Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rondo and ritornello, Must All Be Veiled

(From a letter to a friend:)

I think my use of the term, "ritornello" was incorrect, after you (as I recall) correctly described the form of my anthem, Must All Be Veiled as a "rondo."

As support, below are some descriptions of rondo and ritornello which you might enjoy reading from Theodore M. Finney's 1935 (rev. 1948) work, A History Of Music:

On p. 88-89, in a section entitled "Musical Forms" of a chapter entitled "The Beginnings of Secular Music" which covers the 1000s through the 1200s:

"[Troubadours, et al] made the first distinct beginnings of purely musical form...From the time of the Troubadours until the present, the words aubade (alba), serenade (serena), pastorale, canzone (canzonetta), carol, rondo, and ballad (ballata) are constantly to be met as titles of short compositions...[I]n at least one case, that of the rondo, the basic idea of an important musical form was present.

"The rondo as we now know it depends for its structure upon the reiteration, after digressions, of the beginning subject matter. Its ancestor is the Troubadour rondet de carol, a dance song in which, as its name implies, the dancing chorus sang a refrainlike strophic song between the repetitions of which solo verses were sung and danced. The formal principle of repetition after contrast, which here becomes evident for the first time, was destined, after later tonal discoveries had enlarged and better defined musical resources, to become all-important in musical structure."

I see the above structure, called rondo or rondet de carol, contains an identical repeating element.

On p. 118-119, in a section entitled "The Madrigal" of a chapter entitled "Ars Nova [New Technique]" which covers the years of the early through mid-late 1300s:

"Another important fourteenth-century form was the madrigale or mandriale. The madrigal was a secular composition which spread during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to the whole of Europe and became, with the motet, one of the two great choral forms. At the time of its first appearance in Italy it was an exceedingly simple structure consisting of two main portions. One part was composed for several stanzas of text and the other part, called the ritornello, using new music and a different rhythm, came immediately after each stanza. This form will be seen to be closely related structurally to the older Troubadour rondet de carol, mentioned in Chapter 8 [quoted above]. It may be diagrammed as follows:

"Stanza A, Ritornello B, Stanza A, Ritornello C, Stanza A, Ritornello D.

"The fourteenth-century Italian madrigal is important not only as the beginning of an important choral form, but as a connecting link between the older rondet de carol and the later rondo."

I see the above structure diagram of a Trecento madrigal includes multiple ritornellos, which differ (musically) each time.

On p. 364, in a section entitled "The Rondo" of a chapter entitled "Musical Form At The Death Of Bach: 1750":

"The rondo form, an A B A C A structure, was often combined with the characteristic rhythmic procedure of a dance..."

I see the above structure, called rondo, contains an identical repeating element.

Finally, Wikipedia on Ritornello says:

"A ritornello (Italian; 'little return') is a reinviting passage in Baroque music for orchestra or chorus. The first or final movement of a solo concerto, concerto grosso, or aria may be in 'ritornello form', in which the ritornello is the opening theme, always played tutti, which returns in whole or in part and in different keys throughout the movement. In these visits to different keys, ritornello form differs from the rondo.

"The final section of a fourteenth century madrigal had previously been called the ritornello and a similar technique had been employed by Giovanni Gabrieli in his 16th century motets. The instrumental interludes in early Baroque operas were also termed ritornelli.

"Ritornello construction faded with the advent of the new sonata form but received renewed interest in the 20th century."

I see this distinguishes a ritornello, which changes key, from a rondo, which does not.

My piece does not change key, so I think you are right to call it a rondo. :)

Also, in using a rondo form, I had intended to produce an antique feeling.

In this, my purpose was to express the ever-presence of a certain problem which George Herbert and I described. This problem, of miscommunication between expert speakers and ordinary listeners, has existed always.

As usual in creativity, my impulse to express this fact arose preconsciously—in other words, it felt right, somehow. :)

Ars_nova – Wikipedia
Madrigal_(Trecento) – Wikipedia
Ritornello – Wikipedia
Rondeau_(forme_fixe) – Wikipedia
Rondo – Wikipedia

Copyright (c) 2014 Mark D. Blackwell.