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Tradition and advance in Pergolesi’s music

Stratford, Michael David (1973) Tradition and advance in Pergolesi’s music. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Pergolesi's reputation has undoubtedly benefitted from the brevity of his life. Dying at twenty-six, and therefore not having attained full maturity as a composer, he was at times purely conventional in his work, but then at others progressive and wonderfully inventive. Romantic biographers have made much of his brief career, and consequently inflated the importance of his originality as a composer. To others, his music has appeared variously traditional, lightweight, or even tedious. His present fame rests largely upon the Stabat Mater and the intermezzo, La Serva Padrona. This latter work became notorious as a result of its being the central point of dispute in the Parisian squabble of 1752 - "La Guerre des Bouffons", This apparently ensured its immortality. His four opere serie are for the most part conventional in style, but also contain passages which single out the composer for his originality. Of them L'Olimpiade eventually proved to be the most successful, although its original reception was distinctly hostile. Pergolesi's gifts of lighthearted melody, clear characterisation and naturalness of accent found their outlet in opera buffa, the field in which he gained greatest success. Much of his sacred music now has only historical significance, but some of his early works distinguish themselves for their originality. His final work, the Stabat Mater, is still frequently performed. In style it is inconsistent; deeply moving sections are followed by theatrical passages which are claimed by the composer's critics to be lacking in sincerity of expression. After his death enthusiasm for his works rose sharply. Supply of manuscripts could not meet demand, and many forgeries were passed as genuine. Modern scholarship has restored a number to their composers, but still works remain which can be only attributed to Pergolesi. Of particular importance in this category are certain instrumental pieces which, if genuine, for their style and conception of form would place him far in advance of many of his contemporaries.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1973
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:34

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