Tempo and Meter in Selected French and Italian Organ Works (1600-1670)
Duhr, Timothy J.
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This essay examines shifts of meter in organ music from the first part of the seventeenth century in France and Italy, and how tempo relates to these shifts. It focuses on texts and music written by Jehan Titelouze (1563-1633), Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), François Roberday (1624-1680), Louis Couperin (1626-1661), Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers (1632-1714), Girolamo Diruta (1554-1610), Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612), Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634), and Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643). The study reveals three distinct interpretive solutions to shifts in meter that were in practice at the time. The first is strictly “rational” and involves exact proportions, either based on a steady tactus, as had been the case in the Renaissance, or on faster note values. The second uses theoretically exact proportions, but involves slight modifications of tempi in actual performance, especially when moving from to . The last is “non-rational” and is based on tempi chosen by the performer or indicated with words by the composer, such as Adagio, Allegro, and Presto. The “non-rational” practice tended to be favored in Italy, while the other two were preferred in France. The study leads modern organists to interpretive solutions that can help them play music from this transitional period in a convincing and informed manner.