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Structural Coherence beneath Surface Contrast” – Motivic Treatment in Dario Castello’s Sonate Concertate
14.07.2016, Paper presented at the 17th Biennial International Conference on Baroque Music, Canterbury, U.K.


Dario Castello’s Sonate Concertate in Stil Moderno, Libro Primo (1621) e Secondo (1629) are pioneer collections in establishing the genre of concerted sonata in the Stile Moderno. This stylistic trend is commonly perceived as favouring prominent sectional contrast over general consistency, with structural coherence generally regarded as of minor importance among the composers’ considerations.


Andrew Dell’ Antonio (1997) has established a model on analysing Castello’s sonatas, based on identifying the formal organisation of different subsections. In this paper, I suggest another aspect, which has hitherto been given little attention. The presence of complex motivic webs in Castello’s sonatas, which created unique sonorities, indicates the composer’s conscious and systematic attempts to connect the otherwise unrelated subsections. The analysis of Castello’s motivic treatment thus presents effective means for the understanding of his compositions, and a comparison of this with Girolamo Frescobaldi’s variation ricercares further highlights the arbitrary nature of nomenclature in early seventeenth century instrumental works.


Appearing in the early Seicento, Castello’s works feature a balanced dualism between the constantly changing façade and the underlying pursuit of motivic unity. Castello adopted substantial motivic transformation, which connects his works firmly with the aesthetic rubrics of the Stile Moderno. I posit that a motivic categorisation system for the sonate collection contributes to the comprehensive understanding of Castello’s works at that particular historical juncture, a time when unprecedented innovations flourished, while Stile Antico and Stile Moderno well-juxtaposed.