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The Performance of Italian Basso Continuo

Basso continuo accompaniment calls upon a complex tapestry of harmonic, rhythmic, compositional, analytical and improvisational skills. The evolving knowledge that underpinned the performance of basso continuo was built up and transmitted from the late 1500s to the second half of the eighteenth century, when changes in instruments together with the assertion of control by composers over their works brought about its demise. By tracing the development of basso continuo over time and across the regions of Italy where differing practices emerged, Giulia Nuti accesses this body of musical usage. Sources include the music itself, introductions and specific instructions and requirements in song books and operas, contemporary accounts of performances and, in the later period of basso continuo, description and instruction offered in theoretical treatises. Changes in instruments and instrumental usage and the resulting sounds available to composers and performers are considered, as well as the altering relationship between the improvising continuo player and the composer. Extensive documentation from both manuscript and printed sources, some very rare and others better known, in the original language, followed by a precise English translation, is offered in support of the arguments. There are also many musical examples, transcribed and in facsimile. Giulia Nuti provides both a scholarly account of the history of basso continuo and a performance-driven interpretation of how this music might be played.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Forms of accompaniment in the 16th century; The early 17th century; The 18th century; The end of basso continuo creativity; Select bibliography; Index of subjects; Index of proper names.

About the Author

Giulia Nuti, Conservatorio della Svizzera, Italy and School of Music, Fiesole, Italy


'The greatest merit of this timely book is to bring together between two covers, and provide illuminating commentary on, the most important writings on the performance of the basso continuo as practised in Italian music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. No continuo player, no student of Italian baroque music, will want to be without this compact, authoritative and well-balanced guide.' Michael Talbot, University of Liverpool, UK 'Most readers, even if they are experienced players, will benefit from studying the sources quoted here...' Early Music Review 'This extremely valuable addition to the literature on continuo playing is much to be welcomed, particularly by performers... Nuti provides a great service to musicians in collecting together the source material and in giving clear examples and transparent translations, and the volume deserves careful and sustained study.' The Consort 'This is a useful and attractive guidebook for harpsichordists who are either approaching the accompaniment of Italian vocal and instrumental music for the first time, or for the seasoned continuo player who might enjoy a refreshing tutorial after so many years of working in a personal and reliable style. Nuti has gathered a selection of source materials that will be welcomed by harpsichordists. This book offers an overview of materials that help to inform accompanying and differentiate national styles in performance... presents its information in a clear and challenging way, answering some questions and posing many more... throughout the 130 page volume Nuti has presented interesting problems. Her work has reignited my interest in Italian continuo practice.' Notes '... a fascinating and useful book...' Harpsichord & Fortepiano '... very informative study... a true refreshment in the recent professional literature dealing with the performance practices of Baroque and early classical music... I believe that The Performance of italian Basso Continuo is sure to become an indispensable read for numerous early-music enthusiasts, as well as for professionals.' International Review of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music

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