Vocal performance in the seventeenth century

Wistreich, R. (2012) Vocal performance in the seventeenth century. In: The Cambridge History of Musical Performance. The Cambridge History of Music . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 398-420. ISBN 9781139025966


Developments in vocal music, particularly in dramatic genres, naturally made increased demands on singers. This chapter focuses particularly on Italian practices of vocal technique and their pedagogy, and especially on the earlier part of the seventeenth century. It provides an overview of the singers themselves in terms of voice types and their deployment in practice, focusing principally upon the soprano voice in its various manifestations, because of its particular rise to prominence during this time. The chapter looks at the expressive functions of vocal technique in singers' performances on the stage. Child singers were ubiquitous in professional performances throughout Europe. Boys were to be found everywhere in church choirs both Catholic and Protestant, and as the German treatises make abundantly clear, were required to develop sophisticated skills to be able to perform the increasingly complex Italianate figural music.

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