Sonata nr. 2 for soprano instrument and b.c.

About the piece:

Appears in the


“The sonata is also highly soloistic, very rarely does the bass take any part in the music’s melodic development, and even in
instrumental coloratura sections shorter note values are only occasionally employed, usually in order to hasten the harmonic motion rather than to add points of imitation.

Like Fontana’s and Notari’s works, Castello’s sonata is composed of a number of short sections. However Castello’s sonata contains more harmonic variety than the
works discussed above, since on more than one occasion it ‘modulates’ to a secondary pitch centre, first to F and later to A.

It appears that this practice is a feature of Castello’s style, since Andrew Dell’Antonio has identified its use in several of the ensemble works contained in the first book of sonatas.’ These shifts of tonal
centre are more consequential than a brief transition to what is effectively an imperfect cadence, since they remain in place up to the conclusion of an entire section and each
sectional cadence serves to introduce a different musical style. This means that, although the work may be divided into nine sections, only six of these conclude with
strongly articulated cadences on D. Following the principle employed in the analysis of Fontana’s and Notari’s works, that a ‘rhetorical’ section is defined by a cadence on
the modal final, it is possible to divide the work into the traditional six parts of a rhetorical discourse. An examination of the nature of the musical styles of each
section reveals no portion of the music with the qualities expected of a propositio.
Unlike Notari’s canzona there is no condensed ‘recapitulation’ of the musical material heard in the exordium or the narratio. Additionally, the second section of the work continues to display the properties of an exordium rather than to provide the development of the musical material we have come to associate with the narratio. For these reasons, from a rhetorical point of view, it makes more sense to consider
the work in five sections. The exordium, as shown in chapter three, must win the attention and admiration of the audience as well as introduce the subject of the discourse. Castello’s sonata
would appear to fulfil these functions in two sections which, though separated by a strongly articulated cadence do contain similar melodic material. The first opens with
the basso part only, which is joined by the soloist after three bars, with one of the few imitative entries. The imitation lasts only for one bar, after sounding the initial
repeating D, the solo part launches into the presentation of original musical material, concluding with a cadence on A. The soloist’s second phrase again begins with a new
figure, yet in bar 9 it returns to the idea heard initially in bar 6, this time presented a fifth higher, leading to a cadence on D and the conclusion of the section.

It may be seen that this technique is similar to that used in the exordium of Fontana’s sonata, where the use of the same musical pattern at the opening of subsequent phrases was
likened to the rhetorical anaphora. In this case, the music recalls the figure known as the antistrophe, in which the last word of successive clauses is repeated. The writer to
Herennius attributed a degree of elegance to both types of repetition. The figure also serves to impress the musical idea upon the minds of the listeners. The repeated
motive is composed of what is essentially a rocking ‘triadic’ figure presented in quavers, followed by a descending tirata which leads to a typical seventeenth-century
cadential figure (essentially V — IV63 — V — I in tonal terminology). Although the use of a circle of fifths progression which is hinted at in this opening section is certainly
present in sonatas by other composers, it is used so frequently by Castello that it serves as his distinctive ‘trade mark’, and one which, together with the use of
secondary pitch centres, and the tendency to bar the music in units of a semibreve rather than a breve, gives Castello’s musical style a particularly ‘progressive’ quality.
Probably the most significant feature of this opening section is the dominance of minor consonances. Every accompanying chord is minor except from those which
contain a raised leading note on the approach to the cadences. Despite the relatively ‘neutral’ effect created by the melodic line of this section, which betrays little in the
way of passions-signifiers save, perhaps, the sweetness indicated by the rocking minor third which forms the beginning of the repeating antistrophe figure, the prolific use of
minor consonances carries with it an impression of seriousness appropriate for the exordium of a ‘lofty and edifying’ subject.

The second part of the exordium takes as its starting point the alternating minor third of the antistrophe, this is followed by a more extensive run of semiquavers than the
original tirata, leading to another iteration of the minor third motive an octave higher. The instrumental coloratura following this is extended once more, but again leads to
the minor third pattern this time on A. In this way a sequence of rocking quavers and instrumental coloratura of varying lengths is established, moving through centres of F
and G before an A in the bass, accompanied by Os in the solo part, leads to a cadence on D.
An interesting feature of this passage is the fact that the movement of the bass line remains slow, despite the active quavers and semiquavers present in the upper part.
The fact that the harmony moves very slowly and simply adds an improvisatory feel to the section and this may be exaggerated by the performer’s employment of ‘nobly
negligent’ rubato. The combination of these effects strongly recalls Aristotle’s comparison between the orator’s exordium and the aulos player’s prelude, in which he
runs through the notes of his piece, both to ‘warm up’ his instrument, and to indicate his competence to the listeners. It is perhaps significant, therefore, that this section
touches on all three of the important pitch centres of the work (D, A and F) clearly defining the tonal scope of the sonata. Significant also is the inclusion of instrumental
coloratura which serve to delight the listeners as well as impress them with the ability of the performer. Here we encounter a instance in which the composer himself has
employed the concept of sprezzatura, since the semiquaver instrumental coloratura, though the most ‘impressive’ musical material heard so far, are reasonably leisurely in
relation to the frenetic demisemiquaver passage work which appears later in the work. Like the orator in his exordium, the composer has provided his audience vvi’th jusA. a
hint of what is to come, saving the most dazzling bravura until he has complete hold over his listeners’ emotions.
If the combined opening two sections do indeed comprise the exordium, then the following four sections into which the sonata may be divided can be seen as the
musical equivalent of the narratio, confirmatio, refutatio and peroratio. The structure of the sonata is summarised in the table below.


to continue reading go here.  – in ‘Passion and Persuasion’: The art of rhetoric and the performance of
early seventeenth-century solo sonatas, Volume 2 (of 2)
by Cathryn Dew
D. Phil., The University of York, Department of Music





The music:

Facsimilie: click here





Jan Van Hoecke, Recorder, Ágnes Ratkó, Harpsichord

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Ilana Cravitz – Baroque Violin, Claire Williams – Chamber Organ, Jan Zahourek – Gamba, Richard Mackenzie – Baroque Guitar

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La Mela Di Newton: Jonathan Keren – violin; Ira Givol – cello; Lionel Party – Harpsichord.

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