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date: 21 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The brilliant style, described loosely by Leonard Ratner as rapid passages for virtuoso display, has been a mainstay of modern topic theory, often invoked in conjunction with the singing style to account for the basic contrastive mechanism of the classical style. This chapter explores some contextual bases for the topic, suggesting that eighteenth-century linguistic usage can offer useful nuance and proposing a topical home in the genre of the concerto. Illustrations relate to the concerto, aria, symphony, and quartet, and examine both keyboard and string virtuosity. At the heart of the brilliant style is a set of propensities for public and theatrical modes, tied to a sense of occasion; it can highlight tensions between composer and performer, and relates directly to our constructions of the active “persona” in a composition or performance.

Keywords: brilliant style, singing style, virtuosity, concerto, persona

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