Colorature - Historical Usage

Historical Usage

The term "coloratura" was first defined in several early non-Italian music dictionaries: Michael Praetorius's Syntagma musicum (1618); Sébastien de Brossard's Dictionaire de musique (1703); and Johann Gottfried Walther's Musicalisches Lexicon (1732). In these early texts "the term is dealt with briefly and always with reference to Italian usage".

Christoph Bernhard (1628–1692) defined "coloratura" in two ways:

  • cadenza: "runs which are not so exactly bound to the bar, but which often extend two, three or more bars further should be made only at chief closes" (Von der Singe-Kunst, oder Maniera, c. 1649)
  • diminution: "when an interval is altered through several shorter notes, so that, instead of one long note, a number of shorter ones rush to the next note through all kinds of progressions by step or leap" (Tractatus compositionis, c. 1657)

The term was never used in the most famous Italian texts on singing: Giulio Caccini's Le Nuove musiche (1601/2); Pier Francesco Tosi's, Opinioni de' cantori antichi e moderni (1723); Giovanni Battista Mancini's Pensieri, e riflessioni pratiche sopra il canto figurato (1774); Manuel García's Mémoire sur la voix humaine (1841), and Traité complet de l’art du chant (1840–47); nor was it used by the English authors Charles Burney (1726–1814) and Henry Fothergill Chorley (1808–1872), both of whom wrote at length about Italian singing of a period when ornamentation was essential.

Read more about this topic:  Colorature

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