Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A musical form of the 17th and 18th centuries consisting of continuous variations on a ground bass and similar to the chaconne.
  • n. A dance of the period that was performed to such music.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Slow Italian or Spanish music and dance in 3/4 time.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An old Italian or Spanish dance tune, in slow three-four measure, with divisions on a ground bass, resembling a chaconne.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An old dance of Italian or Spanish origin, resembling the chaconne.
  • n. Music for such a dance, or in its rhythm, which is triple and slow.

Etymologies

Italian, From Spanish pasacalle : pasar, to pass, step; see pase + calle, street (from Latin callis, call-, path).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian passacaglia, from Spanish pasacalle, from pasear ‘to walk’ and calle ‘street’. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Upon this as cantus firmus Brahms has developed what is known as a passacaglia; originally a rather slow and stately dance, but in musical use denoting a movement developed over a ground bass, or single harmonic foundation, the final result partaking somewhat of the nature of variations; but more of a sort of cumulative playing with musical elements, finally reaching a great degree of complexity, which, if well done, should also be a complexity of idea and a fullness and richness of expression.

    The Masters and their Music A series of illustrative programs with biographical, esthetical, and critical annotations

  • Mr. Millepied's effort, set to Nico Mulhy's moody, fully orchestrated score based on the "passacaglia," a stately Baroque-era musical form rooted in court dance from Spain or Italy, is a mostly monotonous, unisex affair.

    ABT's Rewards This Season Were in the Past

  • Shostakovich's score teems with deliberately overdrawn musical stereotypes and self-effacing ironies, which include a debauched Viennese waltz danced by a teetering drunk and irreverent glimmers of a faux-elegiac passacaglia.

    A Rollicking and Riveting 'Lady Macbeth'

  • The familiar Welsh lullaby "All Through the Night" is the theme that underlies each movement: the first, a theme and variations, each one in a different key, the second a chaconne and then a passacaglia and, finally another set of variations.

    In performance: Emerson Quartet

  • The visions are set in the Opera House on Kobol...the same one Baltar and Head Six projected into in that beautiful scene with the passacaglia in the score.

    Thoughts on Daybreak

  • One has only to think of the overwhelming pathos and power of a piece like Bach's C-minor passacaglia, or the poignancy of the return of the opening theme at the end of his Goldberg Variations, to recognize how artistically effective such a form, and such devices operating within the form, can be.

    languagehat.com: THE POETRY OF THE INEFFABLE.

  • Their ghosts appeared, in the company of Nicholas Rubinstein, on the night when this stanch friend came to tell Ivan that, instead of the brief _passacaglia_ which he had modestly offered as his first piece on the concert programme, it had been decided -- on a hearing entirely arranged by

    The Genius

  • This program is made up of six of the eight dances of your See Series, all inspired by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's passacaglia, Guardian Angel Sonata.

    The Globe and Mail - Home RSS feed

  • It serves as a haunting musical autobiography to the composer, quoting his 10th, first and fifth symphonies alongside his passacaglia from Lady Macbeth as well as his DSCH monogram his musical "signature", in which four repeated notes represent his first four initials.

    The Guardian World News

  • Mr. Stein played these works, and a showier passacaglia by Muffat, with calm precision and fluidity.

    NYT > Home Page

Comments

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  • Oh, when I came here I expected to see that Pro had listed as a type of pasta! Musical fake-out!

    January 24, 2010

  • A musical theme and variations on a bass line. Bach wrote a very famous one.

    August 15, 2008