ABSTRACT

This chapter explores some of the written and unwritten conventions for the basse continue in French solo, chamber, and orchestral music for strings. Certain features are common to the basse continue in nearly all Baroque music. The bass line, which in French printed scores normally bears the indication basse continue, may be played by a harpsichord alone, or by the organ or a chordal plucked instrument such as the theorbo, but more often at least one bowed string instrument was also added to the basse continue. In addition to choosing a pitch level for performing Baroque music, players need to consider whether a historical temperament may be appropriate. Equal temperament, with its capacity for incorporating enharmonic tones that permit modulations to distant keys, was known and used in the eighteenth century, but the availability of more pure intervals in other temperaments heightened the contrast between dissonances and consonances, which was preferred by many musicians.