Italy – France – England – Germany 17th century

In his Traité de la viole (Paris, 1687, Third Part, p. 74) Jean Rousseau writes:

“Embellishments are for the voice what ornaments are for a building and since ornaments of a building only serve to make it look more agreable, an Air for the voice and a Pièce for instruments can be [performed] perfectly according to the rules but nevertheless not pleasing to the ear, unless provided with fitting embellishments”.

French sources offer both ornament tables and instruction for diminution, as the video below demonstrates. English sources, which include ornament tables by Matthew Locke and Henry Purcell, show influences from Italy (see for example Caccini’s instruction on vocal embellishment reprinted without reference in most editions of Playford‘s An Introduction to the Skill of Musick) and France (see Thomas Mace‘s Musick’s Monument (1676). One of the most important English senteenth-century sources is Christopher Simpson‘s The Division Violist: or An Introduction to the Playing Upon a Ground. Italian ornamentation in the second half of the century seems to have been taught mainly in treatises about composition and basso continuo, such as Lorenzo Penna‘s Li primi albori musicali (1672) and Angelo Berardi‘s Documenti armonici (1687). Or course there are also important German sources, to be dealt with later.

Future projects and recordings include: French keyboard diminution according to Marin Mersenne; Improvising doubles; Ornamenting one of Matthew Lockes suites for violin; Adding ornamentation and diminution to a Sinfonia by Alessandro Stradella.