Sie sind auf Seite 1von 21

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

Author(s): Povl Hamburger

Source: Acta Musicologica, Vol. 22, Fasc. 3/4 (Jul. - Dec., 1950), pp. 128-147
Published by: International Musicological Society
Stable URL:
Accessed: 29-04-2016 14:51 UTC
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted
digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about
JSTOR, please contact

International Musicological Society is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
Acta Musicologica

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

128 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

The Ornamentations in the Works of

by Povi Hamburger (Copenhagen)
The first impulses to the following examinations were received by me while
practising as a teacher of vocal counterpoint. One day, when going through
a student's work in which among others the following ornamentations were to
be found,

the idea suddenly struck me: To be sure, such leaps in crotchets are in them-

selves well balanced, and one also finds them frequently employed in textbooks with exercises of the >>Third Species<<. Nevertheless, I should like to
know if such modes are quite in keeping with the pure melodic ideals of Palestrina himself. Does he, in reality, make use of them?
In order to clear op this question, I first looked at a few of Palestrina's masses

and motets, all chosen quite by chance, but nowhere was one single leap upwards from one crotchet to another to be found, neither accentuated nor

unaccentuated. As for similar leaps downwards, not one occurred exeeding the
interval of a third. By this my attention to the problem was seriously aroused,

and I now made up my mind to take it up in a more extensive and systematic way.

But, at the same time, what had musical theory to say about this matter? As
is known, the theory of vocal counterpoint, based upon the art of Palestrina,
had in all essentials been at a standstill ever since the Gradus ad Parnassum

of J. J. Fux (1725). In spite of contributions in the 19th century, meritorious

in themselves, by Bellermann, Neekes and others, it was not until about twentyfive years ago that new points of view were established with regard to counterpointal discipline itself. These were due in the main to R. O. Morris and Knud
Jeppesen who were the first to apply the methods of modern musical science
to the classical vocal style. The greatest debt is due to Jeppesen, whose treatise

>>Palestrinastil med saerligt Henblik paa Dissonansbehandlingen<< (1923) has

by means of its great lucidity practically cleared up all the essential problems
concerning dissonance treatment. Proportionally, questions af a pure melodic
nature were provisionally thrown into the background.
Before long however, Jeppesen published his study >>Das Sprunggesetz des Pale-

strinastils bei betonten Viertelnoten<<l), based upon which a special chapter

entitlet >>Melody<< was inserted in the German end English editions of >>Palestrinastil<< (published in 1925 and 1927 respectively). Of particular importance
was the new and astonishing observation that ascending leaps from accentuated
1) Bericht iiber den musikwissenschaftlichen Kongress in Basel 1924. Leipzig 1925.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 129

to unaccentuated crotchets are practically non-existent in Palestrinian music

and consequently have to be forbidden in vocal counterpoint text-books. On
the other hand, the descending leap from both the accented and the unaccented
crotchet and the ascending leap from the unaccented crotchet should be altogether quite legitimate.
No doubt these rules are quite just as a principle. In my view, however, the
formulation seems in itself to a certain extent to be too summary and liberal
with respect to the three last mentioned categories of leaps by giving full
legitimacy and so to be more exact the formulation must be restricted in
some way.

To prove this assertion, the following examinations are being published.

Ambros V = Ambros: Geschichte der Musik, Vol. V (Kade), 3rd Ed. 1911.
L. = Orlando di Lasso, Siimmtliche Werke, Breitkopf & Hiirtel, Leipzig.
Laude = Knud Jeppesen: Die mehrstimmige italienische Laude um 1500 (1935).

M. D. = Musica divina. Annus primus, (Vols. I-IV) published by Carl Proske, Re.
gensburg, Pustet, 1853.

P. = >>Pierluigi da Palestrinas Werke<<, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Hiirtel 1862-1903,

33 volumes.

S. N. M. = Selectus novus missarum (Proske), Regensburg, Pustet, 1857.

>>Style of P.< = Knud Jeppesen: The Style of Palestrina, London, 2nd Ed. 1946.
Torchi I = L. Torchi: L'arte musicale in Italia, Vol. I.
Wagner M = Peter Wagner: Geschichte der Messe, I, Breitkopf & Hiirtel, Leipzig, 1913.
The musical quotations are generally given in accordance with the principle employed by
Knud Jeppesen in his treatise )The Style of Palestrina<<.

That ascending leaps from accented crotchets must be considered contrary to

the style of Palestrina is indicated by the extremely small number of such

phrases in the entire works of the master. The number of really marked cases
hardly exceeds a score, and they are mostly used to evade consecutive fifths
or difficulties in textual distribution. It is true that there is an additional

special group of 39 cases which have a dotted minim in an ascending leap of

a third (generally a minor third) succeeded by a step downwards as a common feature. According to Jeppesen2), this ornamentation, however, must be

looked upon as an archaism in Palestrina which in no way signifies any ten-

dency to leap upwards in crotchets.

With regard to the other case, the ascending leap from an unaccented crotchet,
the matter is somewhat more complicated. Evidently, a distinction has to be
made between two categories, which may be illustrated by the following examples.
2) See >Style of P.<<, p. 61.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

130 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

l2 ....i 1r 'li I
In the Exx. a and b the concluding tone of the leap is of greater value, a minim
and a minim tied respectively. This mode of expression belongs to that which

is the most characteristic in the melodic style of Palestrina. It is somewhat

different in the case of the figures of the second category (c and d), in which
the leap is made to another crotchet. In proportion to the first cited instances,
phrases like these are so definitely in the background in Palestrina, that it is

impossible to think it accidental. Consciously or unconsciously to Palestrina

himself, this reluctance must be due to a principle. But to which?
Let us begin by looking at the matter from a merely statistic point of view.
With regard to the latter kind of ornamentation, the following forms are to
be found in Palestrina:3)





mop !IHopm F I I F H 1OP.FlI n!F I I 1 .

At the outset, the ornaments 6 b and 7 with the greater leaps (fifth and octave
respectively) may be considered non-characteristic, their occurence being limited in the entire works of Palestrina to one and two cases respectively. Likewise the ornament 39, representing a leap of a fourth quitted by a step in the
same direction, which does not occur more than twice4). Furthermore, orna-

ment 12 is a unique case (cf. P. XXI, 14, 4, + 3) which occurs, moreover, in a

situation clearly indicating a makeshift (transfering of the voice to a lower,
vocally more favourable position).
Comparatively, the most common ornament is No. 5 which occurs no less than
38 times in the authentic works of Palestrina. It differs, however, from the

other ornamentations mentioned on account of its special form: descending

third succeeded by ascending third. The second leap returns to the level of
the starting-point so that the two leaps in some ways neutralize each other;
at any rate, the effect of the ascending leap is essentially weaker that of the

larger sized ornaments 6, 38, 6 b and 7 (fourth, fifth and octave), in which
the concluding tone is, moreover, the high-note of the figure.

Considering its relative frequency, ornament 5 can hardly be looked upon as

quite contrary to the style of Palestrina. On the other hand, it does not show
features particularly characteristic with respect to the present problem.
3) The numeration of the ornaments refers both here and in following quotations to
>Style of P.<< p. 54 ff. and p. 62 ff.

4) In P. XXIII, 138, 3, 5 the following figure is found (unobserved by Jeppesen), apparently

as a unique case:


This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Wlorks of Palestrina 131

Comparatively speaking, more attention must be paid to the remaining ornaments: 37, 38 and 6 with their more marked outlines owing to the leap to the
high-note of the figure. In all, Jeppesen has noticed 20 instances of this kind
in the authentic works of Palestrina, but at the same time these ornamentations
are also found with the leap to a stressed time unit, for instance
S 4L
do ,. I 'I' l, . [ I

and in this form the figures are to be found 32 times in all, the total sum
thus amounting to fifty-two in the authentic works of Palestrina').
Even if this number is relatively greater than that of ascending leaps to unaccented crotchets, it cannot in itself be considered a particularly great one. In
view of the enormous production of Palestrina (90 authentic masses and more
than 400 motets, etc.) it must rather be called a remarkably small one. At any
rate, further evidence of a marked tendency to leap upwards from crotchet
to crotchet is nowhere to be observed. To prove this, we may take by chance

any one of the masterpieces of Palestrina, for instance the famous 6-part
>>Missa Papae Marcelli<<: No less than 22 times we find that a crotchet leaps
upwards to a note of greater value, but not one leaps to another crotchet. Even
if the number is probably somewhat smaller in masses of fewer parts6), one
5) It is noticeable, however, that these leaps to stressed time units are in most cases limited
to the interval of a third occurring, moreover, very often in situations of obvious constraint,

for instance to avoid consecutive fifths (for example P. VIII, 27, 2, + 2 and 140, 1, 3). The
following phrase, which I have observed no less than 7 times in Palestrina, is interesting:

(See P. II, 4, 3, 1; IV, 119, 2, + 2 and 127, 1, 1; VIII, 40, 3, + 4; XVI, 13, 1, + 3;
XXII, 95, 2, + 2; XXIV, 17, 3, + 3). Here the downward leap of a third is filled out by a
step; this procedure, however, of causing a leap upwards from a quaver, is at any rate an
irregularity in Palestrinian music!
Finally, phrases like the following are relatively common:

P. XIX, 41, 3, 3

I l
As the last crotchet here is a Grace-note (Portamento), the high-note >>ideally<< represents
a minim; moreover, the leap to the note E is in this case a constraint to avoid consecutive
fifths with the tenor. (See further P. XVII, 7, 2, 3).
6) An examination of the three 5-part masses >Repleatur os meum<, >Sacerdos et Pontifex<<,

and >>Sicut lilium inter spinas<< showed 17, 14 and 11 leaps to notes of greater value

respectively, and not one to crotchets.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

132 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

would scarcely be wrong in estimate the complete number in the 90 masses of

Palestrina at about fifteen hundred, and in his entire works at several thousand.
Even beforehand, one would therefore be inclined to think that Palestrina
himself was not quite in agreement with the leap upwards from one crotchet
to another, and that he only employed this mode in special circumstances. With
respect to the technic itself, it might not, generally speaking, have been more
difficult for Palestrina to leap upwards to crotchets than to notes of greater

value. In reality, he would only have profited by being able to employ these
forms indiscriminately.
An examination of the various situations in which the ornaments 37, 38 and

6 occur in Palestrina, seems in fact to prove the above presumption. In the

great majority of these cases, the leap obviously occurs more or less as a constraint, that is to say, not according to free melodic impulses.
An example of ornament 37 from the 4-part mass >>Pater noster<< follows
P. XXIV, 6, 1, +2

no -. . re



mi - se- re- re no- -

In ex. a the voices are altogether thematic, but while the outer voices, in
conformance with the first entrance of the theme (cf. ex. b), move step-wise
downwards from the syllable >>no<<, the middle voice makes an ascending leap

of a third, a constraint evidently caused by the impossibility of technically

doing otherwise. However insignificant such melodic displacements may be in
themselves, they give, however, the impression of being somewhat strained, at
any rate in comparison with the surrounding purely thematic lines. One might

be tempted to talk here about melodic >mole-casts<<. For the rest, it is noteworthy that phrases like these (including the ornaments 38 and 6 too) are only
to be found very seldiom in the outer voices. As far as possible, Palestrina tries
to conceal them in an intermediate voice.

Considering the relatively frequent occurence of the ornaments 38 and 6, the

cases in which these figures appear as part of a theme (but deviating from its
original form) seem to be rare. I can only refer to two such instances in Palestrina, viz: the two 4-part masses >>Secunda<< and >>In Minoribus Duplicibusc<,
but they may be supplemented by a corresponding example from the 4-part
mass >>Quam pulchri sunt<< of Victoria.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 133

P. XIII, 27, 2,+3. ,,Missa Secunda"


rA gnus De IA


qui tolDe

...._ _ _ _ _ _ 'L L
The 2nd theme of Agnus Dei II is introduced here by the tenor I and the alto
in 'close' order, in the alto with the leap of the fourth to a minim, in the tenor
to a crotchet. The F in the tenor, however, is part of the theme (and therefore

indispensable) and the texture, moreover, forbids the continuation of the G

as a half-note. In the example from the mass >>In Minoribus Duplicibus<< (cf.
P. XXIII, 37, 4, 1 ff.) the tenor as well as the soprano conclude the >>Crucifixus<< theme simply by conjunct progression, the alto making on the contrary
an ascending leap of a fourth, a constraint obviously caused by the necessity
of avoiding the consecutive fifths D-A and E-B.

The example from the mass of Victoria is of a similar character. In measure

100 of the Gloria, the following fragment of a theme occurs in the bass:
Vittoria ,,Quam pulchri sunt" (Gloria, bar 100)



Two measures later it appears in the alto rhythmically condensed in the first

two notes, and with the originally conjunct progression replaced by a descending leap of a third succeeded by an ascending leap of a fourth:
(ibid. bar 102)


ram Pa mi - se - re -

- tris

The explanation to this is easily found: B flat must necessarily be dotted,

firstly, to make it as conform rhytmically as possible with the original version
of the theme, secondly (but by no means less important!), to make the resolution
of the suspension harmonically as full and sonorous as possible. The succeeding
leap of the fourth is caused by the necessity of avoiding consecutive octaves



This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

134 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

with the soprano (which voice for the same reason must follow a direction
contrary to that of the bass), and finally the downwards progression in
crotchets is again in conformance with the first version of the theme.

In the 4-part mass >>Quam pulchra es<< of Palestrina we find the following


P. XV, 71, 3, 4

12 ,. - . .

0~~i " ......

The leap of the fourth in this case is caused by the necessity of avoiding the

unisonparallels of E-F with the alto. The continuation of the high-note A as

a minim by eliminating the following G would come into conflict with the
rules for melodic balance; so the A must be a crotchet.

In touching the rules for melodic balance, we probably have the clue to the
comprehension of these ornaments as a whole. In the greater majority of
cases, these figures, notwithstanding the size of the leap, are to be found in
conjunctions like the following

that is to say, succeeded by still two or more crotchets. Although phrases

such as

are nowhere to be found in Palestrinian music, figures like the following

15 J rJ , I ! i.
are on the contrary very common, the need for filling out the downwards leap
being perceptibly less urgent in cases of this nature').
7) Jeppesen has maintained (in a private correspondance with me), that the omission of
filling out leaps like the above, even if technically possible, might be due to considerations
with regard to the textual distribution, for example:

P. IX, 109, 3, 3

sem - - - per

Assuredly, in situations like the above, the high-note could not, for the sake of the

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 135

Finally, the two examples which follow are of a special character

P. XV, 124, 3,+2. Missa:,,Ave Maria"'
P. XIV, 47, 4, 2 A



In ex. a the last crochet in the upper voice is a Portamento-note which is,

as a matter of fact, indispensable here on account of the progression of the

lower voice. In ex. b the irregular leap seems to be due to certain difficulties
in the textual distribution. With respect to the harmony, the second C in the

alto might very well have been a minim, but for the sake of correct declamation, it is better for the syllable >>in<< to fall upon an unaccented crotchet.

For the same reason, the F (to introduce correctly the syllable >>vi<<) ought
to have been a minim, but for the sake of the melodic balance, the E could
not have been eliminated. This instance is thus in more than one sense rather

awkward, and contributes to confirm the supposition of this mass being one
of the earliest works of PalestrinaS). (See further a corresponding instance in
P. IV, 121, 1, 1 ff.)
And now for the aesthetic and psychological explanation of this. As generally
acknowledged, melodic progression upwards gives the impression of a tension,

especially when moving by leaps. The ascending leap is in other words a

correct word-distribution, have been a crotchet succeeded by another crotchet. Nevertheless,
the argument does not seem quite convincing. If we take it for granted that Palestrina,
according to his pure melodic perception, preferred here a dwelling upon the high-note, this
circumstance may have been directly in favour of the intended distribution of the syllables.
For the rest, there are in fact cases, where Palestrina should have been able to fill out the

leap without any trouble, but nevertheless desists from doing so, for instance

P. IX, 135, 2, +2 P. XII, 188, 2, 1








See further P. XXI, 3, 2, + 3; Ambros V, 398, 3, 1 (Senfl) and SNM I, 206, 1, + 2 (Suriano).
Finally, in the following cases, the syllables could easily have been placed otherwise if
the filling out of the leap had really been desired

P. Vm, 179, 2,+3 P. I, 78, 3, 4. (See also: P. XXII, 115, 3,+3)





to - - - nis] [Ni . .. co - la - eJ
8) Cf. >Style of P.<< p. 195.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

136 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

phenomenon which arouses the attention of the listener. With regard to the
attitude of Palestrina towards this matter, Jeppesen has emphasized the >>fine

discrimination with which everything is avoided which makes too strong a

claim upon the attention, and consequently creates the impression of too great

activity<c9). To Palestrina the smaller leaps therefore seem more preferable

than the greater, the latter being employed most often between notes of greater

value, where they are felt, so to speak, in a more placid manner. Moreover,
Jeppesen has pointed out the tendency, already perceivable with the half-note,

of leaping upwards more frequently to an accentuated note than to an unaccentuated one, the leap arousing more attention in the latter case.

Considering these facts, it is also comprehensible why Palestrina as good as

always avoids ascending leaps to unaccented crotchets, and I am not at all
unaware of the reason why leaps upwards to accented crotchets are risked
now and then in a somewhat more light-minded manner. But unlike Jeppesen,
it is nevertheless my opinion that Palestrina in such cases, too, makes recourse

to makeshifts, to deviations from the rules of style; likewise that the psychological explanation of his abstention from leaping up from one crotchet to
another may be found simply in the circumstance that such leaps must have

implied to the mind of Palestrina too much activity and tension in the
melodic lines.

This hypothesis being valid, how may it then be explained that the leap from

unaccented crotches to notes of greater value is so commonly used in

Palestrina? For the leap takes the same time regardless of the value of the
high- note.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a difference - obviously of essential importance. In the case of leap ascending to a note of greater value, a change
of rhythm occurs simultanously. This change, which attracts more attention
than the leap itself, influences the activity of the leap in a mellowing way.

As a principle, this is indeed no isolated phenomenon in Palestrinian music.

It is thus a fact that the ascending returning-note with only few exceptions is
combined with a change of rhythm, a practice interpreted by Jeppesen quite
in conformance with the above explanation concerning the ascending leap. The

following examples may illustrate what is meant here

bad good

Another factor, probably no less important, has moreover to be taken into
consideration: Ascending leaps from crotches in Palestrina are everywhere
preceded by a descending movement to an unaccented crotchet. This movemnet
9) >>Style of P.<<, p. 46.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 137

being descending and unaccented, the attention is perceptibly less engaged here
than by the following ascending leap. Behind phrases such as

21 It "I I F
the following is therefore heard as the essential

!' f I F ---

It is different in cases of constant crochet movement. In such cases the

attention is claimed to approximately the same extent for each single note, and
consequently the activity of the leaps is manifested in a proportionally more
emphatic manner.
Moreover, the fact that the ascending leap from an accented crotchet cannot

be employed to notes of greater value, is due to the imposssibility of

syncopating crotchet to crotchet, when the half-note is the time unit. In rare
cases, however, instances like the following are to be found:
P. X, 8, 3, 4

(see further P. XVIII, 50, 3, + 1), but obviously the crotchets are here for the time being

reckoned as units.

Finally some observations with regard to the origin of the ornamentations

mentioned above. The problem is whether it is a question of archaism or
modernism in Palestrina, in other words, whether these phrase must be looked

upon as technical remnants of earlier period or, on the contrary, as the beginning of a decline of the classic-pure ornamentations together with a tendency
towards a more free development of the melodic lines.

There can be no doubt that the latter supposition must be maintained. Until
the middle of the century, one finds everywhere in the ecclesiastical music
of the Italian and Dutch composers that by means of the ascending movement

from crotchet to crotchet the step-progession is strictly observed'0), the

relatively few exceptions being in most cases limited to leaps of the third,
unaccented as well as accented, in the latter case by a preference for the form

of the ornament 5.

With respect to Palestrina's contemporaries, in so far as they belong to the

Roman School, ascending leaps by constant crotchet movement can no more be

considered characteristic of the style. It is not until the time of Francesco

10) It is thus notesworthy that in the extremely valuable work by Jeppesen >>Die mehrstimmige italienische Laude um 1500%, containing 98 4-part pieces, the ascending leaps from
crotchets only occur in all 23 times, all with the leap to a note of greater value.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

138 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

Suriano, a pupil of Palestrina, that I have encountered phrases of this nature

exceeding the usus of Palestrina himself. For instance, in the 6-part mass
>>Super voces musicales>> we find the following ornamentations
SN M, I, 247, 1, 3

24 NJ 0 1 1 F1


SN M, I, 245, 2, 3

52 - - : ,

In the first example the ornament 6 occurs twice within the limits of the same
melismata, the character here being already much more in conformance with
the melodic principles of the 17th and 18th centuries than with those of the

cinquecento"). In the second example a descending fourth is succeeded by an

26 1Io
o We -

ascending fourth quitted by a step in the opposite direction. This figure, in

reality a 'broken' harmony of the dominant seventh"2), is to my knowledge
nowhere employed in Palestrina.
11) Compare for instance the following melismata in the motet >Jesu meine Freude<< of
J. S. Bach (versus 5, bar 12 ff.)
:12) This is still more obvious in the 8-part mass of H. L. Hassler (1599), where the figure
occurs twice in the following connection:

S N M, I, 286, 1, 3. (2,+3)

27 -2-

As far as the style is concerned, this phrase also anticipates the harmonically based polyphony
in the next period, where it is extremely common. See for instance the following example from
an organ choral of Samuel Scheidt:

S. Scheidt, Organ choral ,,Vater unser"


This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 139

It is in the masters of the third Dutch School, especially Orlando di Lasso,

that the prevalence of the new melodic ideal may first be seriously noticed.
What are licences in Palestrina, are essential features of Lasso's style, an outcome of a tendency towards word-painting and representation of purely
human affections. To be sure, Lasso also employs the traditional mode of
writing, but more often he indulges in phrases like the following
L. XI, 2, 3, 1ff L. XI, 2,3, 3


re cur - . . . cur - sum

which are characterizised by harsh outlines and the indiscriminate employment
of accented and unaccented crotchet leaps, here and there, moreover, without
even taking into account the more elementary considerations with regard to
melodic balance.


As already mentioned, melodic movement when ascending claims the attention

to a greater extent than when descending. It is no wonder, therefore, that the

downward leap is relatively much more frequent in Palestrina even in cases

of constant crotchet progression. That the leap of the third is at any rate
quite legitimate in such circumstances, accented as well as unaccented, is
revealed by the fact of its innumerable occurence everywhere in the works
of the master. In the first rank come the following two figures, those of

No. 36 (cambiata) and No. 15, which could justly be called the 'classical'



3 !1mI
. I.j-I
! I
-, I

but also figures like the following are to be found relatively often




All these ornamentations, which were used already in the first half of the 16th

century, especially from about 1520-30, contribute in a beneficial manner

to soften the melodic lines, which were, on account of the predominant scalelike crotchet progression, generally somewhat stiff in the case of the earlier

In comparison to the predominant use of the descending third by crotchet

movement, the greater intervals, fourth, fifth and octave, are rather seldom in
13) Cf. >>Style of P.<, p. 200.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

140 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

Palestrinian music. Such leaps from unaccented crotchet never occur in

Palestrina, the cambiata being the only possibility here. But they are also used

so sparingly from accented crotchets, that they can scarcely be considered

characteristic of the style'").
There is in fact only one figure which claims our attention to an even greater
extent, i. e. the ornament 16, occurring in all 18 times in the authentic works
of Palestrina:

Compared with the kindred ornament 15, which is to be found several thousand
times in Palestrina, the occurrence of ornament 16 seems infinitesimal. Never-

theless, an examination of the circumstances in which this phrase is to be met

should be valuable with respect to the present problem as a whole.

We may begin by placing it side by side with the ornament 15. The most
common progression of the latter is the upward step; to be sure, leaps are also
found, but hardly one in a hundred times. The opposite is the case with regard
to the ornament 16; with only few exceptions the progression here occurs by
an ascending leap of a third:


Even beforehand, by a mere glance at these two figures, it seems difficult to

repress the supposition of the latter being a melodic deformation of the former.

The following examples seem in fact to prove this:

P. XIV, 2, 1, 1 2, 2,1
2, ]-I'J rr"r



. .. . , ~ ~OE ---I , . . . - * ,

-. . .. - ,

.-. . ./
.,, i


In this example (from the 4-part mass >>JEterna Christi munera<<), the ornament
15 is thematic, and it is maintained in this quality during the whole develop-

ment with one single exception of the ornament 16, owing to the (vertical)
impossibility of employing here the leap of a third. Quite an analogous situation

may be found in the 6-part mass >>Te Deum laudamus<< (see P. XVIII, 132,
4, + 4 ff.)

The following situation is also a case of constraint:

14) Ibid., p. 54 ff., where the ornaments 8, 9 and 11 are each of them found only once, and
the ornaments 17 and 18 two and three times respectively in the authentic works of Palestrina.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Worksof Palestrina 141

P. V, 89, 2, 1


With regard to the rhythm, the B flat in the middle voice could not have been
a half-note, and the next crotchet written as a passing-note would have caused
consecutive fifths, the leap of the fourth being thus the only possibility here.
In the following example, too, the leap of the fourth was inevitable
P. XVI, 16, 4, +2

37 A '.r
In order to avoid consecutive fifths, the G could not have been a half-note
and the leap of the third is dissonant here. (See also the instances in P. X, 35,
4, +1, where the leap is required to avoid isolated crotchets upon an accented
Finally, the following is an interesting case:
P XXIII, 37, 2, 1 ff








A , - " ' 1 ! ,, L..

While the leap of the fourth is constraint in the 5th measure (also in this case
for the purpose of avoiding irregular dissonance treatment), the third could
certainly have been employed in the preceding measure, being here consonant

with the harmony. On closer examination, it is, however, apparent that the
leap of the fourth in this case, hardly has its origin in a free melodic impulse

either, but must be considered a product of the vertical progression. The

harmonic foundation of this measure is a cadence in the Mixolydian mode
(with a double suspension in the soprano and the alto, the theme being
introduced in the alto). The ornament 15 is intended here (just as in the bass),

and its first note, being consonant, may progress by the passing-note F

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

142 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

undisturbed up to the octave G, but here the >>misfortune<< occurs: To complete

the harmony with its fifth, the leap of the third must be replaced by that of
the fourth. Obviously, in this case Palestrina preferred the harmonic progression shown by Ex. a to that of Ex. b, the latter being of a perceptibly weaker

39 Oro.. " ' z

(This example, which is only one of many, may prove, by the way, that not
only the vertical in itself, but also a dawning perception of the harmonic
functions, influences here end there the development of the melodic lines).

That the leap of the fourth in all the above instances must be considered as
a vertical constraint substitute for that of the third, seems thus out of doubt.
And this may furthermore be demonstrated by the interesting fact that Palestri-

na has relatively often - Jeppesen encounters no less than 28 instances in

the authentic works of Palestrina"f) - employed the third in spite of irregular
dissonances treatment. If we compare the following two examples,

P. XX, 17, 4,+2 P. II, 45, 3,+1


the dilemma is obvious: by employing the third, Palestrina is in conflict with

the vertical requirements, and by employing the fourth, the same occurs with
respect to the horizontal. In conformity with the original melodic foundation
of the style, Palestrina most often abandons the harmony!

The downwards crotchet leap is treated somewhat more liberally when followed
by movement in the opposite direction to an unstressed time unit, generally

a syncope in connection with the typical cadence formula. In such cases the
third is comparatively often replaced by a larger interval (fourth, fifth or,

even if more seldom, octave). The most commonly used phrases of this

character are as follows:

41-- ? L~=E~IC-

15) Cf. >>Style of P.<<, p. 200 ff.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 143

but they are also found in other combinations, for example, fourth-third, thirdfifth, fifth-fourth, etc.

The psychological explanation of the almost stereotyped use of the descending

movement immediately before the syncope, is obviously the desire to counteract
the stiffness of the formula itself by making it rhytmically somewhat more

elastic, a function similar to that of the Portamento note. To this may be

added the considerations with regard to the melodic balance, especially in
places where ascending step-progression would otherwise have been succeeded
by a leap in the same direction. Therefore figures such as

| ,i ? l - ' ' I--- H

are nowhere to be found, but are still replaced with ornamentations such as

43::112 I , . , . ;' 1 ' .... .

(yet in the first-quoted instance in alternation with step-progression downwards or upwards). And even in cases like the following

the stifness of the figure is generally softened in this way

Ei -'
a mode of expression, which, with its wonderfully plastic rounding, might be

called the 'classic' cadence formula of this style'").

However, the succession fourth-fifth is also found occasionally in the above
situation. As the downward leap could in reality be dispensed with in this
case (the melody having in itself no claims upon it), the question is whether
this variation is also due to free melodic impulses. To my knowledge, however,

the leap of the fourth occurs only in situations where the leap is vertically
constrained and the employment of the third forbidden on account of the
harmonic progression. The following example illustrates this point:
16) Already about the year 1500, this phrase was very common in the case of both Italian

and Dutch composers; for instance Laude, 14, 1, + 2; 93, 2, + 3; 165, 2, 2; Torchi I, 153, 3, 1
(Animuccia); Ambros V, 171, 2, 2 (Brumel); 190, 1, 2 ff. and 192, 3, + 2 (Ghiselin); 226, 2, 3
(Gomberth). The same is true with respect to the phrase quoted in Ex. 43 b; cf. for instance
Torchi I, 33, 3, 1 (Giov. Spataro); Ambros V, 91, 2, + 1 and 3, 2 (Josq. de Pres); 217, 4, 2
(Carpentras); Wagner M, 462, 2 and 525, 2, + 1 (Cr. Morales).

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

144 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

P. XIX, 39, 3, 2


In order to avoid consecutive fifths, the voice must leap downwards; the third
being dissonant, the fourth is the only possibility in this case. The same thing
applies in the following situation,
P. XIV, 56, 4, 3

' r"i ,I
where a step-wise descending half-note is for the same reason divided into
two leaps of crotches, a fourth and a third respectively. (Cf. also P.
XVIII, 121, 3, + 1 and P. XXII, 122, 3, 3; furthermore: Ambros V, 128, 1, 2
(Josquin de Pres) and 597, 1. 2 (Cr. Morales)).
To what extent Palestrina seems to have preferred the 'classic' cadence formula
to any others, is moreover indicated by the following instance from the 4-part
mass >>Veni sponsa<<, where the leap of the third is employed in spite of free

P. XVIII, 27, 2,+2

a mode akin to the above-mentioned (p. 142) cases.

The succession fourth-fifth, however, is as rare as the succession fourth-fourth
is common, for instance:
P. XIV, 14, 2,+2

(See further: P. III, 159, 1. 1; 160, 4, 4; VI, 127, 3, + 3; XII, 68, 2, + 4; 77,3, -t 2; 78,1, + 1;

XIII, 54, 3, + 3; 110, 2, 3).

Obviously, this ornamentation is due to the desire of avoiding the rhythmical

stop caused by the preparation of the suspension by a semibrevis note; on

account of the harmony, the leap of the third is excluded here. It is noticeable,

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 145

however, that the fourth also occurs in cases where the third would be consonant, that is to say in chords with the fifth omitted, for example
P. III, 46, 1,+3
501 1



(See also: P. I, 104, 3, 2; XX, 8, 3, + 2; XXI, 7, 1, 3 and 4).

But for what reason? No doubt, a purely harmonic perception may have
exercised the predominating influence here. The harmonic relation being in
reality the triads of the Tonic and the Dominant, Palestrina has obviously
preferred the completion of the harmony to the changing of the chord (i. e.
the triad of the 'submediant' in the first inversion). On the whole, this phrase
resembles most of all the 'breaking' of a harmony, the merely linear qualities
being proportionally weaker.

Moreover, this 'harmonical' fourth is relatively often employed by the predecessors of Palestrina, evidently for the same reasons. Two cases, especially
interesting, are to be found in Laude, 151, 2, 2 (1508) and Wagner M, 471,
2, 1 (Morales, 1540) respectively.
Finally, we have the succesion fifth-octave, for instance

P. XI, 138, 1, 5 P. XVIII, 82, 3, +2


YQ) rkOF

It is evident that the third could not have been employed in Ex. a; on
account of the suspension in the soprano, the leap of the fifth was the only
possibility here (parasitic dissonance!)"1). In Ex. b the leap of the third would
have been succeeded by the leap of the major sixth's).
But even in cases where the descending leap of the third would have been
succeeded by the minor ascending sixth, the descending fifth is nevertheless
most often found, for instance

P. XVIII, 35, 4, 1



17) See further: P. X, 139, 2, + 3; 150, 1, + 2; XXXI, 158, 3, + 2.

1s) See further: P. VIII, 15, 3, 3; 158, 3, 1; X, 63, 4, 2; XIII, 126, 3, 3; XV, 80, 3, + 1;
XXI, 128, 1, + 3.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

146 The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina

The ascending leap of the minor sixth being quite a legitime mode of expression in the style of Palestrina, it seems somewhat difficult to give a
satisfactory explanation to the above phrase'9). It is a matter of fact, however, that the interval of the ascending minor sixth is upon the whole very
much in the background in relation to that of the octave, the latter being (in

its quality of 'displaced' tone-repetition) after all more favourable vocally.

One of the relatively few cases of descending third succeeded by ascending
(minor) sixth is found in the Sanctus of >>Missa Brevis>> (cf. P. XII, 61, 5, 2).
Probably, the employment of this phrase is due to the simultaneous dissonance
of note against note: The alto makes a leap of the third to the D, which is at
the same time stationary in the bass, by means of which the dissonance of the
ninth is perceptibly softened; on the contrary, the dissonance of the 'Triton',
caused by the leap of the fifth, would have been comparatively more harsh.

The succession fifth-(minor) sixth occurs, probably as a unique case, in the

following conjunction
P. III, 36, 3, 4


the leap of the third being excluded here on account of the leading-note Cis.

As is evident from the investigation above, the descending crotchet leaps of

the fourth and the fifth, when succeeded by a leap upwards to an unstressed
minim, most often a tied one, cannot be considered contrary to the style of

Palestrina, their occurrence being relatively too common. From a purely

melodic view-point, however, these ornamentations may hardly be appreciated

quite on a level with that of the third, which seems after all to be ideal to
the mind of Palestrina. A circumstance apparently in favour of this supposition,

may furthermore be mentioned here: In the works of Palestrina and other

compocers of the 16th century, a crotchet movement like the following occurs
now and then2o)
P. XXIV, 3, 3, 3

As stated by Jeppesen, downward leaps greater than that of a third, when

preceded by a series of crotchets moving in the same direction, do not belong
19) See further instances in P. X, 138, 3, 2; XII, 84, 3, + 2; 152, 3, 3; XIX, 2, 1, + 1; 9, 3,
+ 2; 86, 3, + 2; XX, 111, 2, + 3; XXIV, 11, 1, 5; 75, 3, + 3.
20) See also: P. II, 51, 2, 3; 143, 1, - 3; III, 83, 3, 4; V, 163, 3, 3; IX, 102, 2, 4; X, 138,
3, 2; further: Ambros V, 480, 2, 2 (Leonh. Schroeter) and M. D. II, 302, 1 (Marenzio).

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to

The Ornamentations in the Works of Palestrina 147

to the style of Palestrina. As this rule is not followed here, it is evident that
the greater interval was only employed by constraint, and that the third was
the interval really intended.
A matter of significance with respect to the question of the descending third
is, furthermore, that figures like the following, which are always to be found
with the ascending leap to a note of greater value

are nowhere employed in the entire works of Palestrina, who in circumstances

like these never exceeds the interval of the third (cf. the ornamentations

quoted in Ex. 3, - apart from the special case of ornament 12). Being already
utmost reserved in the use of the relatively harmless ornaments 37, 6 and 38,
Palestrina has totally refrained from the use of the above figures with outlines
which are obviously too harsh21).

To summarize the investigation above, the following may be stated:

1) With respect to ascending leaps from one crotchet to another, the style
of Palestrina is extremely sensible. Leaps to unaccented crotchets merely occur
as exceptions (as already stated by Jeppesen); leaps to accented crotchets are
to be sure relatively more often found, but on the other hand not so frequently that they can be considered characteristic of the style. At all events, such
leaps cannot be employed indiscriminately (cf. in Ex. 3 the ornaments 12, 39,
6 b and 7, which occur only one, two or three times in the authentic works of
2) As for downward crotchet leaps, there seems to be a notable tendency to
avoid intervals greater than that of the third. By constant crotchet movement,
the exceptions art limited to scarcely a dozen instances in Palestrina. When
succeeded by upwards movement to a note of greater value, generally a syncope, the leaps of the fourth and the fifth may be found, too, but apparently
most often in situations where the third, owing to more important considerations (correct dissonance treatment, ascending sixth), could not have been

21) With respect to the phrase shown in Ex. 55 a, compare with p. 138 ff. of this treatise.

This content downloaded from on Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:51:06 UTC
All use subject to