The Birth of the Baroque Musical Language

Thinking a little deeper about this idea of speech and I realized that this connection was made very early on in the Italian Baroque. One of the earliest operas was “L’Euridice” by Jacopo Peri first performed in Florence in 1600. In the preface of the first edition published that same year, the composer says something so interesting and relevant to our discussion. He says, “(…) I knew likewise that in our speech some words are so intoned that harmony can be based upon them (…). And having in mind those inflections and accents that serve us in our grief, in our joy, and in similar states, I caused the bass to move in time to these, either more or less, following the passions, (…)”(for reference, see note preceding the article). This opera was written right at the birth of the Baroque era during a time when music was flourishing in Florence. Here we see the birth of the Baroque musical language, harmonies and melodies based on text and natural human feelings, even based directly on the inflections which we use to communicate our emotions. It is natural then that Geminiani’s music and the music of many other Italian Baroque composers would lend itself so readily to our imaginations once we make this connection of variations in sound, articulation, and phrasing based on speech and emotions.

Note: Jacopo Peri, “Euridice: An Opera in one Act, five Scenes”, Libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini, Recent Researches in Music of the Baroque Era, Vols. XXXVI and XXXVII, edited by Howard Mayer Brown, Madison: A-R Editions, Inc, 1981, translation of Plate II.



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