The Baroque and the Composers of the Twentieth Century
AbstractFree borrowing and use of transformed elements of the music of past periods when forming contemporary music enables musical art, while incorporating the new, to maintain the continuity of its development; otherwise music risks losing contact with the world around. Many characteristics of baroque composition have found application in a number of 20tn century works: rhythm, polyphonic texture, the additive principle of formal construction, the use of idiomatic idiosyncrasies of individual instruments and the interchange of these idioms, the harmonic polarity between bass and superius, called by Hindemith the »two-voice framework«, etc. There can be no doubt that out of the whole of Baroque music it is the Concerto Grosso which has had the greatest influence on the music of today. Thus the contours and structure of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks Concerto have much in common with corresponding parts in a number of the Brandenburg Concertos. We can also trace Baroque characteristics in some of Stravinsky's other works – in Concerto in D, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos and in the Symphony of Psalms. The Divertimento of Béla Bartók also seeks inspiration in the concerto grosso, in dividing the performers into concertino and ripieno and in baroque rhythms, which appear even in such a work as Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Antiphonality is intensified in Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta serving him as a departure for the achievement of sonorous contrasts. Hindemith owes much to the Baroque. His treatment of the fugue is typical of the characteristic »Hindemith style« which has essentially remained unchanged but seems to have consolidated from youth to maturity. A revived interest in the fugue may be considered a sign of interest in the baroque, as is also interest in other features of baroque polyphony – canon, inversion, augmentation, diminution and retrogression, etc., which have all been incorporated in contemporary compositional practice. If the use of such features as these becomes an aim in itself so that music loses its point, we come to that abyss between composer and listener which distinguishes contemporary musical life. The baroque composer wrote as a matter of course in an idiom which was »modern« and comprehensible at the time. He wrote for the day but as elaborately and »artificially« as he could. The audience had sufficient technical knowledge to keep abreast with the musical innovations of the time. Today, for whatever reason, a »progressive« composer no longer has the close contact with his audience that was usual in the Baroque age. If it were once more possible it might be more beneficial to the composer than any number of laudatory reviews or the approbation of a small group of friends. In such a case, at least, he could hardly remain aloof from the potential consumers of his music and scatter indigestible tidbits from a height, in the hope that they would ultimately be found palatable.
Copyright (c) 1966 Halsey Stevens
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal Musicological Annual by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.