Definitions

Siciliana

Siciliana

[si-sil-ee-ah-noh]
The siciliana or siciliano is a musical form often included as a movement within larger pieces of music starting in the Baroque period. It is in a slow 6/8 or 12/8 time with lilting rhythms making it somewhat resemble a slow jig, and is usually in a minor key. It was used for arias in Baroque operas, and often appeared as a movement in instrumental works. The siciliano evokes a pastoral mood, and is often characterized by a large number of dotted rhythms.

Works in siciliana rhythm appear occasionally in the Classical period. Joseph Haydn, perhaps inspired by the bucolic associations of the genre, wrote a siciliana aria for soprano in his oratorio The Creation, "Nun beut die Flur das frische Grün" ("With verdure clad the fields appear"), to celebrate the creation of plants. For Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the hesitating rhythm of the siciliana lent itself to the portrayal of grief, and some of Mozart's most powerful musical utterances are tragic sicilianas: the aria for soprano "Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden" from The Magic Flute, the F sharp minor slow movement of the Piano Concerto, K. 488, and the finale of the String Quartet in D minor, K. 421. The third movement of Domenico Cimarosa's Oboe Concerto is a siciliana.

In the Romantic era Brahms wrote a siciliana as the nineteenth variation in his Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel for solo piano.

Hélène's aria, "Merci, jeunes amies" from Verdi's opera "Les vêpres siciliennes" is another example of a siciliana and is referred to as such in the score, even though it is popularly called a bolero.

Examples of sicilianas in 20th century music include Igor Stravinsky's Serenata from Pulcinella and Ottorino Respighi's Siciliana from Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No.3.

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