Passacaglia - Sonata No.5 G Major - G

Passacaglia - Sonata No.5 G Major - G. Muffat

Georg Muffat was German composer and organist of French birth and Scottish descent. He worked as cathedral organist in Alsace, and lived in Bavaria, Vienna, Salzburg, and Rome. Teachers include Lully and  the renowned keyboard player, Bernardo Pasquini. His final position as an organist was to the Bishop of Passau.

Background of Armonico TributoEdit

 Among his compositions is the Armonico Tributo of 1682, five multi-movement, five-voice sonatas which Muffat left open as to various instrumental possibilities, including performance in three, four or five parts, without a full orchestral group, and also concerto grosso. The opportunity for Solo and tutti contrast is provided by 'S' and 'T' markings. This collection of sonatas reappear later in 1701, in His AusserlesenIen Instrumental-Music, where the contrast between Solo and Tutti is emphasized.

Analysis of Sonata V. in G Major: V.  PassacagliaEdit

The Passacaglia begins on Page 13,0,838

This passacaglia is the closing movement of the last sonata in the collection. The opening of the passacaglia is played by the soloists and the cembalo (concertino). The bass for the cembalo is realized. The two solo violins and cello introduce the opening melodic material, a simple melody where the alternatating  triplet motive in the upper voices provides rhythmic interest.  The format of soli alone, then followed by tutti (where the two solos repeat the exact same material) carries on until measure 63. The couplet returns in tutti, after which, the alternation between ripieno and solo is more frequent.

The rhythmic intensity picks up significantly in measure 149, where the subject and answer of a contrapuntal melody is played by the different solos. Before the final return of the couplet which signifies the close of the passacaglia, a variation played by both solo and tutti.


The Armonico Tributo is Corellian in that the concerto grosso form is used. It is becoming a form that distinguishes between music for chamber ensemble and music for orchestra in the late seventeenth century. As a composer, Arcangelo Corelli favored lyricism over virtuosity. He rarely used extremely high or low notes, fast runs, or difficult double stops.

Correli’s Trio Sonata in D Major, Op. 3, No.2 from the 1680s,_Op.3_(Corelli,_Arcangelo)

is a church trio sonata (sonata da chiesa) consisting of four movements (slow-fast-slow-fast), whereas the movements in Muffat Sonata in G is a chamber sonata (sonata da camera) are of varying tempi. The musical centre for the church sonata contains a walking bass with steady eighth note patterns, in free imitations played by the violins. Suspensions in the violins counters a descending bass sequence.

In both Corelli and Muffat, the order of the entries in the exposition is standard. Seen in the Armonico Tributo, the order of Muffat opening movements is: (i) solo violin, (2) solo violin, (3) solo viola, (4) orchestral bass, at which the fifth part enters as a free part on the second viola transforming the entire ensemble to an orchestral ensemble.
 In Corelli it is (i) solo violin, (2) solo violin, (3) solo bass with orchestral viola, (4) solo bass with orchestral bass, at which point the entire ensemble  becomes orchestral.


The concerto grosso is the predecessor of concerto style. Georg Muffat’s approach to the Corellian approach of concerti grossi allows him to merge his metropolitan influences. The compositions in the  Armonico Tributo contains the following traits of Correlian concerti grossi: the echoing of the larger group against the smaller, and the cadential passages which are doubled. The French influence of Lully, in the dance forms movements, and the French Couplet, making  this passacaglia a rondo. Although precise in his performance directions, Muffat also allows freedom in instrumental possibilities in this collection.