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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 6 Musical Rhetoricians


Our analysis has to include the individual achievements of composers. On one hand, text-interpretative figures were a universally valid convention that, in many aspects, had a common denominator; but on the other hand, they did not constitute a static “collection” of ideas and shapes that composers employed mechanically. Such a mechanical approach did happen, but at the same time, there existed multiple individual tendencies and interpretative preferences, stemming from a large number of factors: historical time, genre preferences, compositional technique, style, instrumental cast, relationship between tradition and modernity, and of course, the ability and talent of the composer. In synthetic sketches of the oratorial profiles of our leading composers, our endeavour will be to present both the reflection of the universal parameters of musical rhetoric and the more objective assessment of the object, defining its place within a broad historical panorama, and distinctive individual phenomena, individual compositional choices; we will also explore any particularly interesting and artistically successful solutions and novelties.

Our analysis shall focus on those composers who are relevant to the latter premise: leading authors who left a relatively sizeable output, allowing to the formulation of more general conclusions. They include Zieleński, Lilius, Mielczewski, Pękiel, Różycki, Stachowicz, Szarzyński, and Gorczycki. Second-tier composers, however—such as Kobierkowicz, Krener, Leszczyński, Jezierski, and some other authors of high artistic level but who left a limited amount of works (Wronowicz, Maxylewicz) or nearly exclusively instrumental works (Jarzębski)—will not be discussed in...

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