Stylus fantasticus

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The stylus fantasticus (or stylus phantasticus) is a style of early baroque music.

Description and history[edit]

The root of this music is organ toccatas and fantasias, particularly derived from those of Claudio Merulo (1533–1604), organist at St Mark's basilica in Venice. A later practitioner in Rome was Girolamo Frescobaldi, and his German student Froberger took the style north with him. There were constant flows of Italian musicians north to Bavaria and Saxony, of German musicians south to Italy (such as Hans Leo Hassler and Heinrich Schütz), and of musicians who had careers in both Austria and Italy (such as Sances and Turini). The author, scientist and inventor, a true baroque polymath, Athanasius Kircher describes the stylus fantasticus in his book, Musurgia Universalis:

"The fantastic style is especially suited to instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing, it is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject, it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues."

The style is related to improvisation but is characterised by the use of short contrasting episodes and a free form, just like a classical fantasia.

In Austria, the style was practised by the famous formidable virtuoso Heinrich Ignaz Biber and the older Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. In the Southern Netherlands, Nicolaus à Kempis pioneered the style in his Symphoniae published between 1644 and 1649 in Antwerp.[1]

Composers employing the stylus fantasticus[edit]



Historical sources[edit]