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The Musical Rhetoric of the Polish Baroque

The Musical Rhetoric of the Polish Baroque


Tomasz Jasinski

This book looks at the rich means of text interpretation in seventeenth and eighteenth century Polish music, a relatively unknown phenomenon. The works of old Polish masters exhibit many ingenious and beautiful solutions in musical oration, which will appeal to wide circles of lovers and experts of old music. One of the fundamental components of baroque musical poetics was music-rhetorical figures, which were the main means of shaping expression – the base and quintessence of musical rhetoric. It was by means of figures that composers built the musical interpretation of a verbal text, developing pictorial, emphatic, onomatopoeic, symbolic, and allegorical structures that rendered emotions and meanings carried by the verbal level of a musical piece.
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Chapter 1 Emergence of a Domestic Musical Rhetorical Tradition in the Renaissance


The study of musical rhetoric in prebaroque Polish music is necessarily fragmentary. This is because Polish musical compositions in that period are poorly documented. We know of few domestic composers in the Renaissance, and their extant compositional oeuvre only includes a handful of works (Sebastian z Felsztyna, Wacław z Szamotuł, Marcin Leopolita, Krzysztof Borek, Tomasz Szadek) and occasionally just one (Marcin Paligon), while only in isolated cases, a larger body of works has survived (Mikołaj Gomółka, Mikołaj Zieleński).101 It is clear that such a state of affairs makes it impossible to examine more closely the evolution of interpretative devices, the main tendencies, or dominating conventions in the use of figures, requiring a richer repertoire both quantitatively and qualitatively. In that aspect, a Polish music historian is handicapped compared to a Dutch, Italian, or German colleague.102 In our case, the endeavour was rather to identify solutions parallel to the pan–European repertoire. This was so that we could disclose, be it only in part, the process of emergence of a domestic Polish rhetorical tradition.103 ← 49 | 50 →

1. Latin Polyphony

Within Latin compositions, the first numerous and decipherable interpretative procedures can be found in the works of Wacław z Szamotuł. Although the surviving oeuvre of this composer is more than modest, it represents a number of phenomena that are unequivocal evidence of a compositional thinking in terms of figures. They can be considered the true beginning of Old Polish...

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