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Halsell, George Kay

North Italian Sacred Ensemble Music of the First Third of the Seventeenth Century Calling for Participation by One or More Trombones: An Annotated Anthology With Historical Introduction and Commentary

D.M.A. The University of Texas at Austin, 1989
(gmhalsell@cableone.net)

Although the trombone has been used in the performance of sacred ensemble music since the fifteenth century, one of the most important, yet least studied, eras of such use was the period that roughly encompasses the first third of the seventeenth century. During this time, the trombone was used in the many chapels, churches and cathedrals of the Venetian republic and other regions of what is now northern Italy as perhaps the most important member of the instrumental ensembles that both accompanied the choir and provided necessary instrumental service music.

With the exception of the sacred music of Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi, and its performance at San Marco, Venice, little of this repertory, or the role of ensemble instruments in its performance, has been studied in depth, and few modern editions of this music have so far appeared in print. This treatise seeks to demonstrate, through the presentation and examination of transcriptions of selected sacred works by composers other than Gabrieli and Monteverdi that were written during the last years of the sixteenth century and the first third of the seventeenth that use the trombone in some manner, that: (1) the trombone's first major role in the performance of church music, either alone or in conjunction with the cornetto and other instruments, was as reinforcement of vocal ensembles through doubling or substitution, in the manner common to late Renaissance practice; (2) as the relatively new violin gradually replaced the cornetto as the primary haut instrument, and as the use of basso continuo writing became the norm, the trombone continued to play a very important role as an optional or obbligato independent accompanying instrument, and also as a member of purely instrumental ensembles that provided canzonas and other service music; and finally, (3) beginning in the 1630s, the use of the trombone quickly declined, at least in northern Italy, owing to wars, outbreaks of the plague, and the increased popularity of the lower members of the violin family.