Renaissance Music

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Renaissance Music Essay Sample

Scientists consider Renaissance as one of the most notable periods in the history of music because it represents the formation and flourishing period of great variety of styles and their combinations. The current work will provide the discussion and analysis of one of the performance practices, which was created and developed during this time and marked the transition of Renaissance to Baroque because it combines the distinct features of these music periods: the prima and seconda prattica. Clarity, contrasts of textures and rhythms, stylistic flexibility and the great variety of emotional contrasts at the same time characterize musica reservata. One uses these compositions for emphasizing some heroes or events in texts. The analysis and discussion of various examples of compositions created with the usage of this performance practice show the distinct features of musica reservata.

Literature Review

The general description of the Renaissance period in music was taken from History of Music (2016). It provides the background of the understanding of the formation of mixed performance practice musica reservata. Michael Randel gives the first application of the term and its initial meaning in his work The Harvard Dictionary of Music (2003). The analysis of the distinct characteristics of this performance practice was taken from the Timeline: Claudio Monteverdi, Prima Prattica And Seconda Prattica (2016). The most notable feature of musica reservata is the combination of two polyphonic manieres: the prima and the seconda prattica. One can find its precise description in the work Mannerism in Italian Music and Culture (1979). Moreover, this book depicts the necessity of the use of various contexts and rhythms. The author of Monteverdi (2006) lists the major composers who used this performance practice in their works. The analysis of the Lasus compositions bases on the information, which Maria Maniates (1979) and Mark Formireland (2016) present. The compositions of Nikolas Payen were discussed drawing on the studies of Juan Jose Carreras and Bernardo Garcia Garcia (2005). One can evince the technical mastery of Josquin des Pres in the work Historical Anthology of Music (1977).

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Research of the history of music formed the background of the current work. One put the emphasis on the information concerning one of the Renaissance performance practices under the name musica reservata. The study of current subject was connected with the considerable difficulty in finding needful data because this topic did not get broad discussion. One took only relevant sources for the analysis of this practice. All the information is presented in coherent and understandable manner. The first part of the analysis provides the short description of the Renaissance music, musica reservata, and their major characteristics. The final part of the current paper presents the discussion of the compositions for the better understanding of distinct features of chosen practice.

Analysis and Discussion

The Renaissance period in music lasted from 1400 to 1600, and one can characterize it as the time of cappella choral style and the polyphonic structure of compositions flourishing. Artists usually used the word painting (the form of musical representation of poetic characters). The supremacy of instrumental music marks this period . The most widely spread compositions were motets, masses, and chansons. The liberation of music from the medieval constraints in range of textures and rhythm for the better reflection of emotions and deeper depiction of texts got the development during this time period.

The current work will focus on the description of one of the Renaissance performance practices under the name of musica reservata that appeared in the end of this period of classical music and can be considered as the transition to Baroque. Adrianus Petit Coclico used this term for the first time in his descriptions of the Compendiom musices in 15522. The author praises such music for reviewing a more text-oriented style of composition . These words refer to the writing style of Josquin. In that time, one applied this term to the newly emerging fashionable style of performance, which got the presentation only for the limited audience who made sense of music . Jean Taisnier gives the description of this practice can in his works. The author named it musica nova that distinct greatly from the older styles of performance .

One can refer this practice to a cappella vocal music . These compositions oriented on representation during the private entertainments for limited audience who knew music and could assess the iniquity of the new approach in making compositions. This style existed mainly in Germany and Italy . Intense emotional expression of the texts, exclusivity, delicacy and sophistication can characterize it . Musica reservata involves chromatic progression and voice-leading. Special musical figures used in works enable to illuminate distinct words in texts. At the same time, this style has such features as simplicity, clarity, and balance.

Maria Rika Maniates (1979) in her work noted that musica reservata bases on two distinct polyphonic manieres the prima and seconda prattica9. One can explain the prima as the equipoise of textual exigencies, abstract law, and the stylistic flexibility as well as characterize as the practice that allowed breaking established rules of the melody in parts of the texts, which contain drama and emotions, or when it the author requires it . This practice educes the composer with the freedom to change the music and introduce some dissonance into it for making emphasis on certain elements. Thus, reservata represents the composition of radical techniques that show the contrast in depiction of affection with the mathematical predictions of earlier composers . One can justify the deviation from classical norms in this performance practice by grounds of expressive goal for the depictions of the text in a vivid, lively poignant, graphic, and realistic manner .

Thus, musica reservata represents the transition from the dianotistic style to chromatic and enharmonic ones, which people sing in the hyperrefined manner appropriate to private chamber music. The iniquity of this practice includes contrasts of texture and rhythm to degree, which were hitherto unknown . The viewers also changed: one created musica reservata for the praise of noble individuals instead of ordinary public.

Distinct characteristics of this performance practice form the understanding that creation of compositions by using it was rather complicated process because the composers had to refine various musical patterns with affective and textual meaning . Hence, only the most learned cognoscenti could successfully realize it and work during the rime period from 1530 to 1630 . Among them are Philippe de Monte, Lucas Marenzio, Antonio Inginero, Orlande de Lassus (Propohetiae Sibullarum, Ponitential Psalms, and Tiryre tu patule), Nicolas Payen (Carole cur defles), and Josquin des Pres (Tu pauperum refugium (the second part of the motet Magnus es tu, Domine) .

Lassus in his compositions successfully used music transitions and accommodated them into the content of the test. Thus, the listener thought that he saw the plot represented before his eyes . Tiryre tu patule is the sharp example of musica reservata as one created it for the restricted court audience. The author composed Penitential Psalms especially for the duce. The opening of this composition sets the mood of the whole work by means of slow-moving and somber harmonies. However, then, Lasus introduces the variety of textures with the aim to show the movement and to maintain the interest . It is notable, that the composer divided the text into several sections, which have their own textural changes. The sections with the reduced voice made different introductions and highlighted various characters.

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In the motet Carole cur defles, composed after the death of Isabella of Portugal in 1539 , Payen combines classical norms and the clear anomaly between melodic and harmonic components because in this composition the cadences base on D or on G . One should pay the additional attention to very explicit clausuala on E as the final cadence of the exceptionally long opening section on the words Carole cur defles Isabella . As per authors opinion, this model ambiguity represents the sharp example of musica reservata and conceptuality because it shows the existing turbulence between the court and Charles V, which arose after Isabellas death. Scientists also call this work the ceremonial motet (or Staatsmotete) . It emphasizes the fact that it one composed it for the specific events and selected audience. This Figure 1 shows the use of transition of various rhythms and music structures with the aim to make the greater emphasis on certain words. This part of the composition of Nicolas Payen reflects one of the major distinct features of this performance practice.

Nicolas Payen. Carole cur defles

Figure 1. Nicolas Payen. Carole cur defles.

Source: Juan Jose Carreras and Bernardo Garcia Garcia, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music,130.

Josquin des Pres is considered to be the classical master of the Renaissance music who first combined the expressiveness and spirituality in his work Tu pauper refugium . This motet represents the clarity, technical mastery, and the variety of styles as well as reciprocity between music and text at the same time.


Thus, this paper presents the description of one of the most notable periods in the history of music Renaissance. One can characterize this time as the one containing the development of various styles, techniques, and structures, like a cappella choral style. The main emphasis in this research is on the musica reservata that appeared in the end of Renaissance. The chromatic progression and voice-leading, use of musical figures for making the emphasis on special events and characters in the text, and the combination of the prima and seconda prattica mark this performance practice of cappella vocal music. Thus, musica reservata demonstrates the contrast of rhythms and textures. Usually, one performed the compositions on the private entertainments for the limited public, which knew the music and could assess its uniqueness. The most notable composers using this practice of performance are Philippe de Monte, Lucas Marenzio, Antonio Inginero, Orlande de Lassus, Nicolas Payen, and Josquin des Pres.