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Title: Recitative
Original Title: Récitatif
Volume and Page: Vol. 13 (1765), p. 855
Author: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Translator: Desmond Hosford [City University of New York, Armide1777@aol.com]
Subject terms:
Music
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
Availability:

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URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.012
Citation (MLA): Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "Recitative." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Desmond Hosford. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2002. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.012>. Trans. of "Récitatif," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 13. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "Recitative." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Desmond Hosford. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2002. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.012 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Récitatif," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 13:855 (Paris, 1765).

Recitative, in Music , is a type of song that closely approaches the spoken word. It is properly a declamation set to music in which the musician must imitate as closely as possible the inflections of a declaiming voice. This type of song is thus called recitative , because it is applied to recitation or narration, and is used in dialogue.

One does not measure [meter] recitative in singing, because the cadence that measures song would spoil the declamation. It is passion alone that must direct the slowness or rapidity of the sounds. The composer, in writing recitative in some determined measure, intends only to more or less indicate how one should pass or rest on the verses and syllables, and to mark the exact relationship between the basso continuo and the melody. For this the Italians make use of the meter in four beats, but the French mingle in their recitative all sorts of meters.

Recitative is no less different between these two nations than other types of music. The Italian language, sweet, flexible and composed of words that are easy to pronounce, permits their recitative all the rapidity of declamation. They wish, however, that nothing foreign should mingle with the simplicity of the recitative and believe that any melodic ornaments ruin it. The French, to the contrary, fill theirs with as many as possible. Their language, containing more consonants, more rough, more difficult to pronounce, demands more slowness, and it is on these drawn out sounds that they exhaust the cadences [trills], the accents, the ports-de-voix [appoggiaturas], even roulades [runs], without worrying too much whether these ornaments suit the person who is singing them and what they are saying. Therefore, in our operas, foreigners cannot distinguish between what is recitative and what is air. Despite all of this, it is claimed in France that French recitative is far superior to the Italian. It is even claimed that the Italians agree with this, and one goes so far as to say that they little value their own recitative . Nonetheless, it is by this element that the famous Porpora is today immortalized in Italy as is Lully in France. Whatever the case, it is certain that by common admission, French recitative comes closer to song, and Italian to declamation. What more is needed to decide the question on this point?