Renaissance music

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The music of the beginning of the modern age, i.e. the period of the 15th and 16th centuries, is called Renaissance music. There is no consensus in research about the exact delimitation of epochs, as well as about the musical characteristics of Renaissance music.

Features and shapes

High split sounds, i.e. unmixed sounds, of the music of the Middle Ages are replaced by full sounds. The fifth and fourth harmonics give way to thirds and sixths. The development of the triad harmony is being prepared by starting the lines together instead of the previously usual successive parts. Complicated forms of isorhythmy are simplified. Numerical mysticism and Dutch canons in Franco-Flemish music are after-effects of the late Gothic period .

The system of church modes is expanded to include Aeolian and Ionic, which prepares the major-minor tonality .

The musical composition technique of Fauxbourdon is another hallmark of early Renaissance music . It ensured the comprehensibility of the texts and was easy to understand.

The subjective expression of a composition was given much more leeway than in the Middle Ages. A tone symbolism spreads in individual compositions that only knowledgeable listeners can perceive.

In Venice, the principle of the Venetian multi-choir was created, in which contrasting effects were to be achieved through different positions, sizes and casts of several groups of singers and instrumentalists. Giovanni Gabrieli , for example, is considered an important representative of this style .

In the second half of the 16th century the monody was developed in the Florentine Camerata ; The result was a Europe-wide shift in the direction of music that for the first time had human affects , dressed in musical figures , as its central content.

In the Renaissance era , the division of the voices into soprano , alto , tenor and bass is complete. With the added bass part in the choral setting, the ideal of sound changed and the four-part choral setting became standard. This is also the reason why the sound ideal was later replaced in the Baroque, for example thirds to sixths.

Vocal music

Both polyphonic and homophonic works appear in Renaissance vocal music .

German-speaking representatives of polyphony were Ludwig Senfl and Hans Leo Haßler ; Orlando di Lasso achieved great fame . The madrigal , the most important form of secular music in the Renaissance , also developed around this time . A typically German development is the tenor song , in which the melody (often borrowed from a folk song ) lies as a cantus firmus in the tenor and is artfully played around by the other voices .

Since the middle of the 16th century there were various musical centers in Italy, some of which took the form of long-standing artistic circles or "schools", such as the Roman School around Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina , the Venetian School experimenting with timbres and spatial effects , and the Florentine Camerata .

Instrumental music

The focus of the Renaissance music is the polyphonic ( polyphonic ) vocal music ; the instrumental music begins with Conrad Paumann's Fundamentum organisandi from 1452.

The Lute Player by Caravaggio , 1595

In the church music began organ to take root. Organ books with sheet music and textbooks emerged. A specific organ notation, called tablature , developed in different countries with specific regional differences. The old and the new German organ tablature , Spanish, Italian, English and French tablature forms were created. Italy dominated in the 16th century. New forms of organ music were introduced at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice and spread from there: Toccata , prelude and preamble , ricercar as the forerunner of the later fugue , fantasia and canzona entered the organ player's repertoire.

The most common house instrument of the time is the lute , for which a separate fingering (tablature) was also developed. Solo chants and ensemble pieces were accompanied with her, and vocal works could also be rewritten for lute.

The first major wave of instrument development in Europe also fell during the Renaissance . In addition to the further development of medieval instruments, many new instruments appear for the first time during this period. Woodwind, brass and string instruments in particular are now being built based on polyphonic vocal ensembles in staggered registers, i.e. as families with three or more differently tuned instruments. At the end of the 16th century, the following instruments, which are built in several voices and are suitable for ensemble play, are available:

The instrumental ensembles are put together according to the requirements of the piece and the number of available musicians. The instrumentation is usually not specified. Both homogeneous instrumentations consisting of only one family of instruments and mixed instrumentations occur. In mixed ensembles, instruments that are not built in families such as bagpipes , key fiddle , hurdy-gurdy , lute , harp , psalterium or shelf appear. The use of striking mechanisms is common. There is also music for natural trumpets and timpani, which is matched to the tone supply of these instruments.

The invention of printing music by Ottaviano dei Petrucci was also decisive for the Renaissance .

Dance books (collections of dance pieces and dance-like songs) by Pierre Attaingnant , Jacques Moderne , Pierre Phalèse and Tielman Susato are produced, as are writings on music theory and descriptions of the various instruments.

Even if most of the Renaissance instruments disappeared or were replaced in the course of the 17th century, some (e.g. dulcian and viola da braccio) can be regarded as direct forerunners of instruments still in use today.


The Renaissance was replaced by the Baroque era , which originated in Italy around 1600 (see Baroque music ). The change in style is most evident in the introduction of figured bass and monody , from which orchestral forms such as recitative and aria and their larger compositions such as opera , oratorio and cantata developed. The innovations of the Florentine Camerata are groundbreaking for these developments . Nevertheless, fundamental musical concepts that emerged during the Renaissance are also used in subsequent epochs, such as polychoralism . Last echoes of a real renaissance moderate attitude are also in the fantasies for viol consort of Henry Purcell to find.

Music historical consideration

Hugo Riemann rejected the concept of the Renaissance as an epoch concept and instead uses a concept of style, namely “music of the a cappella style, which imitates it through”. The inner connection between the arts is not so pronounced that a concept of epoch, which is characterized above all by innovations in the visual arts and architecture, can be easily applied to the history of music. Accordingly, he called baroque music the "music of the thoroughbass age ". Even Ludwig Finscher used in its manual of musical history not from 1989 the concept of Renaissance music and instead speaks of the 15th and 16th century music .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Keil : An overview of the history of music. UTB 2012, p. 17.