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The Italian Traditions and Puccini

Compositional Theory and Practice in Nineteenth-Century Opera

Nicholas Baragwanath

Publication Year: 2011

In this groundbreaking survey of the fundamentals, methods, and formulas that were taught at Italian music conservatories during the 19th century, Nicholas Baragwanath explores the compositional significance of tradition in Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Boito, and, most importantly, Puccini. Taking account of some 400 primary sources, Baragwanath explains the varying theories and practices of the period in light of current theoretical and analytical conceptions of this music. The Italian Traditions and Puccini offers a guide to an informed interpretation and appreciation of Italian opera by underscoring the proximity of archaic traditions to the music of Puccini.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Musical Meaning and Interpretation


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Preface & Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xvi

Although it focuses on his life and operas, this book is not primarily about Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924). It concerns the Italian musical tradition of which he remains, by common consent, the last great representative. What, precisely, “tradition” might mean in this context forms the main subject of the book. ...

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A Note on Translation and Terminology

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pp. xvii-xx

Unless otherwise stated, all translations in this book are my own. The guiding principle has been to capture the most accurate meaning regardless of the flow of the prose and to preserve as closely as possible the formulations, terms, and (often) ambiguities of the texts. All significant quotations in English are accompanied by the corresponding passage in ...

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1 Musical Traditions in Nineteenth-Century Italy

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pp. 1-40

The Italian musical tradition was not a unified whole but an aggregate of diverse regional traditions. There were a number of recognized musical centers and institutions, within which individual maestros passed on their own compilations and interpretations of earlier teachings to successive generations. Although the distinctions between them became ...

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2 Studies in Lucca and Milan

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pp. 41-65

It was obvious, inevitable even, that Puccini would pursue a musical career. His ancestors had occupied positions as maestri di musica in Lucca since 1739, and no one, least of all Puccini himself, appears ever to have questioned the assumption that he would continue the family tradition. Like most professional composers in Italy before him, he spent his entire ...

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3 Lessons in Dramatic Composition I: Rhythm

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pp. 66-139

In nineteenth-century Italian usage, the word for musical rhythm, ritmo, encompassed a far broader range of concepts and meanings than its modern counterpart. It could, for instance, be used to refer to fluid subjective movements of the individual mind or “soul” in terms of emotions and feelings, especially of the sort induced through the sentiments of poetry or music and manifested in the ebb and flow of a reading or performance. ...

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4 Lessons in Dramatic Composition II: Harmony and Counterpoint

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pp. 140-187

At the Lucca Conservatory, typically, students entering the final-year composition class would already have received up to four years of primary courses in musical rudiments and a further three years of secondary courses in the disciplines of harmony and counterpoint.1 These were occupied with a combination of the Neapolitan partimento tradition (mainly Fenaroli and Sala) and the associated Bolognese tradition (Martini and ...

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5 Lessons in Dramatic Composition III:Affect, Imitation, and Conduct

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pp. 190-255

The ability to conceive an appropriate ritmo for a given dramatic text, to furnish it with a suitable melodic design, and to construct from this a coherent musical phrase was an essential yet mechanical aspect of the craft of composition. Without the more elusive properties of expressiveness or beauty, or a satisfying overall shape to the musical discourse, such formulas mattered little. Audiences took it for granted that operatic music ...

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6 Vocalizzi, Solfeggi, and Real (or Ideal) Composition

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pp. 256-311

Before the demise of the great tradition, the practice of counterpoint (and, less often, harmony) was commonly taught in Italy by masters of singing. The disciplines were not regarded as separate, as they are today. On the contrary, a glance at the faculty lists of the conservatories shows that expertise in vocal training appears to have been considered a prerequisite for the teaching of counterpoint, just as proficiency at the keyboard was ...


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pp. 313-354


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pp. 355-391

Index of Concepts

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pp. 393-397

Index of Names and Works

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pp. 399-407

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001665
E-ISBN-10: 0253001668
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356260

Page Count: 440
Illustrations: 111 music exx.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Musical Meaning and Interpretation
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OCLC Number: 750236168
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Italian Traditions and Puccini

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Subject Headings

  • Puccini, Giacomo, 1858-1924 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Composition (Music) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Music theory -- Italy -- History -- 19th century.
  • Opera -- Italy -- 19th century.
  • Music -- Instruction and study -- Italy -- History -- 19th century.
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