Seventeenth Century Music

  November 16, 2021   Read time 2 min
Seventeenth Century Music
In general history the 17th century has less distinctive character than the 16th, being a time of extensive readjustments in politics, society and thought along lines previously indicated.
So, although the actual amount of artistic activity was great, it was not marked by the most distinguished achievement, except, perhaps, in literature In Germany the devastating Thirty Years' War (1618-48) almost paralyzed social energy, not only for the time, but long afterward. England was racked for an equal time by the struggles between the Stuarts and the Puritans, ending in 1660 with the restoration of the monarchy. In France the great feature was the long reign of the autocratic, am bitious and luxurious Louis XIV. (1643-1715), in 'which took place the lamentable exodus of the Huguenotsbefore and after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). Italy was comparatively peaceful. Striking events were a new repulse of the Turks in the east, the reduction of the Empire .to a merely nominal character, the rise of Sweden, and the colonization of America, but none of these had immediate relation to musical progress.
In the musical world the energy already developed had momentum enough to proceed in spite of external conditions. Early in the century the most notable new fact is the rapid evolution of dramatic music, especially the opera, which was soon propagated from Italy into Germany, France and England with interesting results. To this followed the vigorous advance of instrumental music, again from Italy as a centre. Indeed, Italy now fully replaces the Netherlands as the musical headquarters of Europe, In Germany, however, independent genius is displayed in sacred music, especially for the organ, and in France a special aptitude for concerted instrumental writing. Musical theory continues to crystallize towards its modern form.
Th'e manufacture of instruments like the violin, the organ and other keyboard instruments is perfected or decidedly improved, so that music of a higher order is demanded and scope given for instrumental as well as vocal virtuosity. Performance now becomes differentiated as a significant branch of musicianship, especially on the vocal side. Correlative with this is the tendency to transfer certain forms of music from private to public patronage, with consequent changes in the standards of musical ambition and in the social influence of the art. While the century presents no composer of the first order, it is of great interest asa preparation for the creativeness of the 18th century.