Gallant music

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André Campra , L'Europe galante second edition (1698)

Gallant music is, on the one hand, music that, according to the style of the 17th and 18th centuries, takes into account the ideal of the " gallant ". On the other hand, the term found a narrowing in the musicology of the 19th and 20th centuries: The focus is on compositions that can be seen as turning away from the Baroque in its rather rhetorical formal language, but which at the same time only have qualities that are ascribed to the preclassical to a limited extent . The gallant style can be seen at this point as a step on the formally freer, sensitive style that prepared the early classical period.

Judgment patterns of the 17th and 18th centuries

Nicolas Lancret : Fête galante ("The Moulinet"), approx. 1730. Potsdam, Sanssouci Palace

The term originally referring to conduite , a specific (knightly) behavior, could only be applied to music to a limited extent in the 17th century. There is a connection to the artistic genre of the Fête galante , which was founded by Watteau and has been clearly defined as such since 1717. With regard to gallant subjects , the word is expressly linked to music in several compositions, for example in André Campra's L'Europe galante (1697) and in Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Indes galantes (1735). Both compositions celebrate the agreement between Europe and the world in a gallant ideal of love. In L'Europe galante, Europe everywhere pays homage to the ideal of gallant love. In Rameau's Opéra-Ballet , she herself determines the lives of people in distant and exotic countries such as Persia, Turkey, the Incas in Peru and the “savages” in America.

In the 17th century, gallant music is spoken of primarily in taste judgments, and these relate broadly to the performance as well as to the art of composition. Operas with a love affair are gallant per se as soon as they are compared with sacred music, for example. Love songs are even clearer in their interaction than gallant in their association with gallant poetry . A singer's interaction with the audience can make a difference in taste. Compositional structures are initially only shown to a limited extent. The major main styles are Italian , French, or mixed or German. The word "gallant" is freely available for these classifications. As in poetry criticism, at the end of the 17th century, all small forms increasingly came into question as an appreciation. It mostly stands for the "nice" and pleasant, the technically relatively (or apparently) simple, but elegant and pleasing composition, which cannot be appreciated in its intimate enjoyment with other adjectives.

Louis Fuzelier and Jean-Philippe Rameau , Les Indes Galantes (1735/36)

A piece of music is gallant when it offers the audience pleasant entertainment and elegant diversion, music that is suitable for divertissement . The decisive factor is a musical aesthetic pleasure , which also includes stylistic variety, danceability, possibly also performability as part of a gallant festivity. The suite collections of Michel-Richard Delalandes , François Couperins and Marin Marais , which in the early 18th century put small pieces of music together to create colorful themed bouquets, offer comparable arrangements of gallant detailed studies . In the search for something characteristic, for music for the moment of a surprising sensation, which deals with expectations in a playful and at the same time witty way, but does not seem too complicated, difficult or "stressful", I create my own compositions here that contemporaries classify as gallant. As with gallant poetry and storytelling, the "nice" or pretty idea is valued as gallant, the renunciation of "mathematical" pedantry, a mixture of (apparent) lightness and freedom, which is combined with " bon Goût " (tasteful), " esprit " ( Spirit) and elegance is used.

Above all, compositions in which there is no strict contrapuntal, " mathematically calculated" perfection of form, as is in the foreground in the tradition of the stile antico , are increasingly referred to as "gallant" in the 17th century. In a similar sense, Pietro Della Valle wrote to Guidiccioni as early as 1640 about a change in the musical style of the famous organist and harpsichordist Girolamo Frescobaldi he observed :

“And if he uses a different manner today, with more gallantry 'alla moderna' (= in the modern style) - which doesn't like your rule so much - he has to do that because he has probably learned from experience that if he wants to please everyone, this species is more gallant, although less scientific; and if he manages to really give pleasure, the tone and the player no longer have to demand. "

- Pietro Della Valle 1640 to Guidiccioni

In the same vein, Johann Mattheson wrote 80 years later (in Das forschende Orschestre , 1721) - naming some of his contemporaries by name, whom he counted among the most gallant at the time:

“Does anyone in this world believe / that the most famous and gallant composers in Europe, as Gio. Mar. Capelli , Anton. Bononcini , Franc. Gasparini , Bened. Marcello , Vivaldi , Caldara , Alessand. Scarlatti , Lotti , Keizer / Handel / Telemann etc. bey all its beautiful things probably a one Zigen Circul have done -Strich [= circle line] / by their work would be better / fall than usual? And everyone calls out: No! But now they are because of their excellent / musical (not mathematical) science / their great knowledge of human emotions and impulses, because of their ingenii [= spirit] / what they are; but not in regard [= with regard to] the arithmetique and the numbers . "

- Johann Mattheson : "Das researchende Orschestre", Hamburg 1721, pp. 275–277

In a footnote to this passage, Mattheson explains how he would like the word "gallant" to be understood here:

“There is a difference between gallant and gallant. When Rector Huebner writes of pedantry and gallantry as the two plagues of schools / he does not understand much good because of the latter. Just as one tends to cover many suspicious women / yes nasty diseases / with a gallant praedicato today. The Italians, however, understand a brave / skillful / capable and honest guy through a gallant huomo , / un valent'uomo , as I often find it written in old autoribus ... And in such / as his right genuine understanding / we take the word here too. "

Gallant style

From the appreciation of a more free use of forms, a separate discourse on the gallant style in music developed in the early 18th century. Authors such as Johann Mattheson , Johann David Heinichen and Johann Joachim Quantz list him in critical journals, in works for composition lessons and in forewords to printed scores. An important definition criterion for the gallant style is the renunciation of strict or bound writing . This gives the taste judgments of the early 18th century a theoretical foundation. The gallant style gives homophony new value, pays attention to cantability and melody line , and rejects the strict counterpoint and the complicated compositional patterns of the stile antico . In the middle of the 18th century, the debate about sensitivity finally took hold of the gallant. Where originally new possibilities of pleasure, beauty , elegance and divertissement were sought, it is now a matter of fundamentally gaining freedom for feeling. The gallant style is now defined as the opposite of the conventionalized, more rhetorical compositional forms of the 17th century and in this confrontation points towards the early classical period. Although the beginnings of the gallant style can also be seen in Johann Sebastian Bach's late work, as a representative of the stile antico his position in the gallant style is withdrawn, defining a break in epochs for the middle 18th century.


Johann Sebastian Bach: "Clavir Exercise op. I", 1731, title page

In the music of the 17th and 18th centuries, the term “gallantry” refers to all types of dances or effective character pieces within the suite that follow the overture or the established sequence of the traditional and musically relatively complex (or grave) basic dances Allemande , Courante and Sarabande would not necessarily have to appear, but should be incorporated to surprise and loosening up, i.e. for divertissement. These include, above all, those dances that were fashionable at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles and in French stage dance, such as: B. Gavotte , Minuet , Bourrée , Rigaudon , Air , Passepied , Loure , Forlane u. a. In purely theoretical terms, there were no limits to the imagination of character pieces, but there are some titles that are mainly used in Germany by Telemann, Bach, Handel, Graupner and others. a. often occur, such as: Badinerie (joke), Réjouissance (happiness), Carillon (glockenspiel) etc.

Gallant style (20th century)

Since the 20th century, the term “gallant style” has been understood in a somewhat narrower perspective as music between the late baroque and classical periods, which is characterized by the above-mentioned features such as simple sentence structure, emphasis on the melody line and the major keys, i.e. overall by a certain "Lightness" stands out from the high baroque style, towards a musical rococo . These modern stylistic developments went hand in hand with the so-called Neapolitan school from the 1720s, and to a somewhat lesser extent in French music of the same time. In Germany Telemann is considered a stylistic pioneer. Typical composers would be E.g .: Pergolesi , Leonardo Vinci , Francesco Feo , Leonardo Leo , Johann Adolph Hasse , Johann Gottlieb and Carl Heinrich Graun , Jacques Hotteterre , Joseph-Bodin de Boismortier , Michel Corrette and others. a.

The term was or is occasionally used disparagingly for music that, in comparison with the complex contrapuntal arts, especially of Johann Sebastian Bach, who was acting at the same time, or with Handel's oratorios, is considered relatively "primitive", yes "cheap" or even "inferior" was (is) viewed. Something similar has already come down to us from the aging Handel, who since the 1930s sometimes amused himself with the modern music of younger composers, and in 1746 compared the compositional arts of 30-year-old Christoph Willibald Gluck with those of his (albeit very musical) chef Gustav Waltz.

These more modern musical currents led to the classical music and formed the stylistic foundation of the music of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart .


  • Frederick Hammond: "Girolamo Frescobaldi" (= constellatiomusica 8), Italian translation by Roberto Pagano, Palermo: L'Epos, 2002 (originally 1983), pp. 156-157.
  • Daniel Heartz : Music in European Capitals. The Galant Style, 1720-1780. Norton, New York NY et al. a. 2003, ISBN 0-393-05080-7 .
  • Johann Mattheson: The researching orchestra . Hamburg 1721 ( online ).
  • Mark A. Radice: The Nature of the "Style Galant". Evidence from the repertoire. In: The Musical Quarterly Vol. 83, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), ISSN  0027-4631 , pp. 607-647.
  • Booklet and libretto for: Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les Indes galantes , Les Arts florissants, William Christie, published by: harmonia mundi France, 1991 (3 CDs).
  • Walter Siegmund Schultze: Georg Friedrich Händel , VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1980.
  • Wilhelm Seidel:  Gallant style. In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present . Second edition, factual part, volume 3 (Engelberg - Hamburg). Bärenreiter / Metzler, Kassel et al. 1995, ISBN 3-7618-1104-7 , Sp. 983-989 ( online edition , subscription required for full access)
  • David A. Sheldon: The Galant Style Revisited and Re-Evaluated. In: Acta Musicologica 47, 1975, ISSN  0001-6241 , pp. 240-270.

Individual evidence

  1. The naming of "Les Indes ..." in the title by Rameau is a bit misleading, since the country (East) India does not appear at all, but there are different "West Indian" peoples, i.e. American Indians : the Incas in Peru and so-called "Wilde" ("Sauvages"). See booklet and libretto for: Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les Indes galantes , Les Arts florissants, William Christie, published by: harmonia mundi France, 1991 (3 CDs).
  2. Original Italian text: "E se oggi usa un'altra maniera, con più galanterie alla moderna, che a VS non piace tanto, lo dee fare, perchè con la sperienza averà imparato che per dar gusto all'universale delle genti, questo modo è più galante, benché meno scientifico, e mentre ottenga di fare veramente diletto, il suono e 'l suonatore non ha più che pretendere. " See: Frederick Hammond: "Girolamo Frescobaldi" (= constellatiomusica 8), Italian translation by Roberto Pagano, Palermo: L'Epos, 2002 (originally 1983), pp. 156–157 (Hammond quoted from Solerti: Le origini del melodramma, Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1903, p. 158).
  3. ^ Johann Mattheson: The researching orchestra . Hamburg 1721, pp. 275-277 ( online , viewed August 31, 2017).
  4. Mattheson alludes to two expressions that were obviously used at the time, namely: 1) "Gallant woman" = a (kind of) whore , at least one lady, who "suspiciously" "entertains" many male acquaintances; 2) "Gallant diseases" = sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis etc., which were and are transmitted not least through the intercourse of certain (or many) men with "gallant women" and which can spread to such an extent.
  5. ^ "Genuine understanding": here = original meaning
  6. ^ Johann Mattheson: The researching orchestra . Hamburg 1721, p. 276 ( online ).
  7. ^ Walter Siegmund Schultze: Georg Friedrich Händel , VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1980, p. 69 f.