Essays on the Performance of Baroque Music: Opera and Chamber Music in France and England, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Essays on the Performance of Baroque Music

Opera and Chamber Music in France and England, 1st Edition

By Mary Cyr


344 pages

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Hardback: 9780754659266
pub: 2008-05-28
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In this collection of essays Mary Cyr explores some of the written and unwritten performance conventions that applied to French and English music of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Using composers' own notations, marks added by 18th-century performers, historical treatises, and pictorial evidence, she investigates both vocal and instrumental genres, including opera, cantatas, instrumental chamber music, and solo music for the viol and violin. Some of the performance conventions remain controversial, such as the use of gesture by the French opera chorus, and others are still little-known, such as the use of the double bass for rhythmic and harmonic support in early 18th-century French opera. As many of these essays demonstrate, French Baroque music allowed performers a wider latitude of nuance and expression than is often assumed today. The essays in this volume will be of particular interest to scholars and performers who are interested in adopting a historically-informed approach to performing music by Henry Purcell, Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and their contemporaries. Several studies also deal with attributions, sources, and the discovery of a cantata by Rameau.


’The articles on ornamentation in English lyra viol music are a must for viol players interested in this repertoire… This book covers 30 years of work, but is so well researched and close to the sources that the older essays are not out of date… an extremely informative volume, of much use to performers and scholars alike.’ The Viola da Gamba Society Journal ’The articles are thoroughly researched and substantial; several of them have content which can teach us to perform baroque music to which they refer with greater historical awareness. And they break valuable new ground.’ The Consort

Table of Contents

Contents: Part 1 Vocal Music in France: Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre: a biographical essay; The sacred and secular cantatas of Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre: an introduction; Representing Jacquet de La Guerre on disc: scoring and basse continue practices and a new painting of the composer; A new Rameau cantata; Performing Rameau's cantatas; Towards a chronology of Rameau's cantatas; Declamation and expressive singing in recitative; 18th-century French and Italian singing: Rameau's writing for the voice; On performing 18th-century haute-contre roles; Basses and basse continue in the orchestra of the Paris Opéra, 1700-1764; The dramatic role of the chorus in French opera: evidence for the use of gesture, 1670-1770; The Paris Opéra chorus during the time of Rameau; 'Inclina Domine': a Martin motet wrongly attributed to Rameau; Preface to François Martin, Petits Motets for One and Two Solo Voices with Instruments; Bach's music in France: a new source. Part 2 The Viol and Violin in England: A 17th-century source of ornamentation for voice and viol: British Museum ms. Egerton 2971; Carl Friedrich Abel's solos: a musical offering to Gainsborough?; Books on old violins and 19th-century playing from the bequest of T.W. Mills; Tempo graduations in Purcell's sonatas; Violin playing in late 17th-century England: Baltzar, Matteis, and Purcell; Ornamentation in English lyra viol music: part 1: slurs, juts, and thumpes and other 'graces' for the bow; Ornamentation in English lyra viol music: part 2: shakes, relishes, falls, and other 'graces' for the left hand; Index.

About the Author

Mary Cyr is Professor of Music, Emerita, at the University of Guelph, Canada.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
MUSIC / General