La Folía (Spanish), also folies d'Espagne (French), Follies of Spain (English) or Follia (Italian), is one of the oldest remembered European musical themes, or primary material, generally melodic, of a composition, on record. The theme exists in two versions, referred to as early and late folias, the earlier being faster.
The epithet "Folia" has several meanings in music.
Western classical music features both an "early Folia", which can take different shapes, and the better-known "later Folia" (also known as "Follia" with double l in Italy, "Folies d'Espagne" in France, and "Faronel's Ground" in England). Recent research suggests that the origin of the folia framework lies in the application of a specific compositional and improvisational method to simple melodies in minor mode. Thus, the essence of the "early Folia" was not a specific theme or a fixed sequence of chords but rather a compositional-improvisational process which could generate these sequences of chords. The "later Folia" is a standard chord progression (i-V-i-VII / III-VII-[i or VI]-V / i-V-i-VII / III-VII-[i or VI7]-V[4-3sus]-i) and usually features a standard or "stock" melody line, a slow sarabande in triple meter, as its initial theme. This theme generally appears at the start and end of a given "Folia" composition, serving as "bookends" for a set of variations within which both the melodic line and even the meter may vary. In turn, written variations on the "later Folia" may give way to sections consisting of partial or pure improvisation similar to those frequently encountered in the twelve-bar blues that rose to prominence in the twentieth century.
Several sources report that Jean-Baptiste Lully was the first composer to formalize the standard chord progression and melodic line. Other sources note that the chord progression eventually associated with the "later Folia" appeared in musical sources almost a century before the first documented use of the "Folia" name. The progression emerged between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century in vocal repertory found in both Italian (“Canzoniere di Montecassino”, “Canzoniere di Perugia” and in the frottola repertoire) and Spanish sources (mainly in the “Cancionero Musical de Palacio” and, some years later, in the ensaladas repertoire). Even though the folía framework appeared almost at the same time in different countries with numerous variants that share similar structural features, it is not possible to establish in which country the framework originated.
The framework of the 'Later Folia', in the key of D minor, the key that is most often used for the 'later Folia'; one chord per bar except for bar 15.
The basic 16-bar chord progression:
Over the course of three centuries, more than 150 composers have used it in their works. The first publications of this theme date from the middle of the 17th century, but it is probably much older. Plays of the renaissance theatre in Portugal, including works by Gil Vicente, mention the folia as a dance performed by shepherds or peasants. The Portuguese origin is recorded in the 1577 treatise De musica libri septem by Francisco de Salinas.
Jean-Baptiste Lully, along with Philidor l'aîné in 1672, Arcangelo Corelli in 1700, Marin Marais in 1701, Alessandro Scarlatti in 1710, Antonio Vivaldi in his Opus 1 No. 12 of 1705, Francesco Geminiani in his Concerto Grosso No. 12 (which was, in fact, part of a collection of direct transcriptions of Corelli's violin sonatas), George Frideric Handel in the Sarabande of his Keyboard Suite in D minor HWV 437 of 1727, and Johann Sebastian Bach in his Peasants' Cantata of 1742 are considered to highlight this 'later' folia repeating theme in a brilliant way. CPE Bach composed a set of 12 variations for keyboard on the tune (H.263). Antonio Salieri's 26 Variations on La Folia, for orchestra, written towards the end of his career, is one of his finest works.
La Folia once again regained composers' interest during the 1930s with Sergei Rachmaninov in his Variations on a theme by Corelli in 1931 and Manuel María Ponce and his Variations on "Spanish Folia" and Fugue for guitar.
Without variations (290KB)
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The folia melody has also influenced Scandinavian folk music. It is said[who?] that around half of the old Swedish tunes are based on la folia. It is possible to recognize a common structure in many Swedish folk tunes, and it is similar to the folia structure. Old folk tunes (19th century or older) which do not have this structure often come from parts of Sweden with little influences from upper classes or other countries.[dubious ]
- Hudson, Richard (January–June 1973). "The Folia Melodies". Acta Musicologica 45 (1): 98–119. doi:10.2307/932224. ISSN 0001-6241. JSTOR 932224. Retrieved 2014-02-09.
- Simpson, Christopher (1665) cited in Esses, Maurice (1992). Dance and instrumental diferencias in Spain during the 17th and early 18th centuries 1. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press. p. 572. ISBN 0945193084.
- Fiorentino, Giuseppe (2013). "Folía": El origen de los esquemas armónicos entre tradición oral y transmisión escrita. DeMusica 17. Kassel: Edition Reichenberger. ISBN 9783937734996.
- Paull, Jennifer (2007). Cathy Berberian and music's muses. Vouvry, Switzerland: Amoris Imprint. p. 263. ISBN 9781847538895. "One of the earliest known instrumental settings was Lully's ‘Air des Hautbois’, written in 1672 for the ‘Bande des Hautbois’."
- Mather, Betty Bang (1987). Dance rhythms of the French Baroque: a handbook for performance. Music--scholarship and performance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 239. ISBN 0253316065. "The earliest instrumental couplet with the standard form is the one that starts Lully's arrangement of 1670 for Louis XIV's ..."
- Apel, Willi (1969). Harvard Dictionary of Music, p.323. ISBN 978-0-674-37501-7.
- Randel, Don Michael (1999). The Harvard concise dictionary of music and musicians, p.236. ISBN 978-0-674-00084-1.
- La Folia - A Musical Cathedral
- La Folia (1490–1701) - Jordi Savall et al. - Alia Vox 9805 
- Altre Follie (1500–1750), Hespèrion XXI, Jordi Savall - Alia Vox 9844 
- El Nuevo Mundo - Folias Criollas, Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI, dir. Jordi Savall - Alia Vox AVSA9876 
- Possible origins of the Folía of the Canary Islands (in Spanish)
- A list of musical scores based on the Folia from the Petrucci Music Library