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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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4. From Figure to Form


Figure 81B: B. Pękiel: II. Missa senza le cerimonie. Agnus, vocal voices, mm. 7–15

Różycki employs a descending progression of five semitones (A–G#3–G3–F#3–F–E), combined with suspensions of a second between the basso continuo and second violin on the first beats of mm. 91, 92, and 93, which implies an expressive quality contrasting with the diatonic and consonant surrounding sections. Pękiel’s semitonal progression is less expansive, but through repetition on another degree (C4–B3–B♭3–A3 in the bass of choir 2, mm. 7–9, and D3–C#3–C3–B2 in the bass of choir 1, mm. 11–13), it becomes a clearly expressive setting. That expression is further deepened by harmonic sevenths between the extreme voices (mm. 8 and 12), subtly ornamenting the harmonic progression and adding a melancholic air to the whole. This pathopoeia is the only Polish example of combining a chromatic progression with the cori spezzati technique.197 ← 151 | 152 →

We shall discuss other chromatic progressions later in the context of the mutual relation between figures and musical form. For the time being, in order to complete the currently discussed picture, we shall demonstrate a few more phenomena of alterations that do not belong to chromaticism in the strict sense but are closely related to it, as well as to the expression type and semantic aspects of the pathopoeia and passus duriusculus figures.

Relatively frequent phenomena include melodic steps in which the...

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