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Recitatives

Recitatives play a dominant part in the music of the 17th and 18th centuries. The recitatives first appeared in the new musical genres of the opera and the “new music” around 1600. In later periods, apart from their prominent role in opera, they can often be found in oratories and cantatas. Curiously, there are not many sources that touch the subject of recitatives, and especially concerning the accompaniment thereof. Here is a selection of sources that were originally collected by J.B.Christensen. Although selected music examples are brought here, it is recommended to read the original texts and see the examples in context (links to the complete sources are supplied).

A very common feature found in recitatives is the change of harmony over a sustained bass. This was addressed in the first treatises that discussed the subject. Here are examples from four Italian treatises and one Spanish treatise.

1672 L. Penna, Li primi albori musicali, Bologna. 
Original print. Concerning recitatives: pp. 185-186
    Penna, p. 185

1677 B. Bismantova, Compendio musicale, Ferrara
Manuscript. Concerning recitatives: pp. [82]-[83] (three page turns from the end).
    Bismantova, p. [83]

? Anonymus, Regole di canto figurato, contrappunto, d'accompagnare, I-Bc Ms. E. 25
Manuscript. Concerning recitatives: pp. 139-141
    I-Bc Ms. E. 25, p. 140

1708 F. Gasparini, L´Armonico Pratico al cimbalo, Venice
Original print. Concerning recitatives: pp. 63-69. Gasparini includes in this chapter an explanations of the mordenti and acciaccature, which should be used in recitatives.
    Gasparini, p. 93 - examples of acciaccature

1736 J. de Torres, Reglas generales de accompanar, en órgano, clavicordio, y harpa..., Madrid
Original print (first print in 1702, but does not include the relevant fourth part).
Concerning recitatives: pp. 109-115. Like Gasparini, also de Torres discusses acciaccature and arpeggi (pp. 120-123)
    Torres, p.110


Here are several examples of German treatises. An important point is mentioned by Niedt, concerning the length of chords in recitatives.

1711 J. D. Heinichen, Neu erfundene Anweisung, Hamburg 
Original print. Concerning recitatives: pp. 214-227

1717 F. E. Niedt, Musicalische Handleitung, Hambrug
Original print (the relevant part is found in Teil III, the former parts were published in 1700 and 1706).
Concerning recitatives: pp. 47-59.
Niedt, p. 58 - The long notes in the bass are the written music, and the short ones represent how the performance should be.

1728 J. D. Heinichen, Der Generalbaß in der Composition, Dresden
Original print. Concerning recitatives see chapter III of the second part (from p. 769). Similar to Gasparini, also Heinichen touches the subject of acciaccature in relation to the accompaniment of recitatives (pp. 529-543)
Heinichen, Der Generalbaß in der Composition, p.540

1733 G. P. Telemann, Singe-, Spiel- und Generalbaß-Übungen, Hamburg
Original print. A fully realized recitative in no.40. Like in Niedt, we see that the long written bass is realized with short chords in the right hand. On the following page he discusses arpeggi in connection to recitatives and includes an example.
    Telemann, no.40. Notice that the singing voice is notated between the right and the left hand.

1752 J. J. Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung, Berlin
Original print. Concerning recitatives See XVII Hauptstücks. VI. Abschnitt. § 33 (p.238) and also VII. Abschnitt. § 59 (p.272). Musical example in TAB XXIII.
Quantz, TAB XXIII, F.5

1762 C. P. E. Bach, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, Berlin
Original print. Chapter about recitatives in pp. 313-319

1765Georg Simon Löhleins, Clavier-Schule..., Leipzig (further editions: 3rd ed. 1779, 4th ed. 1782. Vol.2 1781). Chapter about recitatives in pp. 156–173
Original print

1791D. G. Türk, Kurze Anweisung zum Generalbass-Spielen, Leipzig und Halle
Original print. Chapter about recitatives in pp. 261-272

At last, one English treatise with some written-out recitative realizations:

[1757] N. Pasquali, Thorough-bass made easy, Edinburgh
Original print. Recitative realization on plate XXIV.
    Pasquali, plate XXIV