RICERCARE (or Ricercata). – It is one of the oldest forms of instrumental music.
While, when researching is mentioned, one immediately thinks of organ compositions by the major representatives of the Venetian school of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in reality this word appears for the first time in printed music for lute, and properly in the second of the four volumes which, between 1507 and 1508, Gualtiero Petrucci published for the tablatures of this instrument. This volume, compiled by Spinaccino, contains Ten Researchers for Lute. After all, movable type printing greatly favored – as G. Benvenuti believes – the clear separation of instrumental music from the vocal. In fact, in 1509 a book of lies published by Franciscus Bossinensis appeared, in which twenty-six of the vocal compositions contained therein have a Ricercare as a prelude or postlude.
However, it is necessary to go back to 1523 to find research papers for organ; they are those of Marcantonio Cavazzoni, father of the Urbinate Girolamo. The printing of compositions of this name multiplied after 1540, when the collection, published in Venice “under the Sign of the Well” and containing 13 researchers by Julio Segni (organist of San Marco), 3 by A. Willaert, 2 di. G. Parabosco, etc., are followed by those of Girolamo Cavazzoni, L. Luzzaschi, C. Merulo and many others, which attest to the luxuriant flowering of this form, which then reached the threshold of 1700.
It should be noted that in the first half of the 16th century the Tiento flourished in Spain (to be tempted or preludiate), a form very similar to our research; but, due to the diffusion achieved and the admirable development achieved, it can be asserted that the main field of action of this kind of instrumental polyphony was Venice.
As for the structure of Ricercare, it should be noted first of all how the word maintains a very close union between its etymological meaning and the nature of the composition. The informative principle of this, in fact, led to the most ingenious consequences by the Gabrieli and G. Frescobaldi, is to seek all the possibilities of development from a theme. Polyphonic art, therefore, cerebral and essentially architectural, in which the genius of the greatest Venetian musicians nevertheless managed to infuse warmth and life, thanks to the beauty of the chosen themes, the unity of style and feeling, the harmonious proportions of the episodic limbs.
However, it is not to be believed that the ingenious and fertile monothematism of Ricercare, as the direct progenitor of fugue (v.), Began immediately from the first emergence of this form. In fact, just as all instrumental music of the sixteenth century was inspired by the imitation of pre-existing vocal music, so too research, in its most ancient phase of life, is modeled on the plurithematism of the motet and the madrigal.
The researchers of Girolamo Cavazzoni, published in 1542 at the Scotto of Venice, and those of his contemporaries, are divided into episodes of imitated style, each of which has its own new thematic nucleus. However, already from this time we begin to notice in the major scholars of Ricercare the tendency to gather on a main theme. The fourth research by Cavazzoni himself – in the Notari edition – despite being multi-thematic, has almost all of its themes derived from the initial subject. Also the Flemish J. Buus, who was for ten years at the second organ of .S. Marco, in a research republished modernly by Kinkeldey, based on the theme of a French song, plays it monothematically for 278 bars. Annibale Padovano presents a research divided into two parts, each of which is monothematic.
Before moving on to the phase in which ricercare is decidedly fixed on a single theme, it is good to take a look at the quality of the ideas it feeds on. G. Cesari, who has made the relationship between ricercare and French song the subject of particular study, divides the themes of the researchers into four categories: those taken from Gregorian chant or modeled on this, of a composed and severe melodiousness; those of austere but not liturgical creation; those derived from the French song; finally those taken from the first steps of the scale and usually chosen for a display of contrapuntal doctrine. To this last genus belong several researchers of the naturalized Venetian Flemings, such as A. Willaert, J. Buus, etc.
But, regardless of the nature of the themes, the most vigorous impetus towards an imposing unitary construction was taken from researching with the two Gabrieli.
Andrea Gabrieli’s researchers were published in two books, published by his nephew Giovanni for the Gardano types in 1595; therefore only nine years after the death of the great Venetian. They therefore probably date back to the twenty years in which Andrea was organist in San Marco (1566-1586). Among the researchers of him at 4, reproduced in vol. I of the Institutions and Monuments of Italian Musical Art (Milan 1933), there is that of the Primo Tuono, which presents, one on top of the other, a real subject and countersubject in a large fleeting development. Among the various artifices of this development are noteworthy the one for the diminution of both themes, with a joyful animation in the middle of the piece, and the other with the increasing subject intertwined with various other diminished engravings, which crowns and concludes the composition sumptuously.
The change of measure, from even to odd, frequent in the motet since the second Flemish period, in the search for a quattro of the Second Tone, takes on the value of a real Variation of the theme, which appears in a new rhythmic aspect and with a different prosodic value . Since his time, the importance of Searching for cantar et sonar a otto seemed great, if his nephew Giovanni, in the volume of his Canti e Concerti, whose preface is a hymn of admiration to his uncle’s art, inserts it as a characteristic example of instrumental polyphony dissolved by the needs of key music. This vast composition is multi-thematic, but reveals a clear hierarchical order among the ideas of which it consists, on which one predominates – the initial taken from the Alouette by C. Jannequin, in turn indebted to a lie by C. Testa – which returns in the conclusion, as if to architecturally crown the work.
With Giovanni Gabrieli the monothematism of ricercare and his fugitive structure are definitively affirmed. As early as the last years of the last century, H. Riemann pointed out in one of his Ricercare of the Tenth Thunder, printed in 1595, “the first example of a royal fugue with amusements” and this despite the fact that the distinguished German musicologist attributes elsewhere to the organists of Germany the invention of the escape is central. The main collections of Giovanni Gabrieli’s researchers are those printed by Gardano in Venice in 1587 (for 4 voices) and in 1595 (two volumes for the organ).
But the one who raised the art of Ricercare to the supreme gables of contrapuntal construction and to the most sublime spheres of mystical sentiment was Girolamo Frescobaldi. Of his researchers included in the editions of the Vincenti di Venezia (1626, 1628, 1635) we recall: the Search for four subjects, magnificent fugue in quadruple counterpoint, carried out in numerous and ingenious combinations of the four plastic themes, supported by a vigorous polyphonic logic; the Search above fa, sol, la, whose subject with large values (perhaps taken from a song) acts as a choral to support the contrapuntal work, while the figures of the latter are also derived from the notes of the subject; the Chromatic Ricercare after the Creed, based on an admirable and highly original subject, to which, after the fugitive exposure, two new themes of different rhythmic and expressive character intertwine.
Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Claudio Merulo, Costanzo Antegnati are close to the two Gabrieli, due to their height of inspiration and teaching revealed in organ researchers. Distinguished continuators of the fresco Baldian art were: Fabrizio Fontana, author of very ingenious monothematic researches with perfect fugue structure and with intervention of the strait; Alessandro Poglietti, whose Ricercare for Rossignolo is well known; Bernardo Pasquini, with whom Ricercare reaches the beginning of the 18th century. The pupils of Gabrieli and Frescobaldi, Hans Leo Hassler, Kaspar von Kerl, J. Jacob Froberger, brought the art of research to Germany, preparing for J. S. Bach the way for his work as the supreme architect of the escape. Bach himself, in the last years of his life, honored the ancient form of Ricercare, imposing this name on the six-part fugue of his Musikalische Opfer (1747) under the guise of an acrostic: Regis Jussu Cantio Et Reliquia Canonica Arte Resolute.
RICERCARE (or Ricercata). – It is one of the oldest forms of instrumental music.