but notwithout
affetti} and make the passaggi in
places where they will not impede the understanding of the
words and in the cadences, paying attention to make them fall on
long syllables and on the approved vowels, as will be said "in
their place"; and the music will
be made as singable and effortless as possible. Then, in addition to its being more beautiful, it
will also be more willingly sung
and heard.
'Here the use of the term affetti is
Goldschmidt (p. 30)
translates it with the German Ausdruck,
so that the phrase reads "without
passaggi, but not without expression."
Durante might mean, however, that
inappropriate in such instances, smaller
ornaments (like the irillo, groppetto, etc.)
are not.
Donald C. Sanders
Havendo havuto mira alia facilita
come anco allo sminuire in parte
la fatiga del intagliatore, si sono
accennate per le parti di mezzo
nella parte del Basso solo alcune
settime risolute in seste, & undecime in decime, che sono come
quarte in terze. tanto piu che le
terze, e seste maggiori e minori,
& altre consonanze, pare che
concorrino da se stesse, mentre si
suonano, e cantano insieme.
Alle Arie si permette qualche
licenza nel contrapunto per causa
degli affetti.
I cantori devono procurar di capir
bene in se stessi quel che hanno
da cantare, massime quando cantano soli, accio intendendolo, e
possendendolo bene, lo possino
far intendar all'altri, che le stanno
a sentire, che questo e il loro
scopo principale, e devono
avvertire di intonar bene, e di
cantar adagio, cioe
Having also had the goal of facility as well as of the reduction of
some of the engraver's work, in
the bass part there are indicated
for the middle voices only some
sevenths resolved to sixths and
elevenths to tenths, which are
like fourths to thirds; more [of
these] than major and minor
thirds and sixths and other consonances, which seem to converge by themselves while they
are played and sung together.
In the arias some license is permitted in the counterpoint because of the affetti. *
Singers must endeavor to understand well within themselves
what they have to sing, especially
when they are singing solos, so
that understanding and mastering
it well, they are able to make it
understood by others who hear
them; for this is their principal
purpose. And they must pay
attention to singing well in tune
and to singing slowly—that is,
Here Durante obviously means
(hat the rules of counterpoint are less
expression of strong emotion.
Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608) 73
con la battuta larga, porgendo
lavoce con gratia e pronuntiando
le parole distintamente, accio
siano intese, e quando si vorra far
passaggi, si avvertisca, che non
ogni passaggio e approvato nella
buona maniera di cantare, come
per esperienza si vede, che alcuni
passaggi riescono fatti con instrumenti, che poi con la voce
non fanno buon effetto; & pero
devono servirsi di quelli che sono
piu approvati, & che riescono per
cantare; guardandosi pero di farli
come si e detto, in luoghi, che
impedischino 1'intelligenza delle
parole, massime nelle sillabe
brevi, e nelie vocali odiose, che
sono la i, & la u, che una rassembra il nitrire, e raltral'urlare, ma
procurino di passeggiar nelle
sillabe lunghe, dove a loro beneplacito si potranno trattenere, e
nelle tre vocali che restano, che
sono a. e. o. le quali sono bonissime per far passaggi, nell'altre
dui, quando vi si affrontara la
sillaba lungha, si potra far qualche accento o gratia di poche
note, che non disdira, e sopra
tutto i passaggi si faccino ad imitation delle parole, e loro senso.
with broad beats/ delivering the
voice with grace and pronouncing the words distinctly so that
they be understood. And when it
is desired that passaggi be introduced, be advised that not every
passaggio is approved in the
good manner of singing. As it is
seen through experience, some
passaggi are successfully done
with instruments that do not
make a good effect with the
voice; and, therefore, use must be
made of those that are more acceptable and suitable for singing;
but one should be wary of them,
as has been said, in places where
they impede the understanding of
the words, especially on the short
syllables and on the odious vowels i and the u, one of which resembles neighing and the other
But they [singers]
should endeavor to do passaggi
on long syllables, where at their
discretion they can hold back [the
tempo], and on the three remaining vowels that are a, e, o, which
are very good for doing passaggi.
On the other two [vowels], when
they are encountered on a long
syllable, there can be made some
Goldschmidt translates "con la
battuta larga" as "mil grassier Freikeit
im Tact." Such freedom of tempo is
certainly consistent with most early 17thcentury writings on performance practice,
but 1 have translated it more literally,
simply as "with broad beats."
Donald C. Sanders
or a grace of a few notes that will
not be unbecoming. And above
all, the passaggi are to be done in
imitation of the words and their
Quando si trovera una nota con il
punto di augmento, se in esso
punto si crescera a poco a poco la
voce nel medesimo tono, fara
bonissimo effetto.
When a note is found with the
point of augmentation [the dot],
if in said point the voice will increase little by little on the same
pitch, it will make a very good
Per il crescimento della voce dal
tuono al semituono si assegna il
diesis nella nota ligata, per dar
intendere, che bisogna cominciar
a crescere a poco a poco, facendo
conto che vi siano 4. come, sino
che si arrivi al perfetto crescimento, il che quando e fatto
bene, commove assai.
For the increasing of the voice
from a tone to a semitone, a sharp
is assigned to the tied note, in
order to make clear that it is necessary to begin to crescendo little
by little, making a count of four,
until a perfect crescendo is
reached. When it is well done,
itis very moving.
Dove sara notata la lettera t. si
deve trillar sempre con la voce,
ancor che sia notata sopra il
trillo, o groppetto stesso, &
all'hora si deve trillar tanto piu.
Where the letter t is notated, one
must always trill with the voice;
and even if it [the t] is written
above the trillo or groppetto [that
is already written out], then it
must be trilled even more.
II far passaggi nel ultima sillaba
delle parole e contra la regola,
ma qualche volta, pur che la sillaba sia lungha, e cada nelle vocali approvate, non disdira, seguendo, pero altre sillabe da far cadenza.
To do passaggi on the last syllable of a word is against the rule,
but sometimes, provided that the
syllable is long and falls on the
approved vowels, it will not be
unbecoming, it should, however,
follow other syllables, making a
Vocal Ornaments in Durante's Arie devote (1608) 75
Quando si vuol fare passaggi
lunghi, si avvertisca di pigliar il
fiato a tempo, per non lasciar imperfetto il passaggio, il che si
deve fare in tutti i luoghi, dove fa
bisogno di respirare, quando non
vi siano pause, o sospiri.
When it is desired to do long
passaggi, be advised to catch a
breath while maintaining the
tempo in order not to leave the
passaggio imperfect. The same
thing must be done in every place
where there is need to breathe
when there is no pause or breath
Circa la pronuntia delle parole
bisogna far conto cantando di
ragionare, & aprir la bocca dove
fa di bisogno, conforme ricercano
Ie vocali larghe, e restringerla
nelle strette, e nel far passaggi, si
tenga sempre aperta, o ristretta
come ricerca la vocale dove occorrera far il passaggio; & oltra a
tutto quello che si e detto, si
avvertisca di non far gesti con la
persona, o con il volta, mentre si
canta, e sepure se ne vuol fare
qualcheduno, bisogna farlo con
gratia, e corrispondente al sesno
delle parole, ma non dare
Regarding the pronunciation of
the words, it is necessary to think
of singing as a form of argument
and to open the mouth where
necessary in conformity with
seeking out the broad consonants
and to narrow it in the closed
ones. And in doing passaggi it is
always held open or narrow as it
seeks out the vowel where the
passaggio must be done. And in
addition to all that has been said,
take care not to make gestures
with the body or with the face
while singing. And even if you
want to do some [gestures], you
must do them with grace and relative to the sense of the words,
but never to the extreme.
Altri avvertimenti ci sarebbero,
che per brevita li tralascio, rimettendomi nel resto alii scritti del S.
Giulio Caccini, poiche questo e
un picciol'rio che scaturisce dal
fonte delle sue virtu.
There would be other admonitions, but for the sake of brevity I
leave them out, leaving the remainder to the writings of S.
Giulio Caccini, because this is a
little stream that springs up from
the fount of his virtues.
Donald C. Sanders
Hora se in queste mie carte
(benign ilettori) trovarete per
avventura a qualche cosa di
buono, riconoscetelo da Dio dator di tutte le gratei, e ricevetelo
da me per segno di benevolenza,
e se all' incontro vi trovarete
qualche mancamento, supplite
voi con il valor vostro, e con la
medesima mira, che ho havuta io,
che e stata solo di giovar al
prossimo e vivete felice.
Now if in these documents of
mine, kind readers, you find by
chance something good, acknowledge it as from God, giver
of all graces, and receive it from
me as a sign of good will. And
if, on the contrary, you find some
imperfection in it, replace it with
your own merits and with the
very same view as I have had
which has been only to give
pleasure, my fellow man, and
may you live joyfully.
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