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Luigi Boccherini by an unknown artist (c. 1764 – 67)
Photo credit
Boccherini: Wikipedia 
Francisco Goya: Wikipedia 
(please click on the small picture below to enlarge it)

The “Ballet de cour” and the “Suite

We explored the ballet de cour, an example of which is Louis XIII‘s Ballet de (la) Merlaison, and we know that the composers of this period wrote Suites or Ordres, as François Couperin named his Suites.  Among these dances is the passacalle (from passar), or pasacaille, or passacaglia.

I am including two related blogs, but posts dealing with the flamenco are not listed.  This post is about dance music and more specifically music for ballet, such as Louis XIII Ballet de la Merlaison, and musical works consisting of a series of dances:  the Suite or Masque.

We have therefore identified two dances: the passacaglia (the chaconne) and the fandango, both of which are dances akin to the dances of Suites, one of which, the fandango, is related to the flamenco.

The Passacaglia

The passacaglia is Spanish in origin, but it quickly spread to other countries.  According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “[t]he dance’s original name survives in the passacalle, a lively folk dance for couples popular in western South America.”  As it first appeared in 17th-century Spain, “[it] was of unsavoury reputation and possibly quite fiery.”[i] However, “[i]n the French theatre of the 17th and 18th centuries it was a dance of imposing majesty.”  The passacaglia is almost identical to the chaconne and as a chaconne it can be part of a Suite.

The Fandango

As for the fandango, the Encyclopædia Britannica tells that it is an “exuberant Spanish courtship dance and a genre of Spanish folksong.  The dance, probably of Moorish origin, was popular in Europe in the 18th century and survives in the 20th century as a folk dance in Spain, Portugal, southern France, and Latin America. Usually danced by couples (men), it begins slowly, with the rhythm marked by castanets, clapping of hands, snapping of fingers, and the stamping of feet; the speed gradually increases.”[ii]

In Italian-born Classical composer Luigi Boccherini‘s répertoire, we find traces of the music of the land where he lived and worked: Iberia (Spain and Portugal).  The fandango is an Iberian dance and is related to the Andalusian malagueña and flamenco.


[i] “passacaglia.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 11 Aug. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/445625/passacaglia>.

[ii] “fandango.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 11 Aug. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/201489/fandango>.

© Micheline Walker
11 August 2012
The images are by Francisco Goya (2nd video)