- Bolognese Instrumental Music 1660–1710: Spiritual Comfort, Courtly Delight and Commercial Triumph
The past decade has seen the appearance of various studies of genres or institutions in Bologna during the mid-baroque: a lengthy pause followed Anne Schnoebelen’s 1966 dissertation (“The Concerted Mass at San Petronio in Bologna ca. 1660–1730: A Documentary and Analytical Study” [Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1966]), but a flurry of monographs from the late 1990s onwards have focused on music at the Arciconfraternita della Morte (Juliane Riepe, Die Arciconfraternita di S. Maria della Morte in Bologna: Beiträge zur Geschichte des italienischen Oratoriums im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert [Paderborn: F. Schöningh, 1998]), the oratorio in the city (Victor Crowther, The Oratorio in Bologna (1650–1730) [New York: Oxford University Press, 1999]), Giovanni Paolo Colonna and the cappella of San Petronio (Marc Vanscheeuwijck, The Capella musicale of San Petronio in Bologna under Giovanni Paolo Colonna (1674–95): History, Organization, Repertoire [Turnhout: Brepols, 2003]), and printed volumes of sacred cantatas (Carrie Churnside, “A Study of Sacred Cantatas Printed in Bologna (1659–1717)” [Ph.D. diss., University of Birmingham, 2008]). All of these studies have benefitted from the wealth of musical and archival sources that the city boasts. It is now the turn of the city’s rich instrumental tradition to come under scrutiny, and in his book Bolognese Instrumental Music 1660–1710: Spiritual Com fort, Courtly Delight and Commercial Triumph, Gregory Barnett proves himself more than equal to the task.
Bologna’s pivotal role in the development of instrumental music during this period has long been acknowledged in the standard histories of the sonata and the concerto. Given the importance of the city’s musicians to the development of genres that have gone on to dominate Western art music ever since, it seems strange that we have had to wait so long for a book-length monograph placing these crucial developments in context. However, it has been well worth the wait. In the capable hands of Gregory Barnett we are guided not only through the works themselves but through various different ways of viewing the music in the context of late seicento society, largely based on, but not exclusively restricted to, the Bolognese environment.
This book is divided into seven chapters, each a relatively self-contained look at one aspect of the repertory approached from a particular angle, ranging from baroque dances to organ music. Due to its wide scope, little time is spent in describing Bologna’s historical or political situation; such information is readily available from other sources. Instead Barnett draws on travel writing, libretti, and the abundance of pictorial depictions contained in the civic records of the Insignia degli Anziani to concisely make his case that Bologna (like virtually every other Italian city of the time) was home to numerous social events celebrated with great spectacle, corresponding to the “courtly delight” of the title. The focus swiftly moves to the key matter at hand: Barnett uses the introduction as an occasion to summarize the current state of knowledge during this crucial evolutionary period before he launches his own somewhat radical interpretations. Attention is also paid to the Bolognese printing industry (the “commercial success” of the title), which undoubtedly played a crucial role in the fostering and promotion of Bolognese music.
After the tight focus of the introduction, the first chapter, a survey of the sorts of careers composers and musicians faced, may seem somewhat of a diversion, albeit one full of interest. By chapter 2, however, Barnett is in full flow in his examination of the sonata da camera. Acknowledging that work has already been done on the evolution of sonata forms, Barnett makes the decision to focus instead upon the contexts from which the dances originated. He comes tantalizingly close to being able to relate particular published dances to the original events for which they may have been composed, using surviving libretti and accounts of social entertainments. A large part of the repertory...