Singers of the Baroque period touched directly on the emotions of audiences, transporting them from sweet melodies to angry tempests. Nuance and intuitiveness were key – an inflection of the voice here, a gesture there. Jacopo Peri wrote in 1600 of ornaments as “those charms and elegances, which one cannot write down, and [if] written, one cannot learn them from the notation”. As singers saw opportunities to create performances full of extravagant theatrics, some composers remained sticklers for formality and restraint, with Lully declaring of his recitatives: “No embellishment! … I want it to be absolutely plain”. By the late Baroque period, composers began to regain control of their creative output, no longer leaving ornamentation to the discretion of the performers, with Marc-Antoine Laugier suggesting musicians “restrict themselves scrupulously to the notation before their eyes” (1754).
Gandel Hall, National Gallery of Australia