Forms of Accompaniment in the Sixteenth Century
In order to understand how and why basso continuo came about and account for the stylistic interpretation of basso continuo from 1600 onwards, it is helpful to undertake a study of accompanying instruments, the music they were playing, and their function within the ensemble during the 1500s. Stylistic turning points in accompaniment coincide with changes in musical composition. The most important and fundamental change in compositional style that ran through the 1500s was the shift in importance from multi-voiced polyphonic works to more harmonically conceived pieces. A characteristic of the music of the Camerata was to have one instrument accompanying one voice. The influence of this music was far-reaching. The works were to become some of the most famous in Italy, as well as abroad, and the style was carried throughout the peninsula in the travels of the musicians involved in the Camerata and the music of the courts.