What is recitative in music?

What is a recitative? The concept of this raises a lot of questions. Here are some of them. How often do we hear it? Is it outdated or, conversely, is experiencing a peak of popularity? Rap - recitative or not? Is prose a recitative?

Recitative: definition

"Recitative" is an operatic term. That is what they call speech in music. Recognized Italian Opera School conducts it from the wordrecitarewhat it means to "read out loud" or "recite." Of course, the recitation in music is not the same as in a lecture audience. Going to the background or rather the canvas, the music dictates its own laws.

Rhythm, pause, acceleration or deceleration of the pace - all this keeps the performer within its limits. Therefore, the recitative, for the viewer seeming very light in execution, can be difficult on stage.

what is recitative

Famous opera masters who masterfully practice the art of recitative are very respectful to him. It is he who can convey feelings where singing will not give the desired intensity of the passions.

The singer has no power over the free intonation of speech, as, for example, a dramatic actor.Recitative is defined by notes, like aria. They do not sing it, but it does not give the right to consider it as an ordinary speech. This is vocal music.

Musical reference books characterize the recitative as a vocal musical form in which thematic repetition is absent.

The emergence of recitative

In the ancient tragedy, the art of singing recitation was widely used. And in the first operas the recitative occupied the main place, alternating with the melodic choral or solo parts of the libretto, and often reached a considerable dramatic expressiveness, an example of the work of C. Monteverdi.

The musical term for melodious recitative -recitare cantando- Marco da Galliano introduces in his opera "Daphne". This proves that reciting in music is different from classical in rhetoric.

Over time, there is a separation of the melody and the recitation, previously united in the first opera endeavors. The main musical moment is now concentrated in the Aryans, which are dramatically static. But the function of the recitative becomes actions in the dialogue, the active scenic movement of the hero or the narration.

Types of recitative

Various forms of this art of recitation are used in opera, oratorio and cantata. From the 17th century, with the light hand of the composers of the Neapolitan school, it is divided into two areas:secco(dry) andaccompagnato(companion):

  • The first, it is also called the talk, was performed under the chords of the harpsichord, or, in Italian, than the balo. Its free rhythm was designated by equal bars in the short range. Italian executive style suggests that the talk could find on stage a lively expression of speech. As an example, opera-buff preserves it until the 19th century.
  • The second kind of recitative is with a rigidly fixed rhythm, a wider range of intonations and in the performance of the orchestra. He often goes before the aria, complementing it and performing the function of a monologue in the drama, since the static nature of the aria does not allow to convey the hero's palette.

The further development of this original kind of vocals was determined by the great composers Gluck and Mozart. Glitch smoothes the differences between the above species. Furthermore,secconow accompanied by an orchestra, sometimes turning into ariosos.

what is recitative in music

There is a third type of recitative, which is called measured (atempo).

In the 19th century, opera gradually grows into musical drama, and individual arias acquire the characteristics of a through development. There is no longer a mono-narrative, it is performed by the ensemble.

What is recitative in music: definition

Finding as many as three varieties, the recitative complicates the task of classification. The notation has yet to be resolved, that is, recording it on the stave. The Viennese school introduces the designation of the intonation of the recitative with crosses denoting the duration and height.

Outstanding minds have defined what a recitative in music is:

  • Dry secco has a size of 4/4 and staccato accompaniment. This highlights the semantic accents of speech. The advantage of taking chords in the score is given where there is a natural pause in the libretto. Here there is a small musical ornament, a figure, a phrase. In general, the content is not very melodic. Rulesecco: 1 syllable - 1 note.

recitative definition

  • Another thingaccompagnatowhere 1 syllable is equal to several notes. The accompaniment contains a figure that is emotional and melodic. Also not constrained by the form. Allowed his departure to another key.
  • Arioso has roundness and completeness, but does not have a knee stock.

Practicing and mixing of all three types, when one goes into the other. Prose is also permissible, but the blank verse looks more perfect.


Italians consider opera to be national art. Tito Gobbi, the famous baritone, explained what a recitative is: “This is not a pause between two arias, not a singer's breather. If you pronounce it measuredly, you get the effect of a thought giving birth to words. ” He attached great importance to the dramatic hue of the recitative: “It’s not the words that matter, but the meaning coming from the subconscious”.

songs recitative

Luigi Lablas, the great bass, calls the recitative a dramatic talk expressed by music. Even the character of the face is important, he thought: “Otherwise, the opposite meaning is given. It is impossible to pronounce the same word in the same way both Othello and Figaro. ”


All types of classical vocal techniques sublimated the musical. He showed what a recitative is as an expressive means. This is especially evident in the cult musical "Jesus Christ - superstar", where dramatic episodes are simply absent. All libretto - vocals and recitative.

It even surpassed the Mozart singspiels, such as The Magic Flute.At that time, the opera was considered the work of only the Italian language. Mozart wrote in German, and this was an innovation. In addition, he replaced the talk under the harpsichord with colloquial speeches occupying half the performance. For this, his works did not immediately enter the classics of the opera, but at first they were called musical performances.

recitative definition

Is this why the term "rock opera" appeared? As if not quite a classic, just like. But time puts everything in its place. This prefix is ​​less and less used. This is natural - genres are developing, successful solutions are becoming classic.


From antiquity, from the beginning of the language, reciting was natural for people to read. Many ritual mantras have this pattern of speech. Game chants, epic legends, sad songs of mourners - all this fits into the modern concept of recitative.

Before the invention of musical instruments that could give strong melodic sounds,accompanimentthere are rhythmic sounds of primitive percussion. The shamanic chants of the Eskimo are in this respect similar to the victorious songs of the African continent.

Interestingly, linguistic and intonational features laid their imprint on the style of performance. Length is more typical for those languages ​​where there are more vowels.And languages ​​that use a wide range of sound, introduced tremolo and syncope to folk traditions.

what is recitative in music definition

Antique drama and vocal vocal performance, apparently, and formed a recitative. Particular attention deserves his poetics.

Confirms this and quickly conquered the world, the style of rap. Having arisen in antiquity as an art, it passed into the language of communication, dispute, language competition of opponents. Modernity has added music to it, and now this style is developing steadily, showing what a recitative in music is.


In short,rap(from Englishrapor “beat the word”) -This is a recitative reading of a song. The concept of "open talk style" was later formed. Russian rap shortens this definition by calling it succinctly "reading." It requires the skill of mastering the technique of recitation so that a rhythmic pattern rests on the bars. This is all the more difficult, the poorer the musical accompaniment, because the rhythm of the recitative must coincide with the musical phrases.

Who can perform recitative

The well-known parody of A. Pushnoy about the Moscow metro gives an idea of ​​who can perform the recitative.Rather good articulation and sense of rhythm are the necessary skills.

read by recitative

To think that you can read any text with the rap style is wrong. This is still a musical style, it requires rhythm from the text, emphasis should be where the musical phrase has its own emphasis.

There are gifted people who can feel the declamation and musical rhythm and have good natural articulation. Such gems, even without a first musical education, are able to win the attention of listeners. An example is the famous teen rapper MC Bentley, a sick boy with cerebral palsy. His texts do not contain offensive language, are positive and easy to remember. Boyish still voice gives them vulnerability. The insensitivity of the talent of the disease causes respect.

Another Russian rapper, DJ Elf Shaki, creates professional compositions about the good and eternal. His song “God of heaven and earth” has nothing to do with dirty songs yet, alas, the majority of musicians of this style.

The rap style is developing before our eyes. In contrast to the recitative of the classical, which went to its modern mind for two hundred years, its progress is rapid.We will wait for his appearance on the academic scene in the composition of musicals.

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