Nature, Beauty, and Truth

There is so much in the Baroque to explore. I’d like to start with aesthetics and style. Just to clarify, aesthetics is the philosophical discipline of truth and beauty in art. Baroque composers are very conscious of this concept of aesthetics and there are many discussions on the topic. Contrary to mainstream relativism which we often find today, early composers and philosophers act on the assumption that there is absolute truth and beauty and that discussions arise out of our quest for these and the different ways we have of thinking about them. There may be contrasting views as to what they are, but the underlying idea that they exist is a common theme amongst Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque writers and composers. This is refreshing and exciting. It allows us to begin the process of discovery because in order for us to discover and to be connected to each other through what we find, we need to believe that there is something true there. Baroque musicians believed just that and they have left us many ideas which can help us understand how they were able to interact with truth and beauty. Note: The historical idea of taste also exists and is very important, but that’s a topic for another day.

So this quote from Geminiani, that the sound of the violin should “(…) in a manner rival the most perfect human voice; and in executing every piece with exactness, propriety, and delicacy of expression according to the true intention of Music”, is a good example of how Geminiani believes there is a true way to play the instrument, that it is connected to nature i.e. the human voice, and that it is through a connection with nature that we can discover how to play the instrument as an artist.

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“The Art of Playing on the Violin”

Francesco Geminiani (1687 – 1762) was a highly influential Baroque musician, a pupil of Corelli and A. Scarlatti. His career took him to Naples, London, Dublin, and Paris. In London in 1716 he even collaborated with Handel for a performance for George I. One of the wonderful things about Geminiani is that he wrote a number of treatises on performance practice including “The Art of Playing on the Violin”, 1751 during a time when such treatises were highly valued and frequently written and curculated. While Geminiani’s style does differ from that of other Baroque violinists, Tartini for example, he nevertheless offers us a very good picture of late Baroque aesthetics. The full title of his treatise is “Art of Playing on the Violin containing all the Rules necessary to attain to a perfection on that instrument, with a great variety of compositions, which will also be very useful to those who study the violoncello, harpsichord, &c. 1751”. That being said I am embarking on a study of this document. Any one interested in Baroque style is welcome to as well. The facsimile is published by Travis & Emery 2009.

Early Italian Composers

To begin the Baroque Project, here is an initial chronological list of some of the important Baroque Italian composers who’s music and lives we will be studying. All of these composers contributed significantly to early violin repertoire, some more than others, and in so doing influenced music history:

Andrea Falconieri (b 1585/6; d 1656)

Biagio Marini (b Brescia, c. 1597; d Venice, 1665)

Isabella Leonarda (b Novara, 1620; d Novara 1704)

Arcangelo Corelli (b Fusignano, near Milan, 1653; d Rome, 1713)

Tomaso Albinoni (b Venice, 1671; d Venice 1751)

Francesco Geminiani (b Lucca, 1687; d Dublin, 1762)

Giuseppe Tartini (b Pirano, Istria, 1692; d Padua, 1770)

Antonio Vivaldi (b Venice, 1678; d. Vienna, 1741)

The Baroque Project

I am beginning a daily study of Baroque violin music (c. 1600 – 1750), it’s history, historical performance practices, philosophies from that time involving music, composers and styles. I’ll be sharing some of what I learn here. It is my intention that these studies develop into new research and early music groups. You will be able to find all these new articles under the category “The Baroque Project”.

We’ll be starting with early Italian music and composers. I’m looking forward to discovering what we discover!

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