basso continuo


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also called  continuo,  thoroughbass , or  figured bass 

      in music, a system of partially improvised accompaniment played on a bass line, usually on a keyboard instrument. The use of basso continuo was customary during the 17th and 18th centuries, when only the bass line was written out, or “thorough” (archaic spelling of “through”), giving considerable leeway to the keyboard player, usually an organist or harpsichordist, in the realization of the harmonic (harmony) implications of the bass in relation to the treble part or parts. A low melody instrument, such as a viola da gamba, cello, or bassoon, usually served to reinforce the bass line, and the keyboard player received additional guidance in most instances from figures placed above the bass notes, a kind of musical shorthand indicating the intervallic constitution of the chords in question.

      Basso continuo composition was a logical outgrowth of the monodic (monody) revolution (c. 1600), which declared the supremacy of the treble in opposition to the textural homogeneity of Renaissance polyphony. The harmonic substance of multivoiced music was now literally contracted into an instrumentalist's two hands; the immediate repercussions for both sacred and secular music prompted Agostino Agazzari as early as 1607 to publish a manual of instructions, Del sonare sopra 'l basso (“On Playing upon the Thoroughbass”).

      According to J.F. Daube's General-Bass (1756), the style of improvised accompaniment was brought to its height by J.S. Bach (Bach, Johann Sebastian): “He knew how to introduce a point of imitation so ingeniously in either right or left hand and how to bring in so unexpected a countertheme, that the listener would have sworn that it had all been composed in that form with the most careful preparation.” Basso continuo was thus not merely a convenient shorthand; it gave zest to the accompaniment by inviting the performer to draw on his capacity for spontaneous improvisation.

      In figured bass notation the intervals are counted from the bass up. For example, 7/3 above G indicates a chord built on G containing the intervals of a seventh (G–f) and a third (G–b), that is, G–b–(implied d)–f. The performer can manipulate the spacing of the chord but normally does not play above the solo part. The figures are kept to a minimum, indicating only the most characteristic intervals as well as accidentals (nonimplicit sharps, flats, or naturals). Normally only the main harmonies, and not the passing harmonies, are indicated. Passing notes are added by the performer.

      Basso continuo realization can vary from simple harmonization to extensive explorations of harmony and counterpoint. A “full accompaniment” may require as many notes as the fingers can accommodate, and in such cases the rules forbidding consecutive fifths and the like are waived, except as they apply to the two outside (bottom and top) parts.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Basso continuo — Basso Bas so, n. [It., fr. LL. bassus. See {Base}, a.] (Mus.) (a) The bass or lowest part; as, to sing basso. (b) One who sings the lowest part. (c) The double bass, or {contrabasso}. [1913 Webster] {Basso continuo}. [It., bass continued.] (Mus.) …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Basso continŭo — (ital., unausgesetzt fortlaufender Baß), 1) eine Figur in der alten Kirchencomposition, darin bestehend, daß der Violon einen eigenen, meist den Singstimmen entgegengesetzten Gang in gleichen od. kürzern Noten bis an das Ende fortführt; dagegen B …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Basso continuo — (ital., »ununterbrochener Baß«) heißt die etwa um 1600 in Italien aufgekommene, unausgesetzt das Fundament bildende Instrumentalbaßstimme im Gegensatze zu dem vielfach durch Pausen unterbrochenen Singbaß. Der B. c. war in der Regel beziffert,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Basso continuo — Basso continŭo (ital., »ununterbrochener Baß«), in Partituren älterer Vokalwerke die Grundstimme des begleitenden Orchesters oder der Orgel …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Basso continuo — Basso continuo, ital., eine Figur, welche einen eigenen, meist den Singstimmen entgegengesetzten Gang in gleichen oder kürzeren Noten bis an das Ende fortführt; auch diejenige Baßstimme, welche durchgängig alles Vorgeschriebene vortragen soll,… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • basso continuo — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}muz. {{/stl 8}}{{stl 7}} w zapisie nutowym baroku: głos basowy wraz z cyframi, które odzwierciedlają strukturę harmoniczną utworu dla instrumentu akompaniującego, pozwalający muzykowi na improwizację <wł.> {{/stl 7}} …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • Basso Continuo — Allegorie auf die Freundschaft von Johannes Voorhout (1674): Auf diesem Gemälde sind drei für die Ausführung des Generalbasses wichtige Instrumente vereint: Das Cembalo, gespielt von Johann Adam Reincken, die Gambe, gespielt von …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • básso contínuo — bássa contínua [basokon ] m (ȃ ȋ) muz. basovski part, označen s številkami akordov, ki jih izvajalec improvizira na glasbilu s tipkami: orgle so izvajale basso continuo …   Slovar slovenskega knjižnega jezika

  • basso continuo — noun a bass part written out in full and accompanied by numbers to indicate the chords to be played • Syn: ↑figured bass, ↑continuo, ↑thorough bass • Hypernyms: ↑bass, ↑bass part * * * noun ( …   Useful english dictionary

  • Basso continuo — Bạs|so con|ti|nuo, der; [zu ital. continuo = ununterbrochen] (Musik): Generalbass. * * * Bạsso continuo   [italienisch »ununterbrochener Bass«] der, , Abkürzung B. c., Kurzform Continuo, Generalbass.   * * * Bạs|so con|ti|nuo …   Universal-Lexikon

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