Air (music)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Air (also the Ayr , Ayre ) or the Aria is a subsidiary form of the musical genre of song , but can also be used to describe a simple song-like instrumental piece . However, it is always a simple composition, usually in two-part song form .

The term Air (meaning "melody", "song") in this context does not come from English (where the name Toy , as in Francis Cutting, denoted similar pieces of music), but from French, but originally refers to that italian word aria back. In the Baroque era , unless it was a vocal composition , the Air was a song-like instrumental piece that did not allude to a dance (e.g. as an aria by anonymous authors or in the work of Johann Anton Losy von Losinthal († 1721)), even if it was in a suite was inserted.

English ayres for voice and lute

The airs for voice and lute were created at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England towards the end of the 16th century and enjoyed great popularity until the 1620s. The Air is probably based on the one hand on the Italian monody , on the other hand on the Air de cour . These are solo songs with a lute accompaniment made up of several - usually three - parts. Their popularity began with the publication of John Dowland's (1563–1626) First Book of Songs or Ayres from 1597 (by 1612 he published four books with singing accompanied by a loud speaker). Dowland's most famous ayres are Come again , Flow My Tears , I saw my Lady weepe and In darkness let me dwell . The genre was further developed by Thomas Campion (1567–1620) and Philip Rosseter : their Book of Ayres (1601) contains more than 100 songs for voice and lute and was reprinted four times in 1610. Although this printing boom subsided in the 1620s, ayres continued to be written, performed, and often involved in masked plays . In the foreword of this book, Campion presumably opposes the "overloading with madrigalisms (tone painting effects, extreme chromatics, etc.) as they know the Italian madrigals ". Therefore these ayres are very simple and vocal. Other important air composers are Thomas Weelkes and Thomas Morley . Robert Jones , Francis Pilkington , Alfonso Ferrabosco and Henry Purcell .

Air at Bach and Handel

Johann Sebastian Bach uses a movement called Air or Aria in several of his suites , for example in the second and fourth French suites and in the fourth and sixth partita . These sentences are very different in speed and character, so that it is difficult to infer a specific meaning of this term. Bach, too, will simply have meant “melody” when he used this movement title.

Georg Friedrich Händel also referred to the sixth movement of the first suite in F major (HWV 348) from the well-known water music as Air. This melodic piece with its characteristic dotted rhythms is often played by baroque ensembles.

Air from the 3rd orchestral suite (Bach)

Air from Bach's 3rd orchestral suite, arranged for violin and piano (recording from 1920)

Probably the best-known example of a movement marked Air can be found in Bach's orchestral suite in D major BWV 1068 : In the 2nd movement the trumpets, oboes and timpani are silent; Strings and basso continuo alone develop a song-like movement in 4/4 time which, between the expansive upper part melody and the regular eighth note bass, contains fully developed, imitating middle voices.

An arrangement for violin and piano goes back to the violinist August Wilhelmj , in which this Air transposed to C major is played only on the G string ; in this arrangement the piece was named Air on the G-string . In this form and in many other arrangements based on it, the composition is performed again and again to this day.


  • Carl Dahlhaus, Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht: Brockhaus-Riemann music lexicon in two volumes. Schott, Wiesbaden / Mainz 1978.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Frederick Noad: The Renaissance Guitar. (= The Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology. Part 1) Ariel Publications, New York 1974; Reprint: Amsco Publications, New York / London / Sydney, UK ISBN 0-7119-0958-X , US ISBN 0-8256-9950-9 , p. 65.
  2. Hubert Zanoskar (ed.): Guitar playing of old masters. Original music from the 16th and 17th centuries. Volume 1. B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1955 (= Edition Schott. Volume 4620), p. 11.
  3. See for example Adalbert Quadt (Ed. =: Guitar music of the 16th – 18th centuries. 4 volumes. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1970–1984. Volume 3, pp. 15–17 (anonymous suite around 1700: Entrée, Courante , Sarabande, Aria, Minuet, Gavotte, Gigue) and 22 f.
  4. Richard Lorber: There was a time when the bees could talk. The Ayres by John Dowland (1562-1626). In: Guitar & Laute 6, 1984, No. 5, pp. 69-76.
  5. ^ Schmid Wieland: Tonart - textbook for the upper level. Innsbruck, Esslingen 2009.