- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Pearson; 3 edition (December 11, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0130584967
- ISBN-13: 978-0130584960
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,402,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Baroque Music (3rd Edition) 3rd Edition
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From the Publisher
A survey of the principal genres and composers of the Baroque.
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At first one might think a 300+ page book on Baroque music is sufficient. Palisca begins with the rise of the Baroque ideal, and quickly moves to Italy and the rise of Baroque music there. Other chapters cover various genres and countries, including lute and keyboard music, organ and clavier music in Germany, dramatic music in England, sacred music in France, and J.S. Bach.
Palisca's writing seems good for undergraduate music majors-the reader needs a strong background of musical terms and concepts in order to get the most out of the book, but it is certainly not too dry or cerebral. The musical excerpts in the book are illustrative of Palisca's points, and the bibliographies at the end of each chapter are particularly helpful.
The main problem of this text is its inability to comprehensively address all of the music. While J.S. Bach does receive his own chapter, he only gets twenty pages. Palisca really covers only a couple of concertos in this space, ignoring all of Bach's other works. This happens in a number of places.
What this book had going for it was the fact that there were not any other texts out there which were any better. Professors had to choose between this text and the Bukofzer text from the Norton Series written in 1947 (music scholars have uncovered a great deal of information about Baroque music since the Korean War). I have not read the new Norton book by John Walter Hall, but if it's anything like the others, it will beat Palisca's text with regards to information, scope, and scholarship (though probably not readability).
Professors teaching an undergraduate course may still go with Palisca's book, but they should be prepared to supplant the text with other materials. It may be a good teaser to those with possible interest in Baroque music, and can be used as a reference/springboard to other topics.
There are many good music examples and the writing is clear and to the point. A professor using this text will likely provide his or her own supplementary material and focus in on certain areas more than another. Some chapters are likely to be assigned reading, but not discussed much in class.
For the general reader, this is also a solid introductory text, but if you don't have a handle on a lot of musical terms, you might want to also pick up a good music dictionary as well.
Palisca, a long-time Yale professor who passed away in 2001, is almost as celebrated as the composers he spent his life writing about. Indeed, the American Musicologist Society in 2005 named an award after him to recognize excellence in their profession. So, you know you're in good hands with him. But don't expect an easy ride. Like what his students must have experienced when he was standing before them in the classroom, you're just going to have to keep up, because he's not slowing down for anybody.
This is a shame and, if the editor of Palisca's book is to be believed, it's not what the book is supposed to be about. H. Wiley Hitchcock, who edited Baroque Music and served as the editor of the broader series of music books of which Palisca's book is a part, says all the books in the series are supposed to be accessible to "informed amateurs" as well as musicologists. The goal of the series, Hitchcock says, "has been to present works of solid scholarship that are eminently readable." Thus, the books are written by specialists "interested in communicating vividly."
Palisca exempted, apparently. "The second G in measure 64 [of Heinrich Schütz's O quam tu pulebra es] is a quasi-transitius (relatively accented passing note)," Palisca writes in a typical passage, "a grave-style ornament tendered emphatic here by two other figures belonging to the luxuriant style: an anticipatio notae (anticipation of a note) and prolongatio (prolongation)."
Eminently readable? To a musicologist, yes, but to an informed amateur? That would only be the case if the amateur is as informed as the musicologist.
The apparent pleasure Palisca takes in hearing the sound of his own jargon aside, Baroque Music is structurally skewed. First, he spends two thirds of his book on vocal works, which is justifiable only if the book is on the beginnings of Baroque style. And second, the one-third of the book that looks at sonatas, concertos, and sinfonias is superficial compared to the attention that's lavished on the smallest detail in the vocal portion.
Given Palisca's background in Renaissance music, his approach makes sense, since Renaissance music is to a certain extent vocal music. But if Palisca brings this concentration to his work, why did the series editor have him write this book?
Really, what the book should be called is "Monteverdi and the Birth of the Baroque," because that's really what it reads like. And that would be a fine book. But would it be a good book for someone looking for a balanced overview of the Baroque period? I don't see how it could be. Imagine a book on Baroque music that breezes over Corelli and Vivaldi, barely mentions François Couperin, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, says nothing about Denis Gaultier, and aside from a passing glance here and there leaves out violin virtuosos like Biber, Geminiani, Torelli, and Tartini.
What Palisca has written is a book for musicologists that looks mainly at changes in vocal styles that helped usher out the Renaissance era and usher in the Baroque period. It also takes a very quick lap around innovation in instrumental music. What it's not is an accessible and balanced overview of the Baroque period for informed amateurs, and that's a missed opportunity given Palisca's stature and talent.
When you find one you wonder: how many others there are ?
"The earliest known representation of the new family of instruments is this fresco
from the 1530s on the cupola of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Saronno, Piedmont,"
Now, saying that Saronno is in Piedmont, is like stating that Cambridge (MA) is located in Alabama.