Theorbo

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Theorbo
Theorbo-ref-white.jpg
Other nameschitarrone, theorbo lute;
fr: téorbe, théorbe, tuorbe;
de: Theorbe; it: tiorba, tuorba [1]
Classification
Related instruments
External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg “Introducing the Baroque Theorbo”, Elizabeth Kenny, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, January 11, 2019

The theorbo is a plucked string instrument of the lute family, with an extended neck and a second pegbox. Like a lute, a theorbo has a curved-back sound box (a hollow box) with a wooden top, typically with a sound hole, and a neck extending out from the soundbox. As with the lute, the player plucks or strums the strings with one hand while "fretting" (pressing down) the strings with the other hand; pressing the strings in different places on the neck produces different pitches (notes), thus enabling the performer to play chords, basslines and melodies.

Plucked string instrument belong to the group of string instruments

Plucked string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by plucking the strings. Plucking is a way of pulling and releasing the string in such a way as to give it an impulse that causes the string to vibrate. Plucking can be done with either a finger or a plectrum.

Lute musical instrument

A lute is any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. More specifically, the term "lute" can refer to an instrument from the family of European lutes. The term also refers generally to any string instrument having the strings running in a plane parallel to the sound table. The strings are attached to pegs or posts at the end of the neck, which have some type of turning mechanism to enable the player to tighten the tension on the string or loosen the tension before playing, so that each string is tuned to a specific pitch. The lute is plucked or strummed with one hand while the other hand "frets" the strings on the neck's fingerboard. By pressing the strings on different places of the fingerboard, the player can shorten or lengthen the part of the string that is vibrating, thus producing higher or lower pitches (notes).

Chord (music) harmonic set of three or more notes

A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of multiple notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously. For many practical and theoretical purposes, arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of chord tones, may also be considered as chords.

Contents

It is related to the liuto attiorbato, the French théorbe des pièces, the archlute, the German baroque lute, and the angélique or angelica. A theorbo differs from a regular lute in that the theorbo has a much longer neck which extends beyond the regular fingerboard/neck and a second pegbox at the end of the extended neck. Low-register bass strings are added on the extended neck. This gives a theorbo a much wider range of pitches (notes) than a regular lute. The theorbo was used during the Baroque music era (1600–1750) to play basso continuo accompaniment parts (as part of the basso continuo group, which often included harpsichord, pipe organ and bass instruments), and also as a solo instrument.

The archlute is a European plucked string instrument developed around 1600 as a compromise between the very large theorbo, the size and re-entrant tuning of which made for difficulties in the performance of solo music, and the Renaissance tenor lute, which lacked the bass range of the theorbo. Essentially a tenor lute with the theorbo's neck-extension, the archlute lacks the power in the tenor and the bass that the theorbo's large body and typically greater string length provide.

Angélique (instrument) plucked string instrument of the lute family of the baroque era

The angélique is a plucked string instrument of the lute family of the baroque era. It combines features of the lute, the harp, and the theorbo.

Baroque music Style of Western art music

Baroque music is a period or style of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era followed the Renaissance music era, and was followed in turn by the Classical era. Baroque music forms a major portion of the "classical music" canon, and is now widely studied, performed, and listened to. Key composers of the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi, Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Henry Purcell, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Arcangelo Corelli, Tomaso Albinoni, François Couperin, Giuseppe Tartini, Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Johann Pachelbel.

Origin and development

The girl is playing a type of theorbo that combined two ranges of strings with separate peg boxes; the bass strings (longer) went to the straight pegbox that peeks from behind the girl's head. The other lute strings went to the bent pegbox. A similar theorbo is in the Wagner Museum, Lucerne, Switzerland. Jan van Bijlert - Musical Company - WGA02182.jpg
The girl is playing a type of theorbo that combined two ranges of strings with separate peg boxes; the bass strings (longer) went to the straight pegbox that peeks from behind the girl's head. The other lute strings went to the bent pegbox. A similar theorbo is in the Wagner Museum, Lucerne, Switzerland.

Theorbos were developed during the late sixteenth century in Italy, inspired by the demand for extended bass range instruments for use in the then-newly developed musical style of opera developed by the Florentine Camerata and new musical works utilising basso continuo, such as Giulio Caccini's two collections, Le nuove musiche (1602 and 1614). For his 1607 opera L'Orfeo , Claudio Monteverdi lists duoi (two) chitaroni among the instruments required for performing the work. Musicians originally used large bass lutes (c. 80+ cm string length) and a higher re-entrant tuning; but soon created neck extensions with secondary pegboxes to accommodate extra open (i.e. unfretted) longer bass strings, called diapasons or bourdons , for improvements in tonal clarity and an increased range of available notes.

The Florentine Camerata, also known as the Camerata de' Bardi, were a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de' Bardi to discuss and guide trends in the arts, especially music and drama. They met at the house of Giovanni de' Bardi, and their gatherings had the reputation of having all the most famous men of Florence as frequent guests. After first meeting in 1573, the activity of the Camerata reached its height between 1577 and 1582. While propounding a revival of the Greek dramatic style, the Camerata's musical experiments led to the development of the stile recitativo. In this way it facilitated the composition of dramatic music and the development of opera.

Giulio Caccini Italian composer

Giulio Romolo Caccini, was an Italian composer, teacher, singer, instrumentalist and writer of the very late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. He was one of the founders of the genre of opera, and one of the most influential creators of the new Baroque style. He was also the father of the composer Francesca Caccini and the singer Settimia Caccini.

<i>Le nuove musiche</i> book by Giulio Caccini

Le nuove musiche is a collection of monodies and songs for solo voice and basso continuo by the composer Giulio Caccini, published in Florence in July 1602. It is one of the earliest and most significant examples of music written in the early baroque style of the seconda pratica. It contains 12 madrigals and 10 arias.

Although the words chitarrone and tiorba were both used to describe the instrument, they have different organological and etymological origins; chitarrone being in Italian an augmentation of (and literally meaning large) chitarra – Italian for guitar. The round-backed chitarra was still in use, often referred to as chitarra Italiana to distinguish it from chitarra alla spagnola in its new flat-backed Spanish incarnation. The etymology of tiorba is still obscure; it is hypothesized the origin may be in Slavic or Turkish torba, meaning 'bag' or 'turban'.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Gittern

The gittern was a relatively small gut strung round-backed instrument that first appears in literature and pictorial representation during the 13th century in Western Europe. It is usually depicted played with a quill plectrum, as we can see clearly beginning in manuscript illuminations from the thirteenth century. It was also called the guiterna in Spain, guiterne or guiterre in France, the chitarra in Italy and quintern in Germany. A popular instrument with court musicians, minstrels, and amateurs, the gittern is considered an ancestor of the modern guitar and other instruments like the mandore, bandurria and gallichon.

Chitarra Italiana

Chitarra Italiana is a lute-shaped plucked instrument with 4 or 5 single strings, in a tuning similar to that of the guitar. It was common in Italy during the Renaissance Era. According to Renato Meucci, the designation of 'Italiana' followed the introduction to Italy of the flat-backed development of the instrument - referred to as chitarra alla spagnola ; to distinguish between the two versions. It is believed to have descended from Panduras, the Mediterranean lutes of Antiquity, and to be related to north African Quitra.

According to Athanasius Kircher, tiorba was a nickname in Neapolitan language for a grinding board used by perfumers for grinding essences and herbs. [3] It is possible the appearance of this new large instrument (particularly in a crowded ensemble) resulted in jokes and a humour induced reference with popular local knowledge becoming lost over time and place. Robert Spencer has noted the confusion the two names were already leading to in 1600: Chitarone, ò Tiorba che si dica (chitarrone, or theorbo as it is called). By the mid-17th century it would appear that tiorba had taken preference – reflected in modern practice, helping to distinguish the theorbo now from very different instruments like the chitarrone moderno or guitarrón . Similar adaptations to smaller lutes (c. 55+ cm string length) also produced the arciliuto (archlute), liuto attiorbato, and tiorbino , which were differently tuned instruments to accommodate a new repertoire of small ensemble or solo works. In the performance of basso continuo, theorboes were often paired with a small pipe organ.

Athanasius Kircher German Jesuit scholar

Athanasius Kircher, S.J. was a German Jesuit scholar and polymath who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine. Kircher has been compared to fellow Jesuit Roger Boscovich and to Leonardo da Vinci for his enormous range of interests, and has been honored with the title "Master of a Hundred Arts". He taught for more than forty years at the Roman College, where he set up a wunderkammer. A resurgence of interest in Kircher has occurred within the scholarly community in recent decades.

Neapolitan language Italo-Dalmatian language spoken in Southern Italy

Neapolitan is a Romance language of the Italo-Dalmatian group spoken across much of southern Italy, except for southern Calabria, southern Apulia, and Sicily, as well as in a small part of central Italy. It is not named specifically after the city of Naples, but rather the homonymous Kingdom that once covered most of the area, and of which the city was the capital. On October 14, 2008, a law by the Region of Campania stated that Neapolitan was to be protected. While the term "Neapolitan language" is used in this article to refer to the language group of related dialects found in southern continental Italy, it may also refer more specifically to the dialect of the Neapolitan language spoken in the Naples area or in Campania.

<i>Commedia dellarte</i> theatre characterized by masked “types”

Commedia dell'arte was an early form of professional theatre, originating from Italy, that was popular in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century. Commedia dell'arte was formerly called Italian comedy in English and is also known as commedia alla maschera, commedia improvviso, and commedia dell'arte all'improvviso. Commedia is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century and was responsible for the advent of actresses and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. A commedia, such as The Tooth Puller, is both scripted and improvised. Characters' entrances and exits are scripted. A special characteristic of commedia dell'arte are the lazzi. A lazzo is a joke or "something foolish or witty", usually well known to the performers and to some extent a scripted routine. Another characteristic of commedia dell'arte is pantomime, which is mostly used by the character Arlecchino (Harlequin).

The most prominent early composers and players in Italy were Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger and Alessandro Piccinini. Giuliano Paratico was another early Italian chitarrone player. Little solo music survives from England, but William Lawes and others used theorbos in chamber ensembles and opera orchestras. In France, theorbos were appreciated and used in orchestral or chamber music until the second half of the 18th century (Nicolas Hotman, Robert de Visée). Court orchestras at Vienna, Bayreuth and Berlin still employed theorbo players after 1750 (Ernst Gottlieb Baron, Francesco Conti). Solo music for the theorbo is notated in tablature, a form of music notation in which the frets and strings which a player must press down are printed on a series of parallel lines which represent the strings on the fretboard.

Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger was a German-Italian virtuoso performer and composer of the early Baroque period. A prolific and highly original composer, Kapsberger is chiefly remembered today for his lute and theorbo (chitarrone) music, which was seminal in the development of these as solo instruments.

Alessandro Piccinini Italian lutenist and composer

Alessandro Piccinini, was an Italian lutenist and composer.

Giuliano Paratico was a musician living in Brescia, Northern Italy. He was born around the year 1550 and died around 1616. He was a notary by profession but also an accomplished musician.

Tuning and strings

The tuning of large theorboes is characterized by the octave displacement, or "re-entrant tuning", of the two uppermost strings. Piccinini and Michael Praetorius mention the occasional use of metal strings (brass and steel, as opposed to gut strings). The Laute mit Abzügen: oder Testudo Theorbata that appears in Syntagma Musicum by Praetorius, has doubled strings (courses) passing over the bridge and attached to the base of the instrument – different to his Paduanische Theorba (opposite in the same illustration which seems to have single strings). The Lang Romanische Theorba: Chitarron also appears to have single strings attached to the bridge. The string "courses", unlike those of a Renaissance lute or archlute, were often single, although double stringing was also used. Typically, theorboes have 14 courses, though some used 15 or even 19 courses (Kapsberger).

Tuning-tior.png

This is theorbo tuning in A. Modern theorbo players usually play 14-course (string) instruments (lowest course is G). Some players have used a theorbo tuned a whole step lower in G. Most of the solo repertoire is in the A tuning. The "re-entrant tuning" created new possibilities for voice leading and inspired a new right hand technique with just thumb, index and middle fingers to arpeggiate chords, which Piccinini likened to the sound of a harp. The bass tessitura (range) and re-entrant stringing mean that in order to keep the figured bass "realisation" (the improvised playing of chords) above the bass instruments when accompanying basso continuo, the bassline must sometimes be played an octave lower (Kapsberger). In the French treatises, chords in which a lower note sounds after the bass were also used when the bass goes high. The English theorbo had just the first string at the lower octave (Thomas Mace).

Regional differences

Italy

The theorbo was developed in Italy, and so has a rich legacy in Italian music as both a solo and continuo instrument. Caccini comments in Le nouve musiche (1602) that the theorbo is perfectly suited for accompanying the voice since it can give a very full support without being obscured by the vocalist, indicating the beginning of an Italian tradition of monodic songs accompanied by theorbo. Italians called the theorbo’s diapasons its “special excellence”. [4] Italians viewed the theorbo as an easier alternative to the lute since the general attractiveness of its sound quality can cover over indifferent playing and lazy voice leading. [4]

England

A 1670 painting of an English theorbo player. Theorbo-wright.jpg
A 1670 painting of an English theorbo player.

The Italian theorbo first came to England at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but an alternate design based on the English two-headed lute, designed by Jaques Gaultier, soon became more popular. [4] English theorbos were generally tuned in G and double strung throughout, with only the first course in reentrant tuning. Theorbos tuned in G were much better suited to flat keys, and so many English songs or consort pieces that involved theorbo were written in flat keys that would be very difficult to play on a theorbo in A. [4] By the eighteenth century, the theorbo had fallen out of fashion in England due to its large size and low pitch. It was replaced by the archlute. [4]

France

The first mention of a theorbo in France was in 1637, and by the 1660s it had replaced the 10-course lute as the most popular accompanying instrument. [4] The theorbo was a very important continuo instrument in the French court and multiple French theorbo continuo tutors (method books) were published by Delair (1690), Campion (1716 and 1730), Bartolotti (1669), Fleury (1660), and Grenerin (1670). [4] French theorbos had up to eight stopped strings and were often somewhat smaller and quieter than Italian theorbos. They were a standard scale length of 76 cm, which made them smaller than Italian instruments, that ranged from 85-95 cm. [4]

Germany

German theorbos would also today be called swan-necked Baroque lutes; seventeenth-century German theorbists played single-strung instruments in the Italian tuning transposed down a whole step, but eighteenth-century players switched to double-strung instruments in the “d-minor” tuning used in French and German Baroque lute music so as to not have to rethink their chord shapes when playing theorbo. These instruments came to be referred to as theorbo-lutes. [5] Baron remarks that “the lute, because of its delicacy, serves well in trios or other chamber music with few participants. The theorbo, because of its power, serves best in groups of thirty to forty musicians, as in churches and operas.” [5] Theorbo-lutes would likely have been used alongside Italian theorbos and archlutes in continuo settings due to the presence of Italian musicians in German courts and also for the purpose of using instruments that were appropriate for whatever key the music was in. [4]

Technique

The theorbo is played much like the lute, with the left hand pressing down on the fingerboard to vary the resonating length of the strings (thus playing different notes and making chords, basslines and melodies playable) while the right fingertips pluck the strings. The most significant differences between theorbo and lute technique are that theorbo is played with the right thumb outside the hand, as opposed to Renaissance lute which is played with the thumb under the hand. Additionally, the right hand thumb is entirely responsible for playing the bass diapasons and rarely comes up onto the top courses. Most theorbists play with the flesh of their fingers on the right hand, although there is some historical precedent from Piccinini, Mace, and Weiss to use nails. Fingernails can be more effective on a theorbo than on a lute due to its single-strung courses, and the use of nails is most often suggested in the context of ensemble playing where tone quality becomes subservient to volume. [6]

Solo repertoire

The theorbo’s solo Baroque repertoire comes almost exclusively from Italy and France, with the exception of some English music written for the English theorbo. The most effective and idiomatic music for the theorbo takes advantage of its two most unique qualities: the diapasons and the reentrant tuning.[ citation needed ] Campanella passages that allow scale passages to ring across multiple strings in a harp-like fashion are particularly common and are a highly effective tool for the skilled theorbist/composer.[ citation needed ]

Italy: Kapsberger, Piccinini, Castaldi

France: de Visee, Bartolotti, Hurel, le Moyne

A few modern composers have begun to write new music for the theorbo; significant works have been composed by Roman Turovsky, David Loeb, Bruno Helstroffer, Thomas Bocklenberg, and Stephen Goss, who has written the only concerto for theorbo.[ citation needed ]

Continuo

The theorbo’s primary use was as a continuo instrument. However, due to its layout as a plucked instrument and its reentrant tuning, following strict voice leading parameters could sometimes be difficult or even impossible.[ citation needed ] As such, a style of continuo unique to the theorbo was developed that incorporated these factors[ citation needed ]:

Thus, the preservation of the bass line and the sound of the instrument are of the highest priority when used as a continuo instrument. Breaking voice leading rules becomes necessary in order to preserve the bass line and bring out the unique tones of the theorbo.[ citation needed ]

The theorbo is labelled by Praetorius as both a fundamental and an ornamental continuo. instrument, meaning it is capable of supporting an ensemble as a primary bass instrument while also fleshing out the harmony and adding color to the ensemble by means of chord realizations. [7]

Composers

Il suonatore di tiorba (The Theorbo Player), a painting by Antiveduto Grammatica. Antiveduto Gramatica - The Theorbo Player - WGA10353.jpg
Il suonatore di tiorba (The Theorbo Player), a painting by Antiveduto Grammatica.

Contemporary players

Jean-Maurice Mourat playing theorbo in 1998. Archiluth.jpg
Jean-Maurice Mourat playing theorbo in 1998.

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References

  1. Ian Harwood; et al. "Theorbo". In Deane L. Root (ed.). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online . Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
  2. 1 2 3 Midgley, Ruth, ed. (1997). Musical Instruments of the World . New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 186. ISBN   0-8069-9847-4. Theorbo-lute...hybrid instrument with the bent peg box of the lute and the long base strings of the theorbo.
  3. Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia Universalis, Rome 1650, p. 476
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 North, Nigel (1987). Continuo playing on the lute, archlute, and theorbo. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN   0253314151. OCLC   14377608.
  5. 1 2 Baron, Ernst Gottlieb (1976). Study of the lute. Instrumenta Antiqua Publications. OCLC   2076633.
  6. North, Nigel (1987). Continuo Playing on the Lute, Archlute, and Theorbo. Indiana University Press. ISBN   9780253314154.
  7. Praetorius, Michael (1957). A translation of Syntagma Musicum III by Michael Praetorius. OCLC   68427186.

Sources