A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Basso Continuo

1502697A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Basso ContinuoHubert Parry


BASSO CONTINUO, Basse Continue, or simply Continuo, is the same thing as our English term Thorough-Bass in its original and proper signification, as may be seen by comparison of English with foreign works where these terms occur. For instance, in the score of the 'Matthaus Passion' of Bach the lowest line in the accompaniments of the choruses is for the violoncellos and basses and 'organ e continuo,' for the two latter of which figures are added; while in the recitative a single line and figures is given for the 'continuo' alone. The edition of Purcell's 'Orpheus Britannicus,' published in 1698–1702, has the title 'A collection of choicest songs for 1, 2, and 3 voices, with symphonies for violin and flutes and a thorough-bass to each song figured for the Organ, Harpsichord, or Theorbo- Lute.' The origin of the name is the same in both cases, as it is the bass which continues or goes through the whole piece, from which with the aid of figures the accompaniment used to be played. (For complete discussion of the subject see Thorough-Bass.)