Role of Violoncello as Word Painting in Orchestral Music in the 19th Century Term Paper

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Role of Violoncello as Word Painting in Orchestral Music in the 19th Century

The paper deals with as to what is the Violoncello, and how was it played, whether it is similar to the violin. The paper shall next deal with as to who used the Violoncello, for what purpose, when it was used extensively, who used the violoncello extensively. The next section shall focus about the famous composers who created word paintings with the violoncello during the nineteenth century. Further the paper deals with as to whether the violoncello was popular at that time and whether it is still poplar today. These are the questions for which answers will be sought in the paper.

The role of Violoncello as Word Painting in Orchestral Music in the 19th Century

The Violoncello is basically a stringed instrument which is closely related to the violin. It is more often referred to as a cello, and it is a musical instrument that it slightly smaller than the 'bass', but much larger than the traditional violin. Much like the viola, the violoncello consists of four strings, with the notes A, D, G and C. The instrument will rest on a metal spike referred to as the 'endpin' and the player will keep it in an upright position between his legs while playing it. A bow is drawn across the strings, in a manner similar to the violin, except that the player will be seated in the case of the cell, while he has to remain standing while playing the violin. The name 'cello' is derived from the Italian 'violoncello', which literally means, 'little violin'.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Term Paper on Role of Violoncello as Word Painting in Orchestral Music in the 19th Century Assignment

The violoncello is the third lowest member of the violin family, ranked after the violin first, and the viola the second. It is also the lowest family member of the violin family, and of those that have descended from the 'viola da braccio', or the entire family of bowed instruments, of which the violin is an important family member. This is a family that has originated from the time of the Early Renaissance, and although this was the same time that the 'viola da gamba' family happened to evolve, it is a fact that the viola da braccio managed to overshadow the latter, because of a variety of reasons. One of them was that the former had a brighter and livelier tone, and it also had a louder sound. In general, a particular musical instrument can only produce a particular set of notes or sounds, and this is referred to as the 'scope' of the instrument. As far as the violoncello is concerned, its scope can be stated as being a range of C, below the bass clef, to G, at the top of the treble clef. An expressive and an animated instrument, the violoncello is similar to the violin, but at the same time, it has a deeper and more resonant sound, and it is darker in its tone.

Word Painting' can be explained as being a musical description of words, using text. While using the form of word painting, the music attempts to reproduce and imitate the emotions, or the actions, or the descriptions, or the adjectival actions within the text. This type of art form was generally used in the 'madrigals', or short love poems set to music, which originated in Italy and which was generally written for about four to six voices and other works form the time of the Renaissance during the fifteenth to the sixteenth centuries. This sort of music was charming and soft and melodious and tuneful, and was in general written for many voices.

Rhoda L. Flaxman has described word painting as being "extended passages of visually oriented descriptions whose techniques emulate pictorial methods." A word painter usually uses certain important techniques, like for example, framing devices, keen attention to compositional structure, and also to iconographic motifs, and a lot of thought to the contrasts formed by the interplay of light and dark, and to color, volume, and to mass. Of consistent importance throughout word painting is the perspective used in the work, which lays emphasis on the viewpoint of one particular spectator. This perspective is at times even referred to as a 'cinematic technique' in the modern world, and when it was used during the Renaissance times; it would have definitely made a tremendous impact on the audiences. In a nutshell, word painting represents the fusion of the narrative, the descriptive, and the dramatic, so that one may be adequately enlightened during the journey towards the discovery of one's own self. Often the landscape tends to blend with the plots and the characters and with the themes involved, especially during the Victorian times, and this was a change from the descriptions of the scene and nothing more in earlier times.

Word Painting is at times also known as 'Tone Painting' wherein the music mimics the words of the song being performed. One example of this is, when the action and lyrics in the scene involve going up, the music would also ascend, and if the scene was about death, then the music would also be somber and slow, as would befit a death. What was the music of the nineteenth century like, and how important were word paintings at that time? How important was the violoncello at that time? Was it extensively used, and was it popular? The music of the nineteenth century can be said to have begun with Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in the year 1770, and lived up to the year 1827. The mystique of the music of the nineteenth century probably ended with the end of Richard Wagner, who lived from 1813 to 1833. These were the two musicians who had an immense amount of power on the numerous composers and musicians of the nineteenth century, which was, quite oddly enough, caught between the 'neatness' of the eighteenth century classicism, and the future 'rationality' of the upcoming twentieth century.

Of the better known orchestrators of the nineteenth century, it was Berlioz, Wagner, Mendelssohn, and Mahler, and also Richard Strauss who are the more renowned. Schubert and Brahms are also known for their magical symphonies of the time. It must be stated that it was in the nineteenth century that most musicians and composers happened to be quite preoccupied with color, timber, and with bringing in extra meaning to their music. This is the reason that skills in orchestration were considered to be extremely important, and that too whether the composer happened to be writing a traditional symphony, or whether he happened to be composing program music.

It was during the nineteenth century too that a great many important changes happened to take place in the history of musical style, especially in the West. During the late eighteenth century, music in general depended on a number of so called 'formulaic phrases' that could be very easily transferred, at will, from one work to another work. These formulas were stated to be of grand dimensions, with daunting and at times overwhelming length. In other words, they cannot be taken as being mere motifs or short and sequential sets of harmonies put together, but rather as elaborate and intricate bars and phrases put together. However, apart from this, the most important time for the violoncello came during the same time, that is, the last part of the eighteenth century. Already, at this time, Art and instrumental music had started to go into a real decline, although it cannot be denied that Italy did indeed bring out some noteworthy productions especially for the opera and the orchestra.

What was commonly known as 'Early Music' is at times also referred to as 'ancient music' and even as 'old music' and this is the period in music that extends from the time of the beginning of the medieval period, until the time of Bach in the eighteenth century. The Baroque period of music which lasted from the latter half of the seventeenth century and which lasted up to the middle of the eighteenth century, was in most ways a period of transition and change. This is because of the fact that the numerous new styles of music like for example, the opera, the symphony, and the orchestra and also instrumental and solo music, and the ensemble music, which was to later influence the symphony orchestra began to gain in popularity at this particular time more than at any other time.

Early music can also be called 'chamber music par excellence', and the performers of this music were people who could really understand music and these were people who had an intimate approach to music. As a matter of fact, the performers were generally individuals, who would be able to immerse themselves in the basic science of the composition, and as a consequence, they would be able to do much more than simply perform on the stage the compositions that had been made; rather, they would do much more than merely interpret… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Role of Violoncello as Word Painting in Orchestral Music in the 19th Century.  (2005, September 26).  Retrieved October 21, 2020, from

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"Role of Violoncello as Word Painting in Orchestral Music in the 19th Century."  September 26, 2005.  Accessed October 21, 2020.