Inside the Music | France & Italy | Late Baroque | Classical
The aims of codifying and cultivating the concept of national style can be found in the music of some European countries well before the beginning of the Baroque era. But awareness of national traits in composing and playing music intensified during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At the same time, authors of treatises and manifestos became increasingly interested in the ideas and performing styles of other countries. As in most matters concerning style and form, Italian musicians and thinkers provided the models. In vocal music the emphasis lay on an ‘affective’ treatment of words, in which virtuosity played an ever-increasing part. While this provided other European countries with a model, it was one that needed to be tailored to the particular requirements of different languages and traditions.
The country that throughout the seventeenth century was most resistant to the style of Italian music was France. In its instrumental music, France was more dance-orientated. Particularly in music for lute and keyboard, French music showed a predilection for precise and profuse ornamentation. Their propensity manifested itself often in structural ways rather than merely decorative ones. Italian forms such as the sonata and concerto only began to interest French composers towards the very end of the seventeenth century, and even then ornamentation and a close relationship to dance remained characteristic and distinguishing features of French music.
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