A pedal point is sustained over several chords. Typically found in the bass voice, although not always, the pedal point remains the same pitch while the other voices of the chords shift around it. This instance is found in the sinfonia for the opera La Villana Riconosciuta by Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), in the first movement, Allegro Con Spirito. This particular example exists in several octaves in the bass, cello, and viola parts, as well as both bassoon parts. The pedal point occurs between the seven and ten second marks in this recording.
An overture is an instrumental work played before the beginning of a dramatic work. It was used to prepare the audience for the rest of the show and often used themes from later in the piece. An Italian Overture is an introduction to an opera or vocal work and has three simple sections of fast-slow-fast. Popular overtures in the eighteenth century would often be played outside of their operatic contexts in public concerts. This recording is from the beginning of a popular overture in the eighteenth from Paisiello’s overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia. The example uses flutes, oboes, bassoons, violins, viola, cello, and double bass.
Ostinato is a short phrase, chord or melody that repeats continuously through a section or whole piece of music. It is generally a simple and easy to remember pattern. The name comes from the Italian word for “obstinate” because of its repetitious nature. It has been a popular musical element for centuries. In the example from Paisiello’s overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia, listen to the lower sounding string instruments for two different ostinato patterns. The first pattern is a single repeating note and the second is a melodic pattern.
An anacrusis is an introductory note or group of notes that is played before the downbeat of a phrase or section of music. The first note heard in the provided recording is the anacrusis.
A sudden dynamic change occurs in music when the volume drastically changes from soft to loud, or from loud to soft, without any gradation between the two. Eighteenth century composers often employed this effect in their music.
When the articulation “staccato” is applied to a musical note, the note in question is shortened and detached. A staccato is indicated by a small dot placed above or below a note. In the provided recording, staccatos are first heard in the horns and then the flutes. While this form of articulation is not a product of the eighteenth century, it was used by composers of the period as a means of adding character to a piece or advancing a musical line.
Da Capo, or "from the beginning", is a musical form that involves a return to the beginning of a section of music. In vocal music, the return is generally ornamented in some way. In this excerpt, the opening of the aria is heard followed by the end of the second section's transition to the return of the opening material after the da capo. The return is ornamented.
An arioso is a style of delivery in singing that is more melodic than a recitative while being less formally structured than an aria.
Recitativo accompagnato (accompanied recitative) involves the orchestra as a means of accompanying a vocal line in eighteenth-century large scale vocal works, both sacred and secular. It is often characterized as emotional in quality and songlike with wide vocal leaps and extended high or low notes. This musical feature is often employed to emphasize important dramatic moments.