A chaconne (French: [ʃaˈkɔn]; Spanish: chacona; Italian: ciaccona, pronounced [tʃakˈkoːna]) is a type of musical composition popular in the baroque era when it was much used as a vehicle for variation on a repeated short harmonic progression, often involving a fairly short repetitive bass-line (ground bass) which offered a compositional outline for variation, decoration, figuration and melodic invention. In this it closely resembles the passacaglia.
The ground bass, if there is one, may typically descend stepwise from the tonic to the dominant pitch of the scale; the harmonies given to the upper parts may emphasize the circle of fifths or a derivative pattern thereof.
Though it originally emerged during the late sixteenth century in Spanish culture, having reputedly been introduced from the New World, as a quick dance-song characterized by suggestive movements and mocking texts, by the early eighteenth century the chaconne had evolved into a slow triple meter instrumental form.
Outstanding examples of early baroque "ciaccone" are Monteverdi's "Zefiro torna" and "Es steh Gott auf" from Heinrich Schütz.
One of the best known and most masterful and expressive examples of the chaconne is the final movement from the Violin Partita in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. This 256-measure chaconne takes a plaintive four-bar phrase through a continuous kaleidoscope of musical expression in both major and minor modes.
After the Baroque period, the chaconne fell into decline during the 19th century, though the 32 Variations in C minor by Beethoven suggest its continuing influence. However, the form saw a very substantial revival during the 20th century, with more than two dozen composers contributing examples (see below).
Chaconne and passacaglia
The chaconne has been understood by some nineteenth and early twentieth-century theorists—in a rather arbitrary way—to be a set of variations on a harmonic progression, as opposed to a set of variations on a melodic bass pattern (to which is likewise artificially assigned the term passacaglia), while other theorists of the same period make the distinction the other way around. In actual usage in music history, the term "chaconne" has not been so clearly distinguished from passacaglia as regards the way the given piece of music is constructed, and "modern attempts to arrive at a clear distinction are arbitrary and historically unfounded." In fact, the two genres were sometimes combined in a single composition, as in the Cento partite sopra passacagli by Girolamo Frescobaldi, and the first suite of Les Nations (1726) as well as in the Pièces de Violes (1728) by François Couperin.
Frescobaldi, who was probably the first composer to treat the chaconne and passacaglia comparatively, usually (but not always) sets the former in major key, with two compound triple-beat groups per variation, giving his chaconne a more propulsive forward motion than his passacaglia, which usually has four simple triple-beat groups per variation. Both are usually in triple meter, begin on the second beat of the bar, and have a theme of four measures (or a close multiple thereof). (In more recent times the chaconne, like the passacaglia, need not be in 3/4 time; see, for instance, Francesco Tristano's Chaconne/Ground Bass, where every section is built on seven-beats patterns)
A chaconne's bass line—let alone the chords involved—may not always be present in exactly the same manner, although the general outlines remain understood. (Handel's "Chaconne" in G minor for keyboard has only the faintest relationship to the understood form.)
Examples of chaconnes
- Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Ciacona in D major, for violin and basso continuo
- John Blow: Chaconne for harpsichord (1687)
- Dieterich Buxtehude: Prelude, Fugue, and Chaconne in C Major (BuxWV 137), Chaconne in C minor (BuxWV 159), Chaconne in E minor (BuxWV 160); all for organ
- Arcangelo Corelli: Chaconne in G major from the Sonata Op. 2, No. 12
- Johann Kaspar Kerll: Ciacona, for organ or harpsichord
- Jean-Baptiste Lully: Chaconne from Phaëton (1683)
- Jean-Baptiste Lully: Chaconne from Roland (1685)
- Marin Marais: Chaconne in G major, for two violas da gamba and continuo, no. 47 from the Première Livre de pièces de violes (1686–89)
- Marin Marais: Chaconne, from Suite no. 1 in C major in the Pièces en trio pour les flûtes, violon, et dessus de violes (1692)
- Marin Marais: Chaconne, from act 2 of the opera Sémélé (1709)
- Tarquinio Merula: Ciaccona, from Canzoni overo sonate concertate per chiesa e camera (1637)
- Claudio Monteverdi: Zefiro Torna from Scherzi musicali cioè arie et madrigali (Venice, 1632) an early example of vocal music sung to a chaconne accompaniment.
- Heinrich Schütz: Es steh Gott auf from Symphoniae sacrae II (1647; SWV 356, third part)
- Bernardo Storace: Ciaccona
- Johann Pachelbel: six organ chaconnes (including Chaconne in D minor and Chaconne in F minor), two chamber chaconnes in Musicalische Ergötzung
- Henry Purcell: Chacony for strings and continuo in G minor Z. 730 (1680)
- Henry Purcell: Chaconne from The Fairy-Queen (1692)
- Agostino Steffani: Ciaccona in F major, "Ogni core può sperar", from Servio Tullio Act II, Scene VII (1686)
- Robert de Visée: Chaconne in A minor for theorbo.
- Johann Sebastian Bach: "Chaconne" from Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin in D minor
- Johann Sebastian Bach: "Meine Tage in dem Leide" chaconne from Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150 (c. 1707–08)
- Joseph Bodin de Boismortier: Neuf petites sonates et chaconne, for 2 cellos, op. 66
- Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Sans frayeur dans ce bois, H.467 for soprano and continuo
- François Couperin: "La Favorite, Chaconne a deux tems," Troisième ordre.
- George Frideric Handel: "Chaconne" from Suite in G minor for clavier
- George Frideric Handel: "Chacconne" from the Terpsichore prologue added to the second revision of the opera Il pastor fido, HWV 8c (rev. 1734)
- George Frideric Handel: "Chacconne" from Almira
- Jacques Morel: Chaconne in E minor, for flute, viola da gamba, and basso continuo
- Jean-Philippe Rameau: "L'hymen—Chaconne," Scene VI from Les fêtes d'Hébé (1739)
- Tomaso Antonio Vitali: Chaconne in G minor for Solo Violin (dubious authorship)
- Sylvius Leopold Weiss: Ciacona in G minor
- Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98, finale
- Heinrich Reimann: Ciacona in F minor, op. 32, for organ
- John Adams: second movement "Chaconne: Body Through Which the Dream Flows" from Violin Concerto (1993)
- Malcolm Arnold: second movement "Chaconne" from Recorder Sonatina, Op. 41 (1953)
- Malcolm Arnold: second movement "Chaconne: Andante con moto" from Quintet For Brass, Op. 73 (1961)
- Béla Bartók: first movement, "Tempo di ciaccona" from the Sonata for violin solo (1944)
- Howard Blake: Chaconne (from Lifecycle, sequence of 24 piano solos) (1975)
- Benjamin Britten: "Chacony," third movement of the String Quartet No. 2, in C (1946)
- Benjamin Britten: "Ciaccona," fifth movement of the Cello Suite No. 2 (1971)
- John Corigliano: The Red Violin (Chaconne) for violin and orchestra
- John Corigliano: Chaconne, 3rd movement of Symphony No. 1 "Giulio's Song" (1990)
- Johann Nepomuk David: Chaconne in A minor for organ (1933)
- Johann Nepomuk David: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland: kleine Chaconne for organ
- Norman Dello Joio: Variations, Chaconne, and Finale for orchestra
- David Diamond: Chaconne, for violin and piano (1951)
- Cornelis Dopper: Ciaconna gotica (1920)
- Marcel Dupré: Triptyque, op. 51 (Chaconne, Musette, Dithyrambe), for organ
- Jean Françaix: Chaconne for harp and string orchestra (1976)
- Philip Glass: Echorus for two violins and string orchestra (1995)
- Philip Glass: Symphony No. 3, third movement (1995)
- Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 1, second movement (1987)
- Alexander Goehr: Chaconne, for organ (1985)
- Sofia Gubaidulina: Chaconne, for piano (1962)
- Hans Werner Henze: Il Vitalino raddoppiato: ciaccona per violino soloista e orchestra da camera (1977)
- Heinz Holliger: Chaconne for solo cello (1975)
- Gustav Holst: "Chaconne" from First Suite in E-flat major for Military Band (according to one writer, technically a passacaglia, but according to others, technically a chaconne)
- Arthur Honegger: Chaconne de l'impératrice, from the film music for Napoléon (1926–27)
- Ernst Krenek: Toccata und Chaconne: über den Choral "Ja ich glaub an Jesum Christum", op. 13, for piano
- György Ligeti: Hungarian Rock: Chaconne, for harpsichord
- Douglas Lilburn: Chaconne, for Piano (1946)
- Frank Martin: Chaconne, for cello and piano (1931)
- Carl Nielsen: Chaconne, op. 32, for piano (1916–17)
- Henri Pousseur: Chaconne for solo violin
- Knudåge Riisager: Chaconne, op. 50, for orchestra
- Poul Ruders: Chaconne for solo guitar
- Franz Schmidt: Chaconne in C♯ minor, for organ. (1925) Arranged for orchestra (transposed to D minor) in 1931.
- Reginald Smith Brindle: Chaconne and Interludes: (The Instruments of Peace III), for two guitars
- Leo Sowerby: Chaconne, for tuba and piano (1938)
- Leo Sowerby: Canon, Chacony, & Fugue for organ (1948)
- David Van Vactor: Fantasia, Chaconne, and Allegro, for orchestra
- Stefan Wolpe: Dance in Form of a Chaconne for piano (1941)
- Michiru Yamane: Chaconne in C-moll for organ (1996)
- Paulo Galvão: Chacoinas (2) in A minor for baroque guitar.
- Jennifer Higdon: "Chaconni," second movement from her violin concerto (2008)
- Krzysztof Penderecki: Ciaccona in memoria Giovanni Paolo II per archi (for string orchestra) from Polish Requiem (added in 2005).
- Francesco Tristano Schlimé: Chaconne/Ground Bass for piano (1997/2004/2012).
- Roman Turovsky: Chaconnes in C major, C minor and D minor for baroque lute.
- Simon Andrews: Chaconne, 2nd movement of Symphony No. 1 "For the heart is an organ of fire (2013)
- Alexander Silbiger, "Chaconne," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001).
- Gerald Drebes: "Schütz, Monteverdi und die 'Vollkommenheit der Musik' – 'Es steh Gott auf' aus den Symphoniae sacrae II (1647)". In: Schütz-Jahrbuch, Jg. 14, 1992, pp. 25–55 (online).
- Percy Goetschius, The Larger Forms of Musical Composition: An Exhaustive Explanation of the Variations, Rondos, and Sonata Designs, for the General Student of Musical Analysis, and for the Special Student of Structural Composition ([New York]: G. Schirmer, 1915), 29 and 40.
- Lucas, Clarence Lucas, 1908. The Story of Musical Form (The Music Story Series, edited by Frederick J. Crowest. London: The Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd.; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908), 203.
- Manfred Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era (New York: Norton, 1947), 42.
- Alexander Silbiger, "Passacaglia and Ciaccona: Genre Pairing and Ambiguity from Frescobaldi to Couperin," Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music 2, no. 1 (1996).
- Alexander Silbiger, "Chaconne" The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001).
- Händel, Georg Friedrich. "Chaconne," Klavierwerke / Keyboard Works IV. Einzelne Suiten und Stücke / Miscellaneous Suites and Pieces. Zweite Folge / Second Part. Herausgebegen von / Edited by Terence Best. Kassel: Bärenreiter, c1975, pp. 47-49.
- Budd Udell, "Standard Works for Band: Gustav Holst's First Suite in E♭ Major for Military Band." Music Educators Journal 69, no. 4 (1982) page 28. (JSTOR subscription access) – Pam Hurry, Mark Phillips, and Mark Richards,  (Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 2001. ISBN 0-435-81258-0) p. 238. – Clarence Lucas, The Story of Musical Form (The Music Story Series, edited by Frederick J. Crowest. London: The Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd.; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908) page 203.