The recitative is a musical form conceived for the human voice that is characterized by having the inflections of this voice when it dialogues. The recitative was used in opera , oratorio and cantata during the s. XVII to XIX. The architects of this revolutionary invention were the Italians Giulio Caccini (1551-1618) and Jacopo Peri (1561-1633), both from the intellectual circle of the [Camerata Florentina].
In opera the recitative serves to separate the arias. On the other hand there is a type of recitative in plain chant, which already existed for centuries in the church and in liturgical drama. It differs from plain chant for its rhythmic precision, for its harmonization and for the affective treatment of the words.
It is a form of singing, usually for a single voice, which is similar to the word, where the musician must indicate the inflections of the voice. This type of song is called recitative because it is applied to narration, storytelling and is used in dramatic dialogue. It is not governed by a tempo or a certain form.
The recitative depends a lot on the character of the language: the more accented and melodious it is, the more perfect it will be, because it will be more similar to natural language.
The poetry Greek was almost recitative because his language was melodious. The same does not happen with other languages such as French, in which the spoken part is separated from the sung part, so if it is sung it is not spoken and vice versa.
The recitative is not measured when singing, only the accent directs the slowness or speed of the sounds, as well as their elevation or descent. The composer is in charge of marking the time so that the continuous bass and singing correspond. The recitative usually uses a continuous bass , its harmonic structure at the beginning of the s. XVII derives from the madrigal. It borrows from the madrigal the use of chromaticism.
As it is a song in which feelings are expressed, modulations predominate to more accurately express the successions expressed by the reciter. During the early s. XVII the recitative in Italy was based on speech and rhythm, it does not exclude ornamentation, an element that it has inherited from the madrigal.
The recitative had become a series of melodic formulas designed to streamline the drama, the improvised ornamentation, apart from the appointees. Composers sometimes wrote very elaborate and complex passages to give a dramatic effect.
The speed at which the recitative is sung depends entirely on the expression. Until the last two decades of the s. XVII there were few examples of recitative accompanied by other continuous instruments.
During the s. XVIII is a vehicle for dialogue and dramatic action and in many cases serves as a link between arias. At the beginning of the operas the voice and the accompaniment always ended together, as in the madrigal.
In a later period it became customary to delay the last two chords of the accompaniment until the singer had finished.
One of the functions of the recitative of the s. XVIII was modulated from one key to another to prepare the following aria. While the trend after 1650 was towards a clearer differentiation between recitative and Aryan, new forms were sought to bring these two forms closer together.
In its nature, the recitative was designed only for singing. The two-part recitative is not uncommon in late 19th century operas. 17th and early 18th century, but they are limited to very short passages, in which the two characters sing the same words.
The general term for the orchestral recitative was accompanied recitative. The recitative of this type became an indispensable part of serious opera such as the " aria da capo ". We find it not only in operas, but also in cantata.
Continuous accompaniment was necessary for the performance of ancient operas, this was often played by a solo cello, or a cello and a double bass, without a keyboard.
Dry or accompanied recitative
A recitative composed only for - in addition to the voice - a keyboard instrument , such as the harpsichord or pianoforte , or with the addition of another instrument, generally a cello, that plays the bass is called "secco" (dry) . It is defined in this way since its instrumentation is scarce compared to the recitative "accompagnato" (accompanied), in which a richer musical accompaniment appears, in which the entire orchestra can participate. This is the case of the recitative "Don Giovanni! A cena teco m'invitasti", from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni .
- The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians