Ensemble Music-Making in the Mirror Reflection of 17th and 18th Century Western European Painting

Keywords: ensemble music-making, clavier urtext, baroque musical instruments, music and painting, musical still-life, artists of the 17th — 18th centuries.


During the Baroque era ensemble
music-making was a favorite pastime.
For the nobility and the middle class
“communication by means of music”
was an inherent part of life: the musical
language was the means of expressing respect,
presenting “musical offerings” and confessions
of love. In musical competitions virtuosi
demonstrated their exceptional performing
skills, and high-society ladies accompanied
readings of poetical works with playing
the harp or the lute. The desire to make music
in the form of solo or ensemble performance
was shared by players on various instruments
endowed with different levels of preparedness.
This “social demand” resulted
in the appearance of the two-staff form
of notation, endowed with traits of a
quasi-score, which it was customary to call
the keyboard urtext. However, this music can
be termed as being for the keyboard only upon
the condition of their performance
on the organ or the harpsichord. The structure
of the “two-staff scores” from the 17th
and 18th centuries possesses immense
possibilities, since it presents a universal
form of notation for ensemble and orchestral
compositions in convolved form. As the result
of the traits of the quasi-score, the baroque
urtext became a unique phenomenon,
a peculiar “mirror of the epoch”, which
registered numerous 17th and 18th century musical instrumental clichés, scenes
of music-making in duos, trios, and even
images of groups of the baroque orchestra —
the solo and the continuo. A sort of mirror
reflecting pictures of music-making
and ensemble groups was provided
by the art canvases of 17th and 18th century

The Art of Music