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Modern usage will sometimes use the different spellings to distinguish types of courante (Italian spelling for the Italian dance, etc.), but in the original sources spellings were inconsistent. (In the Partitas of the Clavierübung, Bach use the different spellings courante and corrente to differentiate between the French and Italian styles, respectively.) However, in Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach by Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, the courante and corrente are given separate chapters and treated as distinct dances. The courante had the slowest tempo of all French court dances, and was described by Mattheson, Quantz and Rousseau as grave and majestic. In Bach's unaccompanied Partita for Violin No. 2 the first movement (titled Allemanda) begins as if in 3/4 time in a manner one might initially perform and hear as a courante. The second movement is titled corrente and is rather lively. On the other hand, many "courante" movements by Bach are actually correntes as well: in the original engraving of the keyboard Partitas, movements are clearly labelled either "corrente" or "courante", but editors have frequently ignored the distinction. Although an indication of faster tempo appears to exist in Baroque composer Georg Muffat's instructions on Lullian bowing, his reference to the "rapid tempo of courantes" is a confusion in translation. A more literal translation of the text indicates only "the speed of the movement of the notes."
Courante literally means running, and in the later Renaissance the courante was danced with fast running and jumping steps, as described by Thoinot Arbeau.
In Der vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739), Johann Mattheson wrote that, "The motion of a courante is chiefly characterized by the passion or mood of sweet expectation. For there is something heartfelt, something longing and also gratifying, in this melody: clearly music on which hopes are built."
The courante was most commonly used in the baroque period. During this period, there were two types of courante: French and Italian. In a Baroque dance suite, an Italian or French courante typically comes between the allemande and the sarabande, making it the second or third movement. The French type is usually notated in 3/2 or 6/4, occasionally alternating between the two meters; the Italian type, on the other hand, is a significantly faster dance. In the Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732), Johann Gottfried Walther wrote that the rhythm of the courante is "absolutely the most serious one can find."
- Alfred Blatter, Revisiting Music Theory: A Guide to the Practice (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 28. ISBN 0-415-97440-2.
- Alfred Dürr, preface to Johann Sebastian Bach, Französische Suiten: die verzierte Fassung / The French Suites: Embellished Version: BWV 812–817, new, revised edition, edited by Alfred Dürr. Bärenreiter Urtext (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1980).
- Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach, expanded edition. Music: Scholarship and Performance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001) ISBN 0-253-33936-7 (cloth); ISBN 0-253-21464-5 (pbk); pp. 114-142.
- Meredith Ellis Little and Suzanne G. Cusick, "Courante", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
- Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach, expanded edition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001) p. 115. ISBN 0-253-33936-7 (cloth); ISBN 0-253-21464-5 (pbk).
- Quoted in Alfred Dürr, preface to Johann Sebastian Bach, Französische Suiten: die verzierte Fassung / The French Suites: Embellished Version: BWV 812–817, new, revised edition, edited by Alfred Dürr. Bärenreiter Urtext (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1980).
- Lenneberg, Hans. 1958. "Johann Mattheson on Affect and Rhetoric in Music: A Translation of Selected Portions of Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739)". Journal of Music Theory 2, no. 1 (April) and no. 2 (November): 47–84, 193–236.
- Mattheson, Johann. 1739. Der vollkommene Capellmeister: Das ist, Gründliche Anzeige aller derjenigen Sachen, die einer wissen, können, und vollkommen inne haben muß, der einer Capelle mit Ehren und Nutzen vorstehen will. Hamburg: verlegts Christian Herold. Facsimile reprint, fifth edition, edited by Margarete Reimann. Documenta Musicologica 1. Reihe, Druckschriften-Faksimiles 5. Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1991. ISBN 978-3-7618-0100-0.
- Mattheson, Johann. 1981. Johann Mattheson's Der vollkommene Capellmeister", a revised translation with critical commentary by Ernest Charles Harriss. Studies in musicology 21. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press. ISBN 0-8357-1134-X.
- Walther, Johann Gottfried. 1732. Musicalisches Lexicon oder, Musicalische Bibliothec. Leipzig: verlegts Wolffgang Deer. Facsimile reprint, edited by Richard Schaal. Documenta musicologica, 1. Reihe, Druckschriften-Faksimiles, 3. Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1953. Modern edition of the text and musical illustrations, edited by Friederike Ramm. Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag & Karl Vötterle GmbH & Co. KG, 2001. ISBN 3-7618-1509-3.