Partimenti (unfigured bass) — Rediscovery of a Lost Art

02006-12-23This is really an excellent web site: Monuments of Partimenti, a series presenting the great collections of instructional music intended for the training of European court musicians, edited by Robert O. Gjerdingen.

In the 1700s, most aspiring musicians studied what were then known as partimenti. Partimenti were the bass parts to imaginary musical ensembles. The student’s task was to read a bass part, to imagine the other voices in the ensemble, and then to play all the parts together at the harpsichord or organ.
This task was not easy, but a student would emerge from such training with a highly developed musical imagination. Many of the greatest composers — Bach, Händel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven — worked through these exercises.
The tradition died out by the later 1800s, but Gjerdingen is helping to bring partimenti back to life for a new generation of students […]

From the Northwestern University 2003 Research Annual Report PDF
Musical exercises from 17th century Naples [and Paris]
Facsimiles of some realizations of the partimenti of F. Fenaroli’s “Partimenti ossia basso numerato” quoted above. Decifrazione del V. e VI. libro de’ partimenti di Fenaroli del Cav[alliere] N[iccolò] C[alichiopulo] Manzaro

A relict from the 20th century: Paul Vidal and Nadia Boulanger: A collection of given basses and melodies PDF
02006-12-21 MyOrgan is an open source application which can read Hauptwerk v1 sampled organ pipes. Virtual Pipe Organ

Basso Continuo | Basse Chiffrée | Figured Bass | Thoroughbass | Generalbaß

02006-12-06 Figured bass was a musical notation invented in the late 1500s to the early 1600s after the breakdown of the Renaissance polyphonic style. It provided a framework for improvisation — then called the realization of a figured bass — quite similar to the chord changes developed in the 20th century by jazz musicians and now in use everywhere. However, figured bass was developed before the rise of functional harmony. The notation originally was derived from the movements of separate voices and only referred to the pitches of upper voices relative to a fixed bass (pattern). Figured bass was in use mainly in the Baroque period (1600–1750). Later on composers went on to fix all voices in their scores.

Even after the end of the Baroque period figured bass was still in use for educational purposes, for ex., Mozart KV 506a, Studies for Thomas Attwood 1785–1786.
Regarding the development of tonal music there is an interesting work in progress to be found on the web: Tom Sutcliffe: Chord progressions in tonal music.
Music of the 17th and 18th Century

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