German Music Part II


In addition to choral polyphony, at the beginning of the 17th century there was the type of composition that had emerged in Italy around 1590 as solo singing with basso continuo (monody). The new composition technique formed the basis for the genres opera (recitative, aria), oratorio, passion and lied and already features the motets by H. L. Haßler. But the practice of figured bass soon penetrated instrumental music as well. H. Schütz had studied the new kind of music in Italy; he transplanted her to Germany and gave her in his vocal compositions (Madrigals, motets, “Christmas history”) such a high degree of language-related expressiveness that he was called the “father” of all German musicians. Schütz probably also composed the lost first German-language opera “Dafne” (1627) based on a libretto by M. Opitz. In the new style, J. H. Schein also created German madrigals and sacred concerts, J. CrügerA. KriegerH. Albert and others. their spiritual and worldly songs. German organ music also developed in the form of chorale arrangements and chorale preludes, carried out by S. Scheidt, a student of the Dutchman J. P. SweelinckJ. J. Froberger, a student of the Italian G. Frescobaldi, in the following generation of D. BuxtehudeJ. Pachelbel and G. Böhm, who no longer studied abroad. They include genres such as Toccata and Passacaglia as well as arrangements of Protestant hymns, the preliminary stages of Bach’s chorale preludes. The German opera, ambitious in numerous duo-elected principalities, but often cultivated with only temporary success, had its first heydayin Hamburg under R. Keizer and then under G. P. Telemann.

The focus of the instrumental music was the (genuinely French) suite with its sequence of movements Allemande – Courante – Sarabande – Gigue; it was enriched by adding further stylized dance movements. The suite was often preceded by asonata, a prelude or an overture.

From this tradition grew the work of J. S. Bach, which encompasses almost all forms and genres of piano and organ, orchestral and chamber music as well as cantatas and choral compositions (passions, “Christmas Oratorio”). Bach’s encounter with the orchestral music of A. Corellis and A. Vivaldis had an effect in the works of his years as Kapellmeister in Koethen (1717–23), for example in the six ” Brandenburg Concerts “. Bach’s instrumental art also influenced his vocal work, which has come to the fore since he took over the Thomaskantorat in Leipzig (1723): although his vocal compositions often have an instrumental structure. Bach’s speculative late work can be seen as a sum of baroque compositions.

An example of Bach’s ability to take up typical compositional techniques from other countries is the second part of his “piano exercise”, which combines a “French” overture with an “Italian” concerto; A little later J. J. Quantz was to define the priority of “German” musical art over the cultures of other nations, which is evident in such compositional adaptation and exaggeration, as “mixed taste”. Less pronounced than Italian music, which is characterized by its melos, or the elegance of French, German music was supposed to assert its own right through manual effort, later expressed in the concept of compositional work.

The problem of associating a German national style with the names of “great” composers is shown by the example of G. F. Handel, who came from Halle and worked in London from 1710 until his death (1759), where Italian opera flourished led. “German” is just as little in his operas as in his church music, and the attempt to capture him as an English national composer on the basis of his oratorios such as the Messiah, which he composed from 1737 onwards, succeeded only through acclamation, but not through proof of the musical text.

On the basis of an intensive music-theoretical reflection, a wealth of basic, canonical textbooks emerged during this time, such as B. the figured bass school by J. D. Heinichen (1711), the contrapuntal textbook “Gradus ad Parnassum” by J. J. Fux(1725), the first German music lexicon by J. G. Walther (1732) and, as a comprehensive picture of the music practice at that time, “The perfect Kapellmeister” by J. Mattheson (1739).

German Baroque Music