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A barcarolle (from French; also Italian barcarola, barcarole) is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style. In classical music, the two most famous barcarolles are that by Jacques Offenbach, from his opera The Tales of Hoffmann, and Frédéric Chopin's barcarolle for solo piano, in F-sharp major, opus 60.

A barcarolle is characterized by a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier's stroke, almost invariably a moderate tempo 6/8 meter. While the most famous barcarolles are from the Romantic period, the genre was well-enough known in the 18th century for Burney to mention, in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771), that it was a celebrated form cherished by "collectors of good taste." It was a popular form in opera, where the apparently artless sentimental style of the folklike song could be put to good use: in addition to the Offenbach example, Paisiello, Weber, and Rossini wrote arias which were barcarolles, and Verdi included a barcarolle in Un Ballo in Maschera: (Richard's atmospheric "Di’ tu se fidele il flutto m’a spetta" in Act I). Schubert, while not using the name specifically, used a style reminiscent of the barcarolle in some of his most famous songs, including especially his haunting "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" ("to be sung on the water"), D.774.

Other famous barcarolles include the three Venetian gondolier's songs from Songs without Words, opus 19, opus 30 and opus 62 by Felix Mendelssohn; the "June" barcarolle from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons; Bela Bartók's "Barcarolla" from Out of Doors; several examples by Rubenstein, Balakirev, Glazunov, and MacDowell; and most impressively of all, the collection of thirteen by Gabriel Fauré for solo piano.

References and further reading

  • The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1986. ISBN 0674615255
  • Article "Barcarolle", in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1561591742

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.