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Strict and free reversed: the law of counterpoint in Koch's Musikalisches Lexikon and Mozart's Zauberflöte

Chapin, Keith ORCID: 2006. Strict and free reversed: the law of counterpoint in Koch's Musikalisches Lexikon and Mozart's Zauberflöte. Eighteenth-Century Music 3 (1) , pp. 91-107. 10.1017/S1478570606000509

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In his article ‘Contrapunkt’ in the Musikalisches Lexikon (1802) Heinrich Christoph Koch described the intense, suspension-filled and motivically saturated style that he and his contemporaries knew from the music of J. S. Bach in a distinctly odd manner. To show how a composer might write such music, he took a relatively consonant passage in the ‘free’ style, as he called it, and then ornamented it to create a ‘strict’ appearance. By generating the strict from the free style, Koch unconsciously registered the eighteenth-century shift from intervallic counterpoint towards chordal harmony. But as he described the strict style in this and other articles in the dictionary, Koch also intimated that the ‘strict’ style meant something quite different to him than it had to theorists of preceding generations. No longer an icon of immutable law and harmony, it seemed bizarre and dissonant, knocked from its theoretical, pedagogical and symbolic pride of place. This article first examines the theoretical issues of pedagogy and style that Koch wrestled with as he sought to make the traditional terminology of the strict style fit the compositional environment of his time, then analyses the symbolic implications of Koch’s notion of the strict style. Finally, it suggests how the symbolism of the strict style, as implied by Koch, might be manifested in the chorale fantasy sung by Two Armed Men in Schikaneder and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. The law of the Temple of Wisdom is not immutable, but rather represents the law of the old order, commanding respect but admitting change.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Additional Information: Pdf uploaded in accordance with publisher's policy at (accessed 24/02/2014).
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 1478-5706
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 07 May 2023 18:06

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