Variation form involves the repetition of a theme
in changed versions. It is possible to vary the melody, its rhythm and
its harmony, or to vary by addition. Early variation forms include the
chaconne and the passacaglia, originally dances based on variations on
a simple repeated bass or chordal pattern. Later examples of variations
include Elgar’s well known Enigma Variations and the Handel, Haydn and
Paganini Variations of Brahms.
Verismo (Italian: realism) is used in connection
with the attempts at realism in late 19th century Italian opera, particularly
with Mascagni’s opera Cavalleria rusticana, followed by Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.
(See Terms listing also)
Vespers is the evening service of the Divine Office,
elements of which have proved suitable for more elaborate setting than
the normal plainchant. Particularly notable in this respect is the 1610
compilation by Monteverdi for his published Vespers in Honour of the Blessed
A vibraphone is a form of metallophone with resonators
below its horizontally arranged metal bars and a mechanism to allow a vibrato
effect, giving the instrument a characteristic resonance. It has been used
for special effects by a number of 20th century composers.
Vibrato is a technique of vibration used on various
instruments and by singers, at one time used sparingly or not at all, but
tending to over-use from performers anxious to conceal poor intonation.
Viols are bowed string instruments usually held downwards
and therefore described as viole da gamba, (leg-viols), as opposed to instruments
like the violin and its predecessors, held horizontally and described as
viole da braccio, (arm-viols). Viols are made in various sizes, generally
with six strings and with frets, lengths of gut tied round the neck and
fingerboard of the instrument to show the position of the notes. Viols
were the most important bowed string instruments from the 15th century,
but were gradually superseded by instruments of the violin family, leaving
only one form of double bass as a survivor. The revival of interest in
earlier music has brought a marked revival in the fortunes of the viol,
most recently in cinematic attention to the famous 17th century player
and composer Marin Marais. In the 16th and 17th centuries consorts or chests
of viols, sets of matched instruments of different size and range, were
much in use, often as a means of domestic music-making. The viol is often
incorrectly referred to in English as a gamba, an etymological solecism.
The viola (= German: Bratsche; French: alto) is the
tenor of the modern violin family, with a range that extends a fifth below
that of the violin and starts an octave above that of the cello. Violas
are built in various sizes and were at one time used for both the alto
and tenor registers. Experiments were made, starting in the later 19th
century, to produce an instrument of sufficient size to provide the desired
resonance while remaining small enough to be manageable, and more recently
a larger instrument, played downwards like a cello and not held horizontally
like a violin, has been devised. Violas take the tenor part in the string
section of the modern orchestra and in string quartets, while the solo
concerto and duo sonata repertoire of the instrument, starting in the early
18th century, has been considerably enlarged in the 20th.
The viola d’amore, used principally in the 17th and
18th centuries, is a bowed instrument generally with seven bowed strings
and seven sympathetic strings, tuned to vibrate in sympathy with the playing
strings. The instrument has a peculiar resonance of its own and has a small
but interesting modern repertoire.
The violin, a bowed instrument with four strings,
is used to provide the soprano and alto parts in the string section of
the modern orchestra and the string quartet. It was developed in something
approaching its modern form in the 16th century, gradually coming to occupy
an unrivalled position because of its remarkable acoustical properties
and its versatility. Particular distinction was added by the great violin-makers
of Northern Italy and of the Austrian Tyrol, while the later 18th century
brought gradual changes of construction of both bow and instrument to provide
The violone is the double bass of the viol family,
although the word was once occasionally used with less accuracy to indicate
the cello or any large viol.
The virginal is a small harpsichord of varied shape
and size. The word was used very generally in England in the 16th and 17th
centuries for instruments of this type, with a keyboard and a mechanism
by which quills plucked the horizontally stretched strings. The etymology
of the word is uncertain, although it allowed obvious scope for Elizabethan
and Jacobean punsters.
Vivace, lively, is commonly used as an indication
A vocalise is a vocal work, whether an exercise or
not, that has no words. There is a well known and frequently transcribed
Vocalise by Rachmaninov, and vocalisation is also called for in an orchestral
context with the chorus parts of Neptune in Holst’s suite The Planets.
Voice is used technically in music to indicate a
particular musical line, even if this is intended for an instrumentalist
and not a singer. The American ‘voice-leading’ is the equivalent of the
English ‘part-writing’, writing different parts or lines of music for simultaneous